While 2015 may be drawing to a close, Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) is just getting into the swing of things. Last Thursday evening, the Manhattan performing arts complex cut the ribbon on a multi-million dollar lobby renovation—rechristened the Mica and Ahmet Ertegun Atrium—in a star-spangled holiday celebration.
The redesign, led by New York firm Ennead Architects, opened up the area to create a welcoming, flexible public face for JALC, fondly known as the House of Swing.
“When [Mica Ertegun] realized the atrium needed a makeover, she worked with Ennead to create this marvelous space,” said Bette Midler, who emceed the event.
JALC, located on the fifth floor of the Time Warner Center, was designed by Rafael Viñoly in 2004. While the performances spaces—Rose Hall, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the Appel Room—were critically acclaimed, its public areas seemed like an afterthought; the New York Times wryly equated its lobby to that of “a neighborhood Cineplex.”
But architects Richard Olcott and Molly McGowan of Ennead worked closely with Ertegun—whose husband, the late Ahmet Ertegun, cofounded Atlantic Records—to create a place that, in the philanthropist’s words, allows visitors “enjoy and be inspired by jazz.”
The expanded, 7,000-square-foot atrium, clad in warm red oak, features a 26-foot digital wall and a new glass staircase linking the atrium to the sixth floor. Ennead enlarged the Center’s hall-of-fame area by annexing the coat check.
The room’s focal point is a small stage facing east toward Central Park, where a jazz ensemble played holiday tunes during the celebration. Above, bronze mesh curtains, arranged in ribbon-like waves, conceal lighting and a state-of-the-art acoustic ceiling. Below is a patterned red carpet, a hue appropriate for the evening’s guests: both political and pop culture luminaries including Michael Bloomberg, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Kid Rock (a fedora atop his signature locks) rubbed elbows before the ribbon cutting.
Later in the evening, guests congregated in Rose Theater for a Big Band Holidays concert, led by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Mid performance, music legend Aretha Franklin made a surprise guest appearance. The Queen of Soul broke into a moving rendition of "O Tannenbaum," while Midler dabbed tears. After, guests gathered in the newly christened atrium for a champagne toast—starchitecture in the truest sense.