OPERA NEWS - Lincoln Center and New York Philharmonic Abandon Plans for $500 Million Renovation of David Geffen Hall
From Development server
3 October 2017

Lincoln Center and New York Philharmonic Abandon Plans for $500 Million Renovation of David Geffen Hall

ADMINISTRATORS at Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic have abandoned plans for a major renovation of David Geffen Hall — a project that was to have cost the institutions upwards of $500 million and could have displaced the orchestra from its home at the arts complex for several years. 

Reported today by the New York Times, Deborah Borda, president and CEO of the Philharmonic, and Lincoln Center's president Debora L. Spar were reportedly forced to rethink the project after design and construction teams working on the costly project could no longer guarantee that renovations to the hall would be completed within two seasons. 

"After a concentrated period of deep review and thoughtful evaluation, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the New York Philharmonic have decided to re-envision the strategy that will steer the forthcoming renovations of David Geffen Hall," read a statement issued by both organizations on Tuesday. "The two organizations will forgo the original design proposal, and instead move forward with a new master plan—one that will be ambitious, but will center primarily on improving audience and artist experiences inside the hall, and will include phased renovations."

The plan to renovate Geffen Hall was first divulged in March 2015, when the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center announced that entertainment mogul and philanthropist David Geffen had given a gift of $100 million to the institutions to spearhead the transformation of Lincoln Center's largest concert hall, then called Avery Fisher Hall. News of Geffen's donation followed the announcement one month earlier that conductor Alan Gilbert intended to resign as music director of the Philharmonic at the conclusion of the orchestra's 2016-17 season, a decision that was reportedly instigated by his desire to ensure a strong transition for the orchestra in light of the renovation. Since then, a number of administrators have departed both organizations, including Philharmonic president Matthew VanBesien and Lincoln Center president Jed Bernstein, and, in January of 2016, Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden was named as the Philharmonic's next music director. In March of this year, Borda, who transformed the Los Angeles Philharmonic into the preeminent symphony orchestra in the United States, was named as the Philharmonic's new president and CEO

"There was a general sense that the project had just gotten too complicated," Borda told the Times of the redevelopment plans hatched under both institutions' previous administrations. Heatherwick Studio and Diamond Schmitt Architect's designs for Geffen Hall's renovation reportedly included plans to lower the hall's auditorium, which would have necessitated major underground excavation, adjustments to the foundation of the building and a reconfiguration of its plumbing and electrical systems. Design and construction firms associated with the project had reportedly acknowledged to administrators in recent weeks that the project would likely not be completed with the two-year time frame initially announced, potentially leaving the Philharmonic without access to a home venue for nearly three years.  

Now, Lincoln Center and the Philharmonic are reportedly exploring plans to make phased, incremental changes to Geffen Hall that may include modifications to the auditorium's acoustics; a reorientation of the auditorium's stage; the removal of some seats in an effort to foster a sense of intimacy between the audience and the orchestra; and a refurbishment of the hall’s lobbies and other public spaces. 

"Lincoln Center and the Philharmonic are grateful to the early design team for its completed work, which helped to reveal and clarify many complexities, both logistical and technical, in the project," continued the statement issued today. "These complexities compelled the two organizations to perform additional due diligence on the vital project and, as a result, to develop a new approach to renovate the iconic structure." Lincoln Center and the Philharmonic have reportedly not yet settled on details for the new renovation, including a cost, a design team or a time frame; both institutions intend to announce complete details of the new plan at a future date, according to the statement. 

According to the Times, Geffen, whose donation fomented the initial renovation plans, is reportedly "on board" with the new direction, saying in a statement: "I'm happy. I know they'll do something great." spacer 

More information can be found at the New York Times, Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic

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