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David Geffen Hall, Notoriously Jinxed, Is Reborn Again


Harrison’s Cold War vision involved an acropolis of the performing arts, which, to Moses, Rockefeller and their social circles, meant western classical music, musical theater, opera and ballet. The campus rested on a plinth above the neighborhood. It turned its back to the general public housing developments along Amsterdam Avenue.

On the time, classical music in America was still a growing, aspirational brand of middle-class entertainment. Cities across the country weren’t capable of construct concert halls big and fast enough. Lincoln Center advertised itself because the cultural model for postwar urban redevelopment. When it was announced that Abramovitz’s hall would seat fewer people than Carnegie, critics cried elitism. Lincoln Center ordered Abramovitz to squeeze in 180 loge seats in lieu of boxes, reconfiguring the hall’s balconies, amongst other things — “fateful decisions,” as Scarbrough put it to me the opposite day, since the changes exacerbated the hall’s acoustic problems.

Not way back I went to go to Scarbrough and his colleague, Christopher Blair, Akustiks’ chief scientist, at their offices in Norwalk, Conn., where they’d built a scale model of Geffen large enough to walk into. Imagine a hinged box split vertically down the center. I discussed the word “sarcophagus” and Blair indulged in gallows humor in regards to the hall being where “the reputations of acousticians and designers have gone to die.”

Each men recounted how Leo Beranek, Abramovitz’s acoustician for Philharmonic Hall, who had guaranteed his latest scientific approach would create the perfect auditorium, ended up sidelined on the choice about enlarging the hall. “Acousticians were just expected to log off on an architect’s plans,” Scarbrough said, “and in truth the instance of Philharmonic Hall became proof why that had to alter.”

Skip forward to the turn of this century. The urbicide of San Juan Hill had faded from many Latest Yorkers’ memories. Lincoln Center had come to be regarded with just a little more affection, as a part of the civic furniture, an oasis in town grid, its facilities in need of an upgrade. A plan to refresh the campus emerged, which was to start with Avery Fisher. Then, in 2003, the Philharmonic suddenly informed Lincoln Center of its intention to maneuver back to Carnegie. A number of months later, the move was off, however the damage was done. Lincoln Center shoved Avery Fisher to the back of the road for renovations and allowed the drab hall to deteriorate further while the remainder of the campus was redone.

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