Rather than add a few hundred more words to the tens of thousands already devoted to praise the Diller Scofidio + Renfro / FXFOWLE renovation of the Julliard School and Alice Tully Hall, I think today that I will remember the original architect, Pietro Belluschi (1899-1994). As a young faculty member at the University of Virginia, I got to know his work a bit. He designed the UVA School of Architecture. The building was muscular, had clear structure, and well expressed the late 1960s/early ‘70s last gasps of Brutalism.
Belluschi was born in Italy, where he earned a degree in civil engineering at the University of Rome. When an opportunity came to move to Portland, Oregon, in the 1920s, he took a position in the architectural office of A.E. Doyle, eventually rising to full partner after the founders passed away. Eventually he gave up his Portland practice to take on the deanship at MIT in 1951. The academic position enabled him to consult on many interesting projects, including with Walter Gropius on the Pan Am Building (now Met Life), and with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill on a number of projects. He designed the Julliard School and Alice Tully Hall, a travertine clad essay in late Brutalism which opened in 1969. In 1972, he received the AIA Gold Medal—the highest individual award given by the AIA. You can still see his handiwork—mutated and dematerialized by the expansion of the Julliard School out to Broadway.
Benjamin Gilmartin, AIA, of Diller Scofidio + Refro, and acoustician Mark Holden of JaffeHolden conducted today’s tour of the Hall—so there was a lot of talk about the finer points of its acoustics. Holden noted that the original hall had what he called “B+” acoustics, but that because of the aging of the original wood interior—likened by Gilmartin to that of the General Assembly chamber at the United Nations—the sound had lost its “sheen and clarity.” A lot was made of the “intimacy” of the hall. It is covered with a “superskin,” it “blushes” as veneer composite panels are illuminated from behind.
I liked the portrait of Alice Tully, standing tall in gold-encrusted evening garb at the age of 80 with her trusty white moppet of a pooch resting at her feet sporting tiny blue satin bows on his ears. She elegantly greets the donors as they proceed to the upper level lobby with the outdoor balcony. It was in use as a conference room when we passed through. Surprisingly underwhelming finishes up there…just gray felt on the walls and grey carpet. I kind of missed those old chandeliers.
-Cynthia Phifer Kracauer, AIA
For the info on the tour of today’s Building of the Day click here: David Rebenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center.
Each “Building of the Day” has received a Design Award from the AIA New York Chapter. For the rest of the month—Archtober—we will write here a personal account about the architectural ideas, the urban contexts, programs, clients, technical innovations, and architects that make these buildings noteworthy. Daily posts will track highlights of New York’s new architecture.
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