‘Fingers crossed’ on New York’s renovated hall

Updated Oct. 13

Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times’ architecture critic, reviews the troubled physical and acoustical history of the New York Philharmonic’s home venue in Lincoln Center, opened in 1962 as Philharmonic Hall, renamed Avery Fisher Hall following a 1976 renovation, now David Geffen Hall, reopening on Oct. 12 after a $550 million reconfiguration of the building and its concert hall. (Geffen, a Hollywood film and music mogul, contributed $100 million for the project.)

The orchestra “is hoping that it has finally seen the last of its star-crossed auditorium’s notoriously troublesome acoustics and that it has devised a world-class hall enticing to new generations of concertgoers,” Kimmelman writes. “The question is whether new architecture – more welcoming, transparent, and, fingers crossed, acoustically improved – can alter [the hall’s] karma.”

An encouraging sign, he finds, is that the project’s acousticians “got to set the specifications for the hall, recommended the layout and signed off on everything,” in contrast to the original design and 1976 renovation, when acousticians were “just expected to sign off on an architect’s plans,” as Paul Scarbrough, one of Geffen Hall’s lead acoustical consultants, put it:

Justin Davidson, music and architecture critic of New York magazine, offers a preliminary assessment of Geffen Hall’s acoustics, and walks readers through the sights and amenities of a transformed building:


The Times’ music critic, Zachary Woolfe, is provisionally reassured about the hall’s acoustics and versatility in several musical genres. He’s less enamored of some decorative choices: