The master plan New York’s Lincoln Center decided to undertake in early 2000s required opening up the campus of performing arts centers and increasing engagement with the city at large. The renovation and expansion of the Juilliard School, which is, in addition to a performing arts school, also a place of study in multiple disciplines, was a particularly challenging project. But long before the team started analysis on all the different acoustical needs of the existing 1969 building and the additional 39,000 sq ft of space, the approach was laid down that would guide the entire capital plan.

Photo Courtesy Of FXFOWLE Architects

“The interesting thing was, I go to Lincoln Center all the time and I thought I knew about it, but what you realize is there’s a whole hidden world out there,” says Sylvia Smith, senior partner at FXFOWLE, who designed the renovation in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro. “Doing the architectural striptease, taking away the opacity, the solidness that was the base, peeling that away was a very early idea.”

What the team realized, from design through final construction, was that not only were the performance spaces seen from the streets , but “the street itself became part of the theater,” Smith says.

“Displaying the studio on Broadway was like having the dancers see the world and the the world see the dancers.”

Pulling off the effect—the 48-ft-high glass-fin curtain wall seems to just float as it cantilevers above Broadway—was structurally complex: the team used trusses to achieve the span, but then had to fit doorways into the trusses, for one thing. But more importantly, the entire wall is hung from a 30-in-deep box beam girder at the top of the building, with stainless steel tension rods concealed between the glass units along the entire 48-ft height, and a unique glass-to-glass splicing technique was applied where the lengths limited fabrication. A structural silicone glazed aluminum extension transfers the loads from the clips at vertical joints to the glass fins.

Due to the location, the team faced unique acoustical issues. To keep the outside sound out, with the subway tracks underneath, the crew re-floated the slabs to transfer vibrations and worked with the MTA to change detailing on the tracks. Inside, computer imaging of sound waves and a careful selection of cladding materials helped shape the space. And each space demanded its own acoustical configuration.The smaller practice spaces needed more subdued sound, organ rooms required diffusion, orchestra rehearsal spaces were designed with moveable wall panels, “so you can essentially tune the room,” Smith says. The connections between the rooms had to be carefully controlled too, so that an individual sound would not travel from one room to the other across duct work. Floating floors were installed to dampen passing sound, and a customized double-glass curtain wall was installed for the jazz rehearsal rooms that face out onto Broadway. Inside the jazz rooms, accordion-shaped glazing refracts the bass and drum waves inside the room. Even the visual component to acoustics was integrated – “if the place feels more intimate, it sounds more intimate,” Smith says.

Key Players

Developer/Owner: Lincoln Center Redevelopment Corporation
Construction Manager: Turner Construction, New York
Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York in collaboration with FXFOWLE, New York*

*Submitted Project to New York Construction