The Rebirth of an Aging Institution – By Beth Feldman

After I received the location of my walking tour I asked around among my friends and family familiar with New York City to see what they knew about the Lincoln Square neighborhood. The most common response I got was, “What is it?” Little did they know that the neighborhood contains a Mecca of the performing arts that most people in the nation have at least seen or heard of if not visited. Lincoln Center is the world’s largest campus of the arts. Its sixteen acres houses twelve famed organizations of the arts including the New York City Ballet, New York City Opera, and Julliard. Many residents and tourists alike flock to Lincoln Center to see performances of Ballet, the New York Philharmonic, or the recent revival of South Pacific in one of the many performance spaces the campus provides. But despite its reputation and prestige, Lincoln Center is not exempt from the passage of time. Although the three main buildings on the square stand tall with natural regality, they are subjects of a 1950’s view of grandeur relating to the arts that can alienate those of lesser age and culture status than the normal patrons of classical performances today.

A new renovated building on the campus has revitalized and introduced a new type of venue for the performing arts at Lincoln Center. The new Alice Tully Hall reopened in February of this year after undergoing a large renovation. The building is only the first complete portion of a 1.2 billion dollar plan to reinvent Lincoln Center for the 21st century and to attract new patrons. As the first modern component of the campus, Alice Tully Hall is revolutionary. Rather than large fortified structures facing the public, the hall is fitted with six-storey glass panels, allowing the outside passers-by to view the inside of the building. The front creates an open environment for the public where the concept of “high” art and culture disappears among the mixture of people in the café foyer. The building is for the community and youth of both the student population of the area, and the public as well as the patrons. The windows not only invite the public into the theater, but also allow them to see the practice rooms of Julliard students in the upper three stories of the building. Through such architectural choices art becomes an open and collaborative experience between the community or audience and the performer.  The theater itself was built to encourage such a close relationship where barriers are left behind and state-of the-art technology that surrounds the participants in a collective glowing light.

If the aim of the building was to invite a new demographic into Lincoln Center, it has done just that.  Even before reaching the center of the campus I was drawn to the area outside of Alice Tully Hall as a youthful tourist where there were people clustered around the outside coffee bar and lounge area. The outside was fitted with an interesting triangular seating area facing away from Broadway traffic where anyone could sit in the sun and enjoy the nice day. Alice Tully Hall is a space of light and example of resilience in a tough time for all cultural institutions. It is an incredibly unique performance space to hear music as a novice or experienced listener, as well as a visually interesting area to visit.

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