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Lincoln Center dumps $500M redesign of Geffen Hall

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Lincoln Center and New York Philharmonic leadership will now seek a “less monumental and more incremental” approach

David Geffen Hall, right, will not undergo the ambitious renovation Lincoln Center leadership has been working towards for years.
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The $500 million renovation of Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall has been scrapped. The enormous undertaking, a collaboration between the leadership at Lincoln Center and the building’s resident New York Philharmonic Orchestra will be cast aside in favor of upgrades that are “less monumental and more incremental,” according to the New York Times.

The plan was this: the former Avery Fisher Hall would undergo a renovation at the hands of Heatherwick Studio and Diamond Schmitt that would gut its interior while reconfiguring its common areas and performance spaces to promote a sense of intimacy. It would also bring better acoustics to the oft criticized space.

Heatherwick Studios and Diamond Schmitt were chosen as the project’s renovation architect in December 2015, though the firms were hardly the first to have the honor bestowed on them. Sir Norman Foster won a bid in 2005 to revamp the modern architecture icon, but Foster’s design was similarly dropped when the renovation costs were estimated at a lofty $300 million.

It’s a similar story for Heatherwick Studios, whose grand plan for the renovation had Lincoln Center leadership seeing dollar signs. The London-based practice also just had the kibosh put on another of its ambitious projects, the park at Pier 55.

Despite the $100 million gift to Lincoln Center from billionaire David Geffen in 2015, which secured the DreamWorks Studio founder naming rights for the building, the project still faced a considerable funding gap. Some of the most costly plans in the architects’ design included lowering the building’s auditorium, now on its second floor, to be level with the plaza.

“There was a general sense that the project had just gotten too complicated,” Lincoln Center’s president, Debora L. Spar, told the New York Times.

There was also the factor that the renovations might put the New York Philharmonic, already struggling with membership decline, out of a home for an overly extended period of time. “For the Philharmonic, the issue of being out of the hall for three years was simply profound,” Deborah Borda, the president and CEO of the philharmonic told the Times.

Instead, the invested parties will seek a more scaled approach to redesigning the hall. Both Spar and Borda said that they envision a redesign that will tackle issues in phases rather than in one grand event. Specifics for the new approach have yet to be sussed out.

David Geffen, whose name will remain on the building in perpetuity, still seems chipper, telling the Times, ”I’m happy. I know they’ll do something great.”

Avery Fisher Hall

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