Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, W. 62nd to W. 66th Sts. Columbus to Amsterdam Aves, New York City opened on 23 September 1962. Wallace K. Harrison, director of board of architects (composed of the architects of individual buildings).
This travertine acropolis of music and theater represents an initial investment of more than $165 million of early 1960s dollars – mostly in private contributions – along with federal aid for acquisition of the site and a State contribution toward the New York State Theater. The project aroused dissent on both urbanistic and architectural grounds. The congestion caused by the location of so many large theaters in one cluster (with only meager public transportation) has been an obvious problem, left unsolved by the vast underground garage beneath the project. Making a single impressive group out of structures with such demanding interior requirements has imposed inhibitions on the individual buildings. As a result, former New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable wrote, “Philharmonic Hall, the State Theater, and the Metropolitan Opera are lushly decorated, conservative structures that the public finds pleasing and most professionals consider a failure of nerve, imagination and talent. Fortunately,” she continued, “the scale and relationship of the plazas are good, and they can be enjoyed as pedestrian open spaces.”
A renovation by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DR+R) with FXFowle and additional work by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien don’t do away with the vehicular moat. But the architects hope the revamp will mitigate the “fortress” aspect, turning Lincoln Center into the welcoming public space it was meant to be.
From the AIA Guide to New York City, Fifth Edition by Norval White and Elliot Willensky, with Fran Leadon
Image credit: Lincoln Center, New York. June 7, 2007, by Nils Olander, via Wikimedia Commons.