NEW YORK -- The capacity of the New York Philharmonic's much-maligned concert hall at Lincoln Center will be reduced by more than 500 seats as part of a $550 million renovation that will cause the orchestra to relocate during part of the 2023-24 season.
Geffen Hall's reconstruction is slated for completion by March 2024, and $360 million in funding has been raised, the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center said Monday.
Space in the lobby and the grand promenade will be doubled as the box office and escalators are relocated. There will be additions of a media streaming wall in the lobby, a welcome center, a sidewalk studio for education activities and areas for art installations. There also will be new dining options and patron lounges.
Lincoln Center President Henry Timms and Philharmonic President Deborah Borda announced the plans during a news conference Monday.
“We’re looking forward to creating a hall that the city deserves,” Timms said, adding that Lincoln Center will seek partial government funding.
About two-thirds of the hall's third tier will be eliminated, the rows in the orchestra cut from 43 to 33 and the auditorium floor rake increased. The stage will be moved forward 25 feet, allowing seven rows of wraparound seating behind the orchestra, changes that will cut capacity from 2,738 to under 2,200.
Distance from the last row of the orchestra to the stage will drop from 119 feet to 92, and the number of seats more than 100 feet from the stage will be reduced from 800 to about 220.
Construction will impact three consecutive seasons in a project called "Working in Concert." The hall will be closed from May to October in 2022, reopen with the stage shifted forward, then close again from May 2023 until February 2024. The Philharmonic will move a large chunk of its 2023-24 season to Carnegie Hall, its home from 1891 to 1962, and to New York City Center. The summertime Mostly Mozart Festival will shift to other Lincoln Center venues in the summers of 2022 and 2023.
Borda said ticket prices will increase but would have increased in the current figuration.
“A lot of the seats that we will be replacing, they're relatively inexpensive seats,” she said.
Construction timetables have been shortened by planning to prefabricate much of the material.
Opened in 1962 as Philharmonic Hall at a cost of about $21 million and designed by Max Abramovitz with acoustics by Bolt, Beranek and Newman, the orchestra's auditorium has been criticized for a sound that emphasizes brass and muddles lower strings.
Changes made during many summers included adding reflecting panels on side walls, removing the original sound "clouds" and installing a stepped ceiling. The building was named Avery Fisher Hall after a $10.5 million gift in 1973, and three years later, there was a major renovation with the input of Cyril Harris, the acoustician for the praised Metropolitan Opera House next door. Another renovation in 1992, this time with Artec Consultants as the acoustician, included suspended panels.
Lincoln Center announced a $100 million gift from David Geffen in March 2015 for a $500 million renovation. Heatherwick Studio and Diamond Schmitt Architects were picked later that year for a project that was to start in 2019. Borda, hired in March 2017 to return to New York after 17 years with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, stopped that plan within six months.
Akustiks, led by Paul Scarbrough, is the latest acoustic designer. Diamond Schmitt Architects created the hall redesign, Fisher Dachs Associates the theater planning and design, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects the reimagined public spaces.
Panels above the stage will be adjustable to fine tune acoustics, and the stage will have mechanized orchestra risers. New wood walls will adhere directly to masonry, eliminating space behind the current paneling.
“Double bass players in the orchestra will sometimes tell you they feel like their sound falls off a cliff when it gets to the end of the stage,” he said.
No decision has been made whether to reinstall a pipe organ. The original was taken out during the 1976 renovation.
Richard Lippold’s “Orpheus and Apollo” sculpture, which was removed from the foyer in 2015, will not be reinstalled in the lobby because of current safety standards that impact the wiring, Borda said.