Jun 08, 2006

Lincoln Center to Transform Harmony Atrium into Vibrant, 21st Century Public Space for the Arts

June 8, 2006

Press Contact:

Betsy Vorce


[email protected]


--Revitalized Privately Owned Public Space To Offer Performances and Events, Information and Ticket Services, and Other Amenities for Neighbors, Students, Members of the Public and Lincoln Center Patrons--

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts has reached agreement in principle with the owner of Harmony Atrium, an indoor privately owned public space (POPS) located between Broadway and Columbus Avenue between West 62nd and West 63rd Streets, to transform the 6,900 square foot underutilized indoor space into a creative, interdisciplinary public venue that informs, entertains, and educates the public. The announcement was made today by Reynold Levy, President, Lincoln Center, Inc.

Lincoln Center, with the assistance of Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space, will transform the atrium into a productive community asset. It will serve as a central information center and visitor services hub using interactive technology for all of Lincoln Center’s 12 resident performing arts organizations, as well as cultural and civic activities in the surrounding neighborhood. The performance space will feature free-to-the-public Lincoln Center and community events. Anticipated public amenities will include food service, restrooms, and Wi-Fi access.

The architectural firm that will design the new Harmony Atrium is expected to be announced this summer. The estimated $15 million project is scheduled to be completed by fall, 2008.

Commented Mr. Levy, “Lincoln Center is well underway in revitalizing our campus, rendering the thousands of artistic events presented in and around our facilities each year more accessible and welcoming. We are delighted to be working with Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space, and, with the encouragement of the City of New York, partnering with our neighbors to modernize and animate this underused public space as a vital 21st century portal for arts patrons, visitors, tourists and students.”

The Harmony Atrium privately owned and funded public space opened in 1979, and was originally conceived as a lively gathering place for local residents as well as visitors, with city-mandated amenities that included a free one-hour musical performance each week and food service. Today, the space is used sparingly and does not fulfill the original vision.

The approximately 530 POPS in New York City have been created under a long-standing city program that offers zoning concessions to office and residential developers in return for publicly accessible plazas, arcades atrium and other public spaces. Although the spaces remain privately owned, they must be open and usable by members of the public. The City’s POPS are located primarily in Manhattan and clustered in midtown, downtown, and the Upper East and West Sides.

Said Neil Goldstein, member of the Harmony Atrium Condo Board Executive Committee, “Since the Harmony Atrium opened, the number of housing units in Lincoln Square increased by over 9%, compared with 5.9% in the rest of Manhattan. Lincoln Center, clearly a huge economic force in this community, has been a primary catalyst for the growth and the ultimate good neighbor. This partnership benefits all the residents of this area, especially those of us who love Lincoln Center.”

Jerold S. Kayden, President of Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space and a Harvard University professor of urban planning and design, also sees Lincoln Center’s interest in Harmony Atrium as a model for future upgrading of similarly underperforming public spaces. “Lincoln Center’s adoption of this orphan space creates a win-win outcome for members of the public and a non-profit institution. The public obtains a new, wonderful public venue for the arts, and Lincoln Center obtains a place in which it can expose the public to the wonderful organizations and programs it hosts,” observes Kayden.

Philip Milstein, a member of Lincoln Center’s Board, is the Chairman of Lincoln Center’s Harmony Atrium Task Force which is currently interviewing the architectural firms said. “In selecting a design firm for the Harmony Atrium project, Lincoln Center seeks to create a balance of architects with well-established international practices and smaller firms of younger designers with the potential to become the design leaders of the future.”

The design firm will be selected from the following short list of names in the near future:

Allied Works Architecture

A growing firm with offices in Portland and New York. The firm’s recent projects include a number of innovative museum designs including the Museum of Art and Design at Columbus Circle in New York, the Seattle Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

Behnisch Architects, Inc.

An architectural and planning practice with offices in Stuttgart and Los Angeles. The firm is well known for its emphasis on sustainable building. A recent notable project is the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (Genzyme Center) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which contains a multi-level atrium. They have just won the international competition to design the new Science Building at Harvard, the first phase of Harvard’s new Allston campus plan.

Imaginary Forces/Greg Lynn FORM

These two California-based firms—a communications and design firm and an architectural practice—have collaborated on a number of recent design projects, including the signage and advertising plan for the MuseumsQuartier in Vienna. Separately, their projects range from the Korean Presbyterian Church in New York (Greg Lynn FORM) to the computer-generated images in the film Minority Report (Imaginary Forces).

Klein Dytham architecture

A Tokyo-based multi-disciplinary practice active in architecture, interiors, public spaces and installations. Their work includes the Bloomberg Interactive Communication center (Bloomberg ICE) and the Mori Arts Museum Café, both in Tokyo.

Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects

An Atlanta-based architecture firm founded in 1984. The practice includes multi-disciplinary projects with great diversity as to size, type and location, including the Gates Center for Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.


Located in Santa Monica, California, the firm is noted for the stylistic diversity of its projects, which range in scale from academic and civic buildings to large-scale urban design master plans.Noted designs completed and in process include the Caltrans Headquarters building in Los Angeles and a new academic building for Cooper Union in New York. The firm’s principal, Thom Mayne, was awarded the 2005 Pritzker Prize.

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects

A New York City-based practice with a strong emphasis on innovative uses of materials, structural ingenuity and energy management. Recent projects include the American Folk Art Museum in New York City and the Master Plan for a 25-acre campus in Mumbai, India.

The project will be going before the City Planning Commission for review in the near future.

The Altman Foundation and The Nathan Cummings Foundation each provided Lincoln Center with a generous grant in support of planning the Harmony Atrium project.

History of the Harmony Atrium Site

The Harmony Atrium site has long been associated with the performing arts, beginning in 1905 when the Colonial Music Hall opened at 62nd and Broadway. Designed in the style of a Victorian music hall, the Colonial first served as a venue for musicals and vaudeville acts, then evolving to feature only vaudeville acts including the reigning dance team of Fred and Adele Astaire. It was at the Colonial that Charlie Chaplin was first introduced to American audiences . Renamed the New Colonial, it was converted to a Broadway theater in the twenties where the 1923 show, Runnin’ Wild, introduced America to the dance craze, The Charleston. Subsequently, the Colonial served as a movie house in the thirties and forties, and as a TV studio for both NBC and ABC from 1956-1971. In the early seventies, philanthropist Rebekah Harkness bought the Colonial, renamed it the Harkness Theater and devoted millions of dollars to renovate the space for use by her acclaimed ballet company and school. The school closed and the theater was torn down, replaced by condominiums and a public plaza.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (LCPA) serves three primary roles: presenter of superb artistic programming, national leader in arts and education and community relations, and manager of the Lincoln Center campus. As a presenter of over 400 events annually, LCPA complements the extraordinary offerings of the 11 other Lincoln Center resident organizations, bringing internationally acclaimed artists to hundreds of thousands of people each year through a variety of popular series. These programs include American Songbook, Great Performers, Lincoln Center Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, and the Mostly Mozart Festival. The Emmy Award-winning Live From Lincoln Center, the only live performing arts series on television today, extends the reach of Lincoln Center’s stages to millions of Americans across the country. As a leader in arts and education and community relations, LCPA takes a wide range of activities beyond its halls through its educational cornerstone, Lincoln Center Institute, as well as offering arts-related symposia; family programming; accessibility; and other community initiatives. And as manager of the Lincoln Center campus, LCPA also provides support and services for the Lincoln Center complex and its resident organizations.

Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space (APOPS) is a private, non-profit organization established to oversee and improve New York City’s vast inventory of 500+ zoning-created plazas, arcades, and indoor places that must be open and usable by the public. While some spaces are of high quality, others are poorly designed, rarely used, and sometimes out-of-compliance with applicable legal requirements. APOPS seeks to re-conceptualize this scattered collection of bad and good spaces into a unified network of dynamic, usable places. Founded in 2002 by Harvard urban planning professor Jerold Kayden, co-author with the Department of City Planning and the Municipal Art Society of Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience, APOPS is supervised by a small board of directors and staffed largely by volunteers. The organization works cooperatively with building owners, city agencies, civic groups, community boards, business improvement districts, non-profit institutions, and members of the public to promote public space use, encourage improvements, and guarantee owner compliance with applicable legal obligations.

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