Carnegie Hall goes deep for new space

The new Zankel Hall venue is returned to its original function

October 01, 2003 |

The $72 million Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall opened last month at New York's 112-year-old Carnegie Hall, reviving Andrew Carnegie's original vision of three performance venues of different sizes under one roof.

When Carnegie Hall was constructed in 1891, the space had a nearly flat floor and a balcony. Over the years, the hall was reconfigured for other uses and most recently housed a movie theater. The floor had been raked, the balcony closed. When the theater moved out, Carnegie officials decided to restore the space to its original purpose, says Richard Olcott, design principal with Polshek Partnership Architects, New York.

Because the 600-seat hall is located directly below Isaac Stern Auditorium, the designers and construction manager Tishman Construction Corp faced unusual challenges as they tackled the space's 20,000-sq.-ft. footprint.

Acoustical consultant Jaffe Holden Acoustics determined that additional volume would be required to obtain proper sound reverberation. As a result, a 22-ft. layer of rock — nearly 7,000 cu. yards — was removed from the original space to lower the floor.

Original columns that supported the auditorium above, which left the original space with poor sight lines, were removed and loads were transferred to new canted walls.

"It has been like brain surgery, because so much high-tech equipment was packed into very tight space," Olcott says. That constraint, combined with making the relatively small hall seem spacious, was the most difficult aspect of the design.

A 10x20-ft.opening in the sidewalk provided the only access for construction materials and equipment.

The hall's unusual design, which incorporates nine floor lifts, provides three performance configurations: end stage, center stage, and flat floor.

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