New York's renowned Carnegie Hall is reclaiming a part of its history by reviving an underground space originally designed as a recital venue. The new $50 million expansion project, formally announced in January, will create a third concert space for the complex to complement its existing 2,804-seat main hall and 268-seat recital hall. The subterranean space, designed by New York-based architect James Stewart Polshek, will feature sophisticated broadcast and recording technology and serve the New York performing arts community with a much needed mid-size concert hall with flexible seating for up to 640. Audiovisual design and theatre consultant Auerbach + Associates and Christopher Jaffe of Jaffe Holden Scarbrough Acoustics are other key players on the project team. Auerbach + Glasow is the architectural lighting designer for the project. Tishman Construction Corporation will serve as construction manager.
Plans for a new hall in the Manhattan landmark had been under discussion for more than a year, according to Carnegie Hall's president, violinist Isaac Stern. The project had been the brainchild and mission of the late Judith Arron, who served as Carnegie Hall executive director until losing her battle with cancer on December 18. The fruition of the new project was bittersweet in her absence, Stern said, as he announced that the new performance space would be named the Judith Arron Auditorium in her honor. The designation was made possible by a $5 million donation to the project by Carnegie chairman Sanford I. Weill and his wife, Joan, to honor their friend and colleague. The hall itself will be named the Arthur and Judy Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, reflecting a $10 million grant toward its construction. Carnegie Hall said it has raised approximately $40 million for the project, including just under $13 million from the City of New York and $2 million from New York State.
The new auditorium will be situated one floor directly below the famed main stage. The underground space initially served as a recital hall beginning in 1891, and later functioned as an educational theatre space and commercial cinema. The new 5,200-sq.-ft. theatre will have the flexibility to be configured as an end-stage (with or without orchestra pit), centerstage, or flat-floor auditorium to accommodate a variety of performance and teaching situations. The hall will also have the ability to be completely reconfigured as a flat-floor banquet or studio facility. The space will also accommodate communications systems for recording and transmission on television, radio, and the Internet.
The overall floor plan of the venue's public spaces will consist of a rectangle nested within an ellipse, creating an interplay between straight and curved walls. The interior will be contemporary in style, while incorporating historical references in the form of displayed artifacts. A new entrance will be on Seventh Avenue, through the same area most recently used by the Carnegie Hall Cinema. The exterior facade will be reconfigured to complement the landmark building. A new marquee will be installed over the entrance. As part of the restoration of the Seventh Avenue facade, the backstage left area of the main hall will be leveled to stage height, facilitating ease of entrance and exit from both sides of the stage. In addition, a new freight elevator will service both the new auditorium and the main stage.
Auerbach + Associates and Jaffe Holden Scarbrough Acoustics are collaborating to provide adjustable acoustical reflectors that support music performances in either of the two main configurations. The flat-floor configuration is also planned as a full orchestra rehearsal facility. Variability for seating arrangements will be achieved by a series of nine compound stage lifts with seating wagons that permit flexible audience configurations. All seating will be fully ADA-compliant.
The theatrical lighting system will employ computerized, networked, remote control technology. The lighting will be supported by a series of motorized ceiling trusses that also incorporate acoustic reflectors, loudspeakers, rehearsal lighting, and general illumination. These elements will lower to the floor for full service accessibility.
The audio system will provide for sound reinforcement of live performance in all configurations, as well as sound effects, archival recording, production monitoring, and intercommunications throughout all the technical areas. The architectural lighting design will provide lighting for all public areas as well as for the performance spaces, including accent lighting and general illumination.
Auerbach + Associates is handling work on the project out of its New York office. The architectural lighting design will be directed out of Auerbach + Glasow's San Francisco office.
A current exhibition on the new Carnegie stage, including computer-generated renderings of the design, a three-dimensional model, and an overview of the space's history, will be on view in the Rose Museum at Carnegie Hall through the summer of 1999. The museum is open to the public at no charge from 11:00am to 4:30pm every day except Wednesday, and to ticketholders during concerts.