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Monday, May 11, 2009

Alice Tully Hall

The talk of the town is the new and improved Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. It opened earlier this year to much acclaim. The firm of Diller Scofidio and Renfro was selected as architect for the renovation.

It is an inviting space that unites both indoor and outdoor activities. The glass walls to the atrium use an innovative construction technique that suspends the glass from the upper ceiling with cables. The ceiling is actually part of the Juilliard School building.

Outside, but sheltered by the roof, is a miniature amphitheatre which seems to attract a lot of spectators, tourists, and groups. I caught some kind of photo shoot going on (bottom right).

From the photo above, you can see that the ceiling of the Atrium is actually a suspended dance studio at Juilliard. Standing in that dance studio, I would probably feel uncomfortable hanging in the air like that.

Inside the Atrium is a trendy cafe, and the space is rather modern, and full of light during the day.

As you enter into the doors to the theatre itself, be prepared to go through a security check. Two large NY City policemen asked me to open up my "man purse" to see what was contained inside. This security formality seems to be in place at other Lincoln Center venues as well, and is probably now standard operating procedure. I'm just not accustomed to getting frisked by armed policemen before going to a concert.

In a passage way in the main foyer hangs a large oil painting of the building's famous patron: Mrs. Alice Tully. This photo (above) is a little washed out, but the spotlight on her face is rather intense.

Inside the theatre itself, the architects have reorganized the seating plan. All rows stand in a continuous arch, but there is ample leg room. Anyone can walk to any seat without forcing anyone else to stand up. Now, that's a great idea! The seats are comfortable, and the grey fabric seems to be made from durable and non-allergenic microfiber.

The foyer of course includes stations to purchase coffee and drinks, as well as a small gift shop.

The bathrooms are hi-tech. You almost need to concentrate to figure out what does what. I saw a Dyson "Air Blade" which is a machine that drys your hands in less than a second - if you can figure out how to activate it. The men's room had a retractable baby changing table, as if lots of babies would be attending classical music concerts. Nice touch, but I've never seen one of those at Symphony Hall in Boston.

And finally, the acoustics are superb. The hall (known as the Starr Theatre) seems extremely well isolated from the outside world, and very quiet when you consider that the 7th Ave subway line is just feet away. The works I heard included a string quartet with some very soft moments - all of which were easily projected around the hall.