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Concert Hall Gaffes: An Irreverent Alice Tully Hall Photo Essay (Part One)

[Part Two is here. My previous posts on the transformation of Lincoln Center’s intimate, multipurpose theater, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, are here, here and here.]

Some critics think that the old Alice Tully Hall was the pits. But I thought that its new entrance pit was the pits.

One of the strangest bits of misleading hype attached to this newly transformed performing arts venue is that it brings to the street a fortress that was previously aloof from pedestrians. In fact, Tully Hall was the only Lincoln Center facility with a main entrance at street level, albeit set back somewhat from the sidewalk. Although the architects are against the “acropolis” concept of making you ascend to performing arts facilities set on a “plinth” (as they call it), they apparently endorse scrapping a street-level entrance in favor of one that makes you descend into a sunken entrance plaza:

TullyPit.jpg
 
This courtyard features steep stone bleachers facing away from the street, that serve as a viewing stand for the architects’ own creation:

TullyBleach.jpg

Here’s another shot of the whole ensemble, and how it relates (or doesn’t) to the sidewalk:

TullyPit2.jpg

There’s an alternate entrance to the lobby, which gave me traumatic flashbacks to an alarming incident that I witnessed at the opening of the new facility for the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, designed by the same architects.

In my Wall Street Journal review of the Boston ICA, I wrote:

While I was seated in the café, a loud thud was heard as someone
smacked full force into a glass wall beside the confusingly designed
exit. While the victim iced his forehead outside, Mr. [Charles] Renfro assured me
that this fault would be corrected by affixing stickers.

Sure enough, the box office entrance to Tully Hall features another glass door that’s dangerously camouflaged within a solid glass wall, to which plastic snowflake stickers (on the right, below) have been affixed. (Do they swap these snowflakes for flowers in the spring?)

TullySnow.jpg

I asked a nearby guard about this decorative adornment, and was told that the flakes were added after a guard-colleague collided with the glass. Don’t architects learn from past mistakes?

Let’s proceed past Tully Hall’s attractive café (which I already showed you in this post) and enter the inner lobby:

TullyLobb.jpg
 
Lots of glass and hard corporate-looking surfaces; not much charm, let alone cushy comfort. But I welcomed the nostalgia evoked by those incongruous pillars on the right—about all that remains (other than Alice Tully‘s portrait) from the old hall. They had to stay for structural reasons and have been reinforced to bear the weight of new construction above (the patrons lounge and the Juilliard School).

The pillars are not only weight-bearing, but also name-bearing:

TullyName.jpg

Here’s what the same space looked like in Alice’s carpeted foyer (her portrait, on left):

TullyOldLob.jpg
Photo: David Lamb

Now it’s time to enter the theater. Let’s pause first to gather our courage for the stygian descent…COMING SOON.

an ArtsJournal blog