Alice Tully Hall transformed

February 18, 2009 12:39:01 PM PST
As a high school student, Liz Diller shelved records and snuck into the opera at Lincoln Center. Today, she is the architect helping to transform it. "We think of it as an architectural strip tease," she says. Diller and her team stripped away what never really worked about Lincoln Center's 1960's architecture. They've opened it up, brought more light to the place, integrated it into the neighborhood and improved the performance space.

"The emphasis here was to make a great concert hall, to make a better hall to do film, to do theater and dance," she says. "Everything has been elevated."

The Starr Theater inside Alice Tully Hall opens Sunday, becoming the first completed part of Lincoln Center's billion dollar redevelopment. Here, the public will see plays and hear chamber music and a variety of performances. Diller improved the acoustics with ceiling and wall panels which pivot to adjust the sound. The theater is wrapped in a wood skin that glows, lit from within. The stage extends and retracts, jutting out so that performers almost float into the audience.

Just as the building's exterior appears to float right over Broadway, the old façade almost put a barrier between the people and this place. But today, an all-glass curtain wall invites you in.

"It's very theatrical," says Diller, "so this is something we really wanted to play up, is have the architecture as a really active and dynamic participant, not just a building in the background, but actually part of the performance."

Lincoln Center's president wants the audience to applaud just stepping across the threshold. " I hope they're speechless," says Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, "they just gasp, inside and out. We hope that it attracts not only our traditional concert-goers, but it attracts new audiences."

Liz Diller no longer has to sneak into the opera, and as she continues her work on Lincoln Center, she hopes the visitors will be moved by this place, just as she has always been. "What I really, really want them to come away with was, 'That was a really great concert, and the hall was a part of it.' It was part of the experience."

Web produced by Lila Corn


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