NEW YORK, NY
ART/NY is a membership organization that serves New York City’s non-commercial theater and performance institutions and artists. It provides many services, including offering low-cost rehearsal and office space to members. With this project, ART/NY will provide much needed affordable, fully-equipped performance spaces and rehearsal facilities.
Two theaters and two rehearsal halls will be built within a portion of a mixed-use residential and commercial building that has been set aside for cultural facilities by the City’s Departments of Cultural Affairs and Housing and Development. Two other non-profit users are occupying nearby space set-aside for cultural uses. Each of the three groups will have separate entrances but share a common load-in, have overlapping exits and fire protection systems, and share a heating and cooling plant which has been cooperatively designed and funded by the three groups.
A narrow street-level entrance connects to ART/NY’s Fixed Theater and rehearsal rooms on the 2nd floor and its Flexible Theater on the 3rd floor. A stair winds upward to connect lobbies at each floor. The steel stair cantilevers out from an existing concrete wall, seemingly suspended. Existing concrete walls are left exposed. New ductwork and lighting are exposed and supported by rhythmically placed metal frames that form a transparent ceiling plane in the public spaces. New materials are distinctly different than the existing. Existing concrete – thick, heavy and rough – contrasts with thinner, lighter, smoother steel, wood, and ceramic materials. Existing opaque elements are juxtaposed against new lacy, transparent, and perforated elements. Flat, dull finishes are placed against new materials that glint and reflect light. Leaving unnecessary finishes off of walls and ceilings provides a stripped-down look that is desired and reduces the amount of material resources needed for this project, helping in its aim to achieve LEED Silver status.
Simple exposed materials and detailing express the straightforward efficiency of the design and the “keep it simple and affordable” approach taken by ART/NY. Simple steel structural tees and angles are used at a small scale in guardrails and railings and used at a bigger scale in the seat bank and ceiling of the Fixed Theater and in the walls and ceiling of the Flexible Theater. Wire rope guardrails are like those seen in maritime settings, recalling the theater’s connection to seafarers who brought their rigging skills to the stage and reminding us of the wharves that line the waterfront that are a prominent part of the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.
The second floor contains the box office for both theaters. The main restrooms are located on the 2nd floor; additional restrooms are located on the 3rd floor. Administrative offices and a workshop are on the 2nd floor along with the two rehearsal studios, one of which is fitted-out to host meetings and parties.
The Fixed Theater seats 99, arranged with an end-stage equipped with a resilient floor and overhead rigging. A continuous steel T-beam rests on the floor to support the seat bank, slopes up to support the seating platforms, and sinuously continues up to the ceiling to support the mezzanine and turns again to become rigging beams over the house and the stage. Walls are lined with perforated wood panels that provide needed acoustical reflections and absorption. The ceiling is heavily constructed to keep out noise from another theater just above; it is also provided with large rigging beams and a system of smaller metal channels to allow easy equipment and scenery connections. Walls are provided with steel pipes and recessed metal connection plates to allow easy connection to the walls without marring finishes. Existing windows in the stage area are preserved to allow daylight in; customized acoustical shutters can hinge closed to seal noise and light from entering the theater. This fixed seat theater is a highly workable yet finished looking space that counterpoints with the flexible performance space upstairs with more pronounced technical features and a more skeletal appearance.
The Flexible Theater has a flat floor with entrances for audiences in two corners and actor entrances in three of the corners. A system of manually arranged platforms are used to reconfigure the room into different stage-seating configurations, including end stage, traverse, arena, and thrust. A system of perforated steel columns and beams on walls and ceilings provide easy and durable structural connection points for securing light pipes, equipment and scenery. The ceiling also has a pipe-grid system and a system of metal channels used for scenery, lighting, and equipment connections. A system of widely spaced terra cotta panels provides needed reflections and absorption. Flexible sound, audio, video, lighting, and scenic arrangements allow the room to be used for various performance activities.