Built as a lecture hall for Shriners in 1924 and consecrated the “People’s Theater” by Fiorello LaGuardia in 1943, New York City Center has been reinvented as a state-of-the-art performance venue. The comprehensive renovation transforms the arrival and entry sequences, reconfigures the audience chamber to modern standards and juxtaposes faithful restoration of historic fabric with contemporary interventions to dramatically enhance identity and the visitor experience.
Lighted blade signs and a new marquee with lighting illuminate the façade, announcing City Center’s prominence in the cityscape. Inspired by the terra-cotta arches and bronze lamps over the entry doors, the new heated bronze and vaulted glass marquee shelters patrons, its transparency establishing a visual connection to the historic polychromatic façade above.
The inner lobby and patron lounge have been expanded and redesigned. High-definition plasma monitors overlaid with neo-Moorish latticework showcase performance videos in the orchestra lobby. In the 2,209-seat auditorium, sightlines have been improved and seating reconfigured both for comfort and improved accessibility. Central to the hall’s restoration is the dramatic use of color.
Shortly after its dedication, its polychromatic interior was painted white, with only token touches of gold to highlight architectural features. Reversing this condition entailed extensive paint analysis to document the original color scheme. The glazed terra-cotta tiles that decorate the front entrance and interior box office provided clues for the deployment of colors throughout in a manner consistent with the original scheme.
In the mezzanine level lobby, nicotine stains and layers of shellac, varnish and polyurethane, which had accumulated over the years and obscured its original beauty, were painstakingly removed. The overall result is a vibrant polychromatic interior consistent with the original design and evocative of the original Moorish style of the building..