Geffen Hall’s Real Legacy
Plus, knocking the pedestals out from under Central Park and deconstructivism
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Lifting the Curse
David Geffen Hall promised to rid New York’s preeminent concert venue of its sonic troubles. But this tale of woe goes far deeper.
by Kate Wagner
When I arrive at Geffen Hall, gussied up in a sequin dress, the place is already packed. It’s opening weekend. People are crowding into the ground-floor lobby, some of them ticket holders, others just curious. Immediately I notice that there’s, well, light in the lobby—a space that was once formal, cloistered, and stuffed with offices and had little interaction with the plaza and fountain outside. All that’s changed now. We can thank Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, whose design office also transformed the closed-off spaces upstairs into secondary performance spaces and lounges facing the corner of 65th and Broadway, an undeniable improvement. The lobby and mezzanine interventions are sumptuously detailed. The rose petal motif throughout the building, imprinted on the auditorium seats and in fabrics throughout the lobby, adds both texture and a little bit of a unifying, decorative theme. Metallic, shimmery curtains, low-slung lounge chairs, and dark carpet invoke a bit of midcentury glitz. The extensive use of blue on the walls and soffits provides a nice contrast to the dramatic, nigh hyperbolic, reds of the Metropolitan Opera House next door. Over the course of the afternoon, from the mouths of the architects and the bigwigs at Lincoln Center, we hear assertions of reconciliation: with the street, with the public, with Geffen Hall’s troubled past, and, through the debut’s musical programming choice, with Lincoln Center’s violent beginnings.
Read more about Lincoln Center’s perfectly enjoyable, problematic concert hall here.
Wrecking Ball: Central Park
Like with much of what is spewed out of New York’s over-hyped, PR-industrial complex, a closer look at Central Park reveals a thin green veneer covering a hollow and tired system.
by Eric Schwartau
Central Park is the most famous, popular, influential, iconic, democratic, public park in the history of human civilization. And we need to destroy it. Not convinced yet? Neither am I.
I know the idea of taking a sledgehammer to the Bethesda Fountain—which captured my imagination as a young gay teen watching Angels in America on HBO—or a chainsaw to one of the last remaining stands of elm trees in North America, may seem a bit dramatic as my pièce de résistance against the forces that be, but a backpage column requires audacious, even ridiculous, thinking. Ideas that lead one to question the very meaning of free speech and its place in our society, or whether we should jail journalists. But before you do that, please know that this is just an opinion piece and that I don’t have room for a wrecking ball in my tiiiiny New York apartment.
To be honest, Central Park is a schlep-and-a-half. It’s far. Only by traveling to the park do I work up the stress that its bucolic landscape purports to relieve. And once I’ve achieved any semblance of peace, it’s time to descend back underground.
Read more about everyone’s favorite taxidermied plot of land here.
Down on Decon
What happened to architectural deconstruction and the radical world it promised?
by Matthew Allen
At worst, deconstruction relies on an empty rhetoric of transgression; a similar worst-case scenario for the process project is that the architect becomes a manager complicit in the systems that are the problem. Whatever may have been the case in 1988, the second problematic is much more pressing today. Transgression has fallen out of favor. Once deconstructivist architecture evolved into starchitecture, it became clear that difficult forms and uncompromising words pose little resistance to capitalism’s powers of incorporation. On the contrary, their esoteric nature makes them all the more valuable to the valorization process. Dash off a manifesto (or, as was the case with many of decon’s principal leads, have a skilled theorist like Mark Wigley write one on your behalf), then design something that looks like it matches your theories—and the market will commodify your images, forms, and words without a hitch.
Read more about architecture’s myth of “unboundedness.”
New York Review of Architecture is a team effort. Our Editor is Samuel Medina, our Deputy Editor is Marianela D’Aprile, and our Editors-at-Large are Carolyn Bailey, Phillip Denny, and Alex Klimoski. Our Publisher is Nicolas Kemper.
To pitch us an article or ask us a question, write to us at: email@example.com. For their support, we would like to thank the Graham Foundation and our issue sponsors, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, and Thomas Phifer.
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