New World Symphony marks a new era for classical music with the inauguration of the institution’s first purpose-built home: an extraordinary new facility in the center of Miami Beach, designed by Frank Gehry in close collaboration with the New World Symphony’s founder and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas.
At the heart of New World Center is a flexible and technologically sophisticated 756-seat performance hall, featuring large, curved acoustically reflective “sails” that surround the audience with sound and also serve as video projection surfaces for 14 30,000-lumen high-definition Christie Digital projectors and a coolux Pandoras Box media server system. This allows New World Center to immerse audiences in a visual experience during a concert, or simply show brief program information on a single screen above the stage.
Directly adjacent to the 100,641-square-foot building is the new Miami Beach SoundScape, a landscaped 2.5-acre public space into which New World Symphony will extend its programming. Together, the building and the public space create a dynamic new city center and a geographical “heart” from which civic, cultural, recreational, tourist and leisurely activity will radiate.
Major components of New World Center’s program-focused design are:
• A soaring, 80-foot-high glass façade providing a spectacular entrance and views of activities inside
• A sky-lit atrium where playful, tumbling geometric forms delineate the internal spaces, and where the public may relax at an illuminated glass bar with a blue titanium canopy;
• The 756-seat performance hall, with acoustic design led by Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics;
• A giant, 7,000-square-foot exterior projection wall for outdoor video presentations, including wallcasts™ of live concerts;
• A music library; and numerous practice and rehearsal spaces and technology studios wired with 17 miles of fiber-optic cable for high-speed Internet2 transmissions.
The main entrance of New World Center is set in a soaring, 80-foot-high glass curtain wall to the left of the projection wall, providing uninterrupted views of the skylit main atrium and the dramatic, tumbling forms delineating the interior spaces beyond. The entrance is distinguished by a white, wave-like canopy and opens out onto the Mary and Howard Frank Plaza and Miami Beach SoundScape. Built with glass with no iron content, the curtain wall is utterly clear and disappears when lit from within— by the atrium’s skylight during the day and by theatrical lighting at night. When lit at night by the space’s architectural lighting system, the tumbling forms within the frame of the curtain wall take on the character of performers on a proscenium stage, turning the building itself into a performance. A 650-square-foot LED light field is positioned at the top of the transparent wall, announcing it’s programming, and the campus’s box office is located next to the main entrance.
To reach the performance hall through the atrium, concertgoers pass through one of two softly lit, serpentine corridors that gradually narrow as they wind along, before opening again dramatically to reveal the hall. Visitors arrive into the space by the front of the stage, in the center of the 50-foot-high, circular hall where tiers of seats rise on all sides. From the first moment in the hall, the design makes people participants rather than spectators—and once the audience members take their places, they remain involved, since no one in this intimate, 756-seat hall is more than 13 rows from the stage.
The collaboration of Gehry Partners with Nagata Acoustics and Theatre Projects Consultants has resulted in a performance hall that is virtually unlimited in the experiences it can offer. The stage is comprised of ten platforms, each on its own mechanical lift, with fourteen distinctive configurations for all kinds of performance experiences, from a solo recital with cabaret seating to a full-orchestra concert. It is also possible to lower all of the platforms, retract 247 of the seats and turn the central space into a dance floor for the New World Symphony’s series of Pulse concerts. Four built-in platforms set throughout the hall serve as satellite stages, allowing the focus of a concert to shift from the main stage to another part of the room instantaneously, with only a lighting change.
Natural light in the performance hall is afforded via an overhead skylight and a large panoramic window behind the stage, overlooking 17th Street. The hall’s seats are upholstered in mottled patterns of blues and white—specially designed by Frank Gehry and produced by Poltrona Frau—which are inspired by the building’s tropical location and intended to bring imagery of the water and sky of Miami Beach into the performance hall. A total of 17 miles of high-speed fiber optic cable runs through the building, allowing every space to be connected to a global audience through next-generation Internet2.