Just over two years after the shovels hit the ground, the Brooklyn Academy of Music welcomed the first visitors into its newest performing arts space. Designed by dapper architect Hugh Hardy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, the Richard B. Fisher Building gives BAM a flexible, 250-seat experimental theater designed for smaller shows and emerging artists, plus a rooftop terrace, rehearsal spaces, offices, and BAM's first dedicated classroom. The street-level facade of the new 6-story building, located at 321 Ashland Place, is a preserved brick citadel that once held a Salvation Army. The new structure, flanked by the Williamsburg Savings Bank and the BAM Opera House, actually sits 20 feet back from the sidewalk behind the original building, which is a landmark. Hardy explained that since you can't build on top of landmarks ("Only Norman Foster is allowed to do that," he remarked), they built behind it and connected the two inside.
The Fisher Building, which is expected to receive LEED Gold certification, isn't quite finished inside, but today's sneak-peak tour showed off the main spaces. It started in the double-height rehearsal room, which has floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over Flatbush Avenue. But instead of enjoying the view, we were distracted by the snacks table where there were cupcake-sized Junior's cheesecakes topped with an icing picture of the Fisher building.
We finally took in the view when the tour moved up to the 1,400-square-foot rooftop terrace, designed by landscape architects Starr Whitehouse (they're also doing the courtyard at BIG's West 57th Street pyramid). One BAMer remarked that they'll be using the terrace for as many cocktail events as they can possibly host, to which the Times reporter (facetiously?) responded, "Yeah, these afternoon events without cocktails are such a drag."
The theater itself is an adaptable black box that can accomodate a traditional proscenium theater, a thrust stage, or a theater in the round. The bleacher seating (don't worry, the seats are comfortable theater seats, not actual bleachers) can be completely hidden, and there are additional rows of chairs for the upper level. Above the stage is a tension wire grid that allows for direct access to the lighting and the HVAC systems to easily accomodate different stage set-ups. Our first experience in the theater was actually from on top of this wobbly wire mesh?we marched across it, giving us a bird's eye view. Despite the reassurances that the grid was as safe and sturdy as a regular floor, one reporter refused to step on to it, while another guest said, "I should have taken a Xanax before this tour."
We're proud to report that we survived the vertigo-inducing experience, and whenever the Fisher building officially raises the curtain on September 5, we won't be able to visit without thinking that we walked on the ceiling.
· BAM Richard B. Fisher Building [official]
· 321 Ashland Place coverage [Curbed]