The performing arts center that was part of Daniel Libeskind’s original master plan for Ground Zero has come a step closer to being built, but at one-third of its original size.

Frank Gehry spent 10 years designing and redesigning the center, as tenants, site conditions, and priorities shifted. But in 2014, Maggie Boepple, the center’s director, nixed the plan and decided to hire another architect. Today, Boepple announced that she had selected Joshua Prince-Ramus of the Brooklyn-based firm REX to design the center, with Davis Brody Bond as executive architect.

The switch from Gehry to Prince-Ramus parallels the replacement of Foster + Partners, the original architect of 2 World Trade Center (which will overlook the Performing Arts Center), with Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Both Ingels and Prince-Ramus worked for Rem Koolhaas in the 1990s.

The building was once expected to house established arts organizations, including the Signature Theater and the Joyce Theater, in a building of 250,000 to 300,000 square feet. But those tenants dropped out (the Signature later hired Gehry to design its midtown facility).

Now called The Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center (PACWTC), it will produce its own dramatic and musical works. The scaled-down, 80,000-square-foot building, expected to cost more than $100 million and to be completed in 2019, will also house the annual Tribeca Film Festival.

Prince-Ramus told RECORD he thought the new center was the right size for its site. “I don’t think anyone would look at it and say, ‘It’s too bad we don’t have the bigger building.” An intimate building, he said, is stronger than one “that tries to compete with all the big towers” at the World Trade Center.

Prince-Ramus is best known for his work on the Seattle Central Library when he was Koolhaas’s partner in the New York office of OMA. The library opened in 2004. Prince-Ramus and Koolhaas then collaborated on the design of the Dee and Charles Wyly Theater in Dallas, notable for a ground level stage that opens onto the surrounding plaza. But by the time the theater opened, in 2009, Koolhaas and Prince-Ramus had dissolved their partnership. Prince-Ramus went on to design the headquarters of Vakko, a Turkish fashion company, with spectacular panels of slumped glass.

He later won a plum commission to redo what had long been considered one of Manhattan’s most unsightly buildings, 450 West 33rd Street, originally by Davis, Brody & Associates (the firm that became Davis Brody Bond). Prince-Ramus’s $200 million renovation of the building, now known as Five Manhattan West, includes replacing the concrete facade with new walls of cascading glass. That project will wrap up in 2016.

REX was chosen for the PACWTC over two other finalists: the Dutch firm UNStudio and Denmark-based Henning Larsen.

Prince-Ramus said his design was still evolving. “We've been working on it for 14 months,” he said, “and so, between us and the client, we know a lot of things that work and a lot of things that don't. At the very least we've whittled down to the essence of the project.”


Update: The current budget for the PACWTC stands at $200 million; $100 million will come from LDMC and the remainder will be raised privately.