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Hugh Hardy, prolific New York City architect, dies at age 84

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Hardy had a hand in creating many of NYC’s best-known spaces, including many theaters

Lincoln Center’s renovation project and Claire Tow Theater, spearheaded by the late Hugh Hardy.
H3 Hardy Collaboration Architects

Sad news: prolific New York architect Hugh Hardy died on Thursday at the age of 84. The New York Times reports that the cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage, after a fall earlier in the week.

Even if you weren’t familiar with Hardy by name, it’s all but guaranteed that you know his work: during his more than 50-year career, Hardy worked on myriad New York City projects, from townhouses and 30-story apartment buildings, to Broadway theaters and institutional buildings.

Hugh Hardy in 2012
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Magazine

He’s likely to be best remembered for renovating or designing some of New York’s most popular performing arts venues, including Radio City Music Hall (whose majestic theater was restored by Hardy in the 1990s), the Theater for a New Audience, and—most notably—several theaters along 42nd Street. Hardy’s firm at the time, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer (which later split into three firms: Pfeiffer, Holzman Moss Bottiino, and H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture), worked on the restoration of the New Victory Theater, which helped transform Times Square from a seedy neighborhood to a family-friendly tourist destination.

H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, which he founded in 2004, would go on to do more theater work for Lincoln Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, among other cultural institutions.

Over the course of half a century, Hardy did more than just design buildings—he helped create the vibrant, modern New York City that we know today. With that in mind, take a look at some of the beloved architect’s most notable works throughout the city.

New Victory Theater

Hardy is perhaps best known for his designs for theaters—he did write a whole book called Theater for Architecture, after all—and the New Victory Theater on 42nd Street is one of his most splendid works. Built by Oscar Hammerstein in 1900 and redone by David Belasco not long after, the building had turned into a decrepit wreck by the 1990s, when the city put a plan for revitalizing 42nd Street into place.

The New Victory was the first theater to be renovated, and Hardy’s vision—to be faithful to the original design, while creating a comfortable space for modern audiences—was carried out beautifully. Writing in the Times after it opened in 1995, critic Paul Goldberger said that Hardy’s redesigned the space in “a sensitive but not slavish manner, supporting its original architecture while allowing plenty of room for the late 20th century to show through.”

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New Amsterdam Theatre

Hardy was also responsible for the restoration of this 42nd Street theater, built in 1902 and once home to Ziegfeld Follies. Like the New Victory across the street, it had fallen into disrepair, and was later leased out to Disney (which has since staged musicals like Mary Poppins and The Lion King there). The company brought Hardy on to complete a $40 million renovation which, similar to the New Victory’s, kept the integrity of the original design (what was left of it, anyway) intact while giving the space a 20th-century face lift.

Brooklyn Academy of Music
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Brooklyn Academy of Music

Hardy has collaborated with Brooklyn’s premier cultural institution several times, including designing its new Richard B. Fisher Building, which opened in 2013. But most BAM visitors are certainly familiar with his addition to the campus’s main building: he created the undulating glass awning that now decorates the original 1908 structure. Hardy’s firm also restored that building’s terracotta facade and other ornamentation, along with giving the lovely Harvey Theater and BAM Rose Cinemas some love. Next time you see a movie or a performance there, remember that you have Hardy to thank for, well, all of it.

Pier A Harbor House
Max Touhey

Pier A, Battery Park

Before undergoing a multi-year restoration project helmed by Hardy, Pier A was an eyesore in Battery Park. For years, the century-old structure, which once served the docks and harbor police, stood decrepit and abandoned. But the city’s Economic Development Corporation decided to invest millions into bringing the building back to life, and Hardy carried out a renovation that turned the pier into a vibrant public space with restaurants, a public promenade, and a visitor's center.

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Brasserie 8 1/2

“Want a staircase just made for those dramatic entrances? This is it. Hugh Hardy unleashed.” That’s what the AIA Guide has to say about Hardy’s design for this French bistro, located below Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s iconic 9 West 57th Street. In contrast to the stark black-and-white building above, the striking dining room—a modernist beauty in its own right—is outfitted in lush red tones, with that gorgeous winding staircase as the focal point.

Radio City Music Hall
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Radio City Music Hall Auditorium

During the 1990s, it was decided that Radio City Music Hall’s famed auditorium needed a facelift. Hardy didn’t stick to playing it safe when it came to design the new space: In a Times article from 1999, Julie Iovine wrote, “When visitors enter the refurbished Radio City Music Hall, they should expect to be awed or shocked by the brightness of colors, the complexity of rug and wall patterns and the vast reflective ceilings now that the tarnishing effects of smoke and time have been swept away.” His design gave the venue a modern American revamp, and sets the tone for the indelible experiences that visitors to the theater are sure to have.

18 West 11th Street

18 West 11th Street

This West Village townhouse, redesigned by Hardy in 1978, has quite the past: the site was where the Weather Underground infamously set off a bomb—accidentally, mind you—in the spring of 1970. Hardy bought the site with plans to build the home we see today, though he later sold it to a wealthy couple who had the cash to carry it out.

Then, in 2012, financier Justin Korsant bought the home and enlisted Hardy’s firm to envision a modern update. The house recently sold, so it remains to be seen if those plans will come to fruition—but rest assured that whatever happens, the distinctive angled brick facade that Hardy created back in the ’70s will remain.

Claire Tow Theater/Lincoln Center

Another theater project, and this time, Hardy sought to build a small-scale addition to Lincoln Center that would have ADA accessibility but wouldn’t disrupt the original design. As a result, the Claire Tow Theater, a 23,000-square-foot performance sits, atop Lincoln Center and is only subtly noticeable from street level. The discreet space seats just 122 people within its boxy design and at night, resembles a “floating jewel box,” as the New York Times describes it.

Theater for a New Audience
H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture

Theater for a New Audience

The design for the Theater for a New Audience was supposed to be a collaboration between Hardy and fellow esteemed architect Frank Gehry but ultimately, Hardy ended up working on the design by himself. Hugh Hardy's firm, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, designed the theater’s glassy new home, located at Ashland Place between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street, with a 299-seat flexible design, studio spaces for rehearsals and events, a cafe in the lobby, and a public arts plaza tackled by landscape architect Ken Smith.