The competition was inspired by the need to reconstruct the existing building, completed in 1962, which could no longer fulfill New York City’s requirements for a world-class concert hall. Meier Partners’ design transformed the original structure into a state-of-the-art facility with an iconic urban presence, elegant and effective circulation, and best-in-class acoustics.
The interior organization of the project, which was designed in collaboration with the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, is based on a sequence of public spaces, including a stunning top-lit lobby, surrounding the main concert hall and rehearsal space. The concert hall itself is conceived as a hybrid shoe-box-cum-arena auditorium with vineyard seating for 2,400. A custom-engineered hydraulic system maximizes flexibility by allowing groups of orchestra seats to be turned over to create a flat floor at the level of the stage or additional platforms within the audience. Outside, the lobby floor and the main circulation spaces are faced in travertine, contrasting with the rough cleft-travertine walls of the concert hall. Backlit, acoustically reflective stacked-glass is used for the hall interior, giving a captivating sub-aqueous character to the interior of the auditorium.
The building’s powerful urban presence is established by a six-story curved curtainwall clad with large triangular facets of glass to produce a spectacularly bowed and faceted skin. During the day, this facade yields a changing, vibrant luminosity, varying continually from crystalline transparency to opaque reflection according to the angle of the sun. At night the faceted skin is transformed into a giant lantern, revealing a festive multitude of concert goers ascending and descending through the building.