Philharmonic jettisons ambitious Geffen Hall renovation

Thu Oct 05, 2017 at 11:00 am


Perhaps the most highly anticipated challenge to Jaap van Zweden’s tenure as full-time music director was just where the Philharmonic was going to be playing, starting in the fall of 2018. Planned massive renovations to David Geffen Hall meant Philharmonic concerts would be happening somewhere else for two full seasons.

But the status quo will remain just that for the foreseeable future; on Tuesday, new Philharmonic president and CEO Deborah Borda and new Lincoln Center President Deborah Spar announced that the previous plan for a half-billion dollar renovation had been scrapped.

As stated in an interview with the New York Times, both presidents felt the plan had become too complicated and would likely have missed its original completion deadline, leaving the orchestra homeless and peripatetic for possibly a third season.

The Philharmonic’s ambitious original plan had called for a complete remake of the interior of the Lincoln Center building—not just improving the flat and brittle acoustic, but lowering the concert space down to plaza level and bringing the orchestra and audience into a more intimate and dynamic arrangement then currently experienced.

The orchestra and Lincoln Center hope to make incremental improvements that will not interfere with the concert schedule. Borda and Spar suggested to the Times that this would include improving the acoustics, extending the stage further into the auditorium itself, and even reducing the number of seats. No specific plan, or even a proposal, has yet been agreed to.

David Geffen, whose $100 million gift launched the original ambitious redesign, announced his agreement, saying in a statement that he was “on board” with the revised plans, and expressing confidence that Borda and Spar “will do something great.”

In the same Times interview Geffen–whose $100 million is to be delivered in stages–publicly disparaged wealthy New Yorkers for what he considered their inadequate funding of the city’s major cultural institutions.

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