The rebuilding of the World Trade Center took a big step forward Thursday morning. Officials unveiled the design for the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center. It was also announced that Barbra Streisand will chair the new center.
Designed by Joshua Prince-Ramus of the Brooklyn-based firm REX, it will feature three theaters, seating 499, 250, and 99 people respectively, that can be combined in 11 ways, with endless possibilities. They will be contained within what is essentially a cube. Those entering will ascend a staircase up 21 feet because the center will sit atop the vehicular access port for the World Trade Center.
The cube itself will be made of translucent marble, laminated between two layers of glass. That will give it a stark appearance during the day, befitting somewhere like Lincoln Center and quite appropriate in its location between One World Trade Center and the site of 2 World Trade Center. (The site currently houses the now-closed temporary PATH station entrance.) At night, the light from within will shine out with an amber glow. Prince-Ramus called it “the rough in the diamond.”
He also said Thursday that the center will be a house for the “production and premiering of unique works of art.” The design is one he described as a “very simple, pure form.” The marble used will come from the same quarry as that used to construct the United States Supreme Court and the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.
In addition to the three dedicated performance spaces, a rehearsal space could be used as a fourth venue. Dividing the spaces will be a lot of trusted technology and materials, including acoustic guillotine walls. “We are not beta-testing anything,” said Prince-Ramus.
The center won’t be averse to new technology, however, as Prince-Ramus envisions a possible hologram performance by someone like renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
The marble will also allow light in, so that those spending long days there won’t be sequestered in darkness, as seen in this rendering of the rehearsal space.
At the lobby level will be a restaurant that is hoped will attract even people grabbing breakfast before going to work at One World Trade Center. It could also be configured as a bar, or for a community cabaret.
Prince-Ramus has lived in TriBeCa since 2000, and lost everything he owned on 9/11. So, he told YIMBY, this is a very “emotional” and “personal” project for him.
When asked what the greatest challenges were in designing the center, he told YIMBY that it was the flexibility required and needing to propose something he could deliver. He said it was a rush to get to this stage, but now he has the “luxury of time” when it comes to delivering the actual building.
Maggie Boepple, the president and director of the center, said there is “a lot of talent in New York.” She said this will be a “home for creativity” and a “birthplace.” She sees it playing host to everything from a rock and roll concert to small, un-miced performances.
It could also become a home for the Tribeca Film Festival, and the festival’s Jane Rosenthal was in attendance. She hopes there will be yoga classes and, perhaps, it could even serve as the area’s polling place. She thinks having people vote there would be very symbolic.
“We will defy expectations,” she added.
The unveiling of the design comes only a little over two months since it was announced that it would be named for philanthropist Perelman, who donated $75 million.
Boepple said they now have $170 million of the $250 million they’ll need. $99 million will come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development via the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, but none will come from the city or state.
Perelman sees it becoming “the iconic performing arts center of the world.” “[It] should be a center that tells the world we remember those lost on 9/11.”
He described it as “an alternative to hate and destruction” and said the translucent marble will shine “like a beacon.”
He added that, as chairman, Streisand will be “exciting, committed, and dedicated.”
World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein, who hosted the design unveiling at the 7 World Trade Center offices of Silverstein Properties, opened the event, saying he was “celebrating the rebirth of Lower Manhattan.” “Downtown is back as a premiere place for business,” he said.
World Trade Center master planner Daniel Libeskind said the center’s location is “just at the hub of activity” and its design has the “dignity of memory.”
Tuesday’s design unveiling also came with a website launch. The center is slated to open in early 2020 and this design comes after one by Frank Gehry was tossed out about two years ago.