Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Various firms

Status: Under construction

Bam Cultural District
Image courtesy H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture


In 2000, the city drew back the curtain on its plans to develop a cultural district around the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), a thriving performing arts center established in 1861.

The 6-acre master plan, conceived by Office for Metropolitan Architecture and Diller Scofidio + Renfro (who were both replaced by WORKac in 2005), called for performance venues, mixed-income housing, and ample public space. The $650 million endeavor was to be financed through public and private dollars, with BAM Local Development Corporation, a nonprofit planning group, overseeing the project.

Despite much hoopla, the district has been slow to materialize, due in large part to the recession. Only one project has come to fruition: a 2004 renovation, by Lyn Rice Architects, of the James E. Davis Arts Building, a 30,000-square-foot building for nonprofit groups. Other key components are languishing, and two projects ' a mixed-use tower by studioMDA and Behnisch Architekten and a visual and performing arts library by Ten Arquitectos ' have been shelved for now.

Yet supporters continue to push forward. The city has committed $100 million in capital funding, and, in 2006, it shifted control of the development to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, an organization created by the Bloomberg administration. Two major projects are finally under way. In the spring of 2010, renovation work began on the Richard B. Fisher Building, a former Salvation Army headquarters that will be transformed into a 263-seat theater; the $52 million project, designed by H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, is slated to wrap up in 2012.

And this past June, construction started on the Theatre for a New Audience (pictured above), a new, 30,000-square-foot venue dedicated to Shakespearean and classical works. H3 Hardy is leading the design (Frank Gehry initially was involved but stepped down in 2009). Other projects in the pipeline include an arts plaza by Ken Smith Landscape Architect and a renovation, led by Leeser Architecture, of the vacant Strand Theater. Despite this recent activity, the BAM Cultural District is still years away from its big debut.

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