In the high-stakes real-estate environment of New York City every square foot counts — especially for space- and cash-starved arts organizations. So when Mikhail Baryshnikov, artistic director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC), teamed with a consortium of off-Broadway theater producers to build a new 46,000-square-foot building at 450 West Thirty-seventh Street in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, expectations were high. Indeed, the six-story, concrete-and-glass structure was designed by the late architect John Averitt (who died a year before its completion) to be a versatile, column-free performing-arts hub. When it opened in 2005, a trio of stacked, “for-rent” theaters operated by the producers occupied the three lower levels. Baryshnikov built out the upper floors for the offices and studios of the nonprofit BAC. But, while the theaters were outfitted with stages and seating, they were left spare for visiting companies to equip as needed, and ultimately lacked the necessary acoustics and theatrical gear to make them marketable. Long story short, the theaters were sold after three years. BAC purchased one, and Orchestra of St. Luke’s, another nonprofit, bought the other two — each owner with its own plans to tap the city’s top theatrical consultants and architects for extensive renovations.


The rapid demise of the original theaters turned out to be a blessing for the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC). Established as a creative laboratory and performance space, the center comprised four daylight-filled dance studios, a studio theater, and offices when it opened in 2005. By purchasing the 5,200-square-foot theater beneath it, BAC acquired a 42-by-72-by-36-foot box that would provide an ideal volume within which to create a state-of-the-art venue for more fully realized dance, music, and theater events. The potential to boost its programming and revenue stream was strong, but first the space had to be gutted.

“They basically hated everything except the four walls,” recalls architect Martin Kapell, WASA/Studio A design partner-in-charge of the project. “They liked the shape, proportion, and materiality of the room, which is all-concrete. But everything inside it was either wrong or insufficient.” Sight lines, egress, seat alignment, lighting, sound, and noise all had to be addressed. Plus, he adds, “They wanted a more complete technical theater.”

Having worked as a stage manager prior to becoming an architect, Kapell understood that the job’s primary focus was to support the experience and relationship of the performer and audience. With this in mind, he and his associates collaborated closely with other members of the design and construction team, in particular the theater consultants and acoustician from Arup, to develop a scheme that would integrate the high-performance specifications the client was after.

The new theater is a textural juxtaposition of refined and rough surfaces in which the architects exposed the concrete walls and mechanicals, painting them a warm black-brown to make them “disappear.” Kapell wanted to express the full potential, and rawness, of the space. So the crew stripped the room, then isolated the box from external noise and rumblings by segregating the plant, silencing ductwork, and underpinning a resilient sprung floor with a floating reinforced-concrete slab 4 inches above the existing slab.

According to acoustician Rachid Abu-Hassan, the building’s dense concrete walls are good sound insulators. However, as the dense concrete is also highly reflective, introducing soft, absorbing finishes was required. To achieve the flawless acoustics desired, he installed perforated, sound-absorbing wood-veneer panels on the back wall, and bass absorbing insulation along the uppermost section of the longitudinal walls. For additional reverberation control in the event of amplified sound, the acousticians applied large steel grids that receive modular sound-absorbing panels along the same walls, and hung movable velour drapes on either side of the stage.

The heart of the project is Kapell’s stadium seating, an ingenious structure centered in the space so that the lobby lounge could be tucked behind it. Framed in thin, pre-finished Corten steel and fitted with 238 plush, bench-style seats, it is configured to bolster sound quality and sight lines, improve circulation, and accommodate stage lighting and a balcony control room.

“The idea was to maximize the size of the room,” admits Kapell. But then, he says, “The thing I find most satisfying and aesthetically pleasing about the project results from solving technical issues.”

Orchestra of St. Luke’s (OSL) had been searching for a home, the first in its 37-year history, when cofounder Marianne Lockwood learned that Baryshnikov was looking for a like-minded partner to share his building. In November 2008, after years of strategic analysis, OSL bought the lower 20,000-square-foot space that included the two theaters — sealing the deal at a dual closing with BAC.

OSL retained H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture and the acousticians at Akustiks to transform the two large volumes into topflight rehearsal and recording studios, for its own needs, as well as for rental by local and touring ensembles. And because the musicians spend so much time rehearsing, says project architect Geoff Lynch, OSL’s brief stipulated warm, homey environments with concert-hall-quality lighting and no rough concrete in view.

After demolishing the existing theaters, the two firms worked in tandem to realize the project’s acoustic objectives: to isolate the stacked rooms from street noise, the building’s mechanical system vibrations, and each other, as well as the Jerome Robbins Theater above; then to replicate the aural experience of the concert halls in which the musicians perform.

Implementing box-in-a-box construction, the H3 and Akustiks teams separated the two main halls with floating concrete-slab floors on neoprene pads and springs, and fiberglass-packed concrete-block or gypsum sound-control walls and ceilings within the existing structural envelope. The architects divided the remaining space into a recording/media studio and small practice rooms (all isolated to a lesser degree), plus a music library with compact shelving, offices, lounges, a café, and showers.

The 3,395-square-foot Cary Hall, on the lower level, accommodates a full orchestra and chorus, while the 1,649-square-foot Benzaquen Hall above it fits smaller chamber ensembles. From an acoustic point of view, Akustiks principal Russell Todd says, the challenge was that “in small spaces like these, a fraction of the size of Carnegie Hall, the music can sound harsh and too loud, so that the musicians can’t hear themselves or the other sections.” To recreate the dynamics and breadth of an actual performance without overpowering them, he applied a series of acoustic surfaces and interventions to diffuse and balance the sound in varying degrees for each space. Guided by Todd’s rigorous criteria, Lynch and H3 interior designer Margaret Sullivan shaped the spaces and camouflaged the visual cacophony of acoustic paraphernalia with rich, acoustically transparent materials. They added soundproof skylights to the sub-grade Cary Hall and enveloped the room in a modular screen of red oak strips rounded and spaced to Todd’s specifications. Likewise, they wrapped Benzaquen Hall in a stretch scrim, inset with carefully placed red oak ribs. They lined the practice and media rooms with oatmeal- and gray-hued sound-absorbing felt offset by decorative, reflective ribbons of gypsum, positioned to avoid flutter echo.

At an early preview OSL played the overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute in Cary Hall. The sound was lush and even, the room intimate. “The success of the project is a result of many things coming together,” says Lynch. Along with the BAC, the DiMenna Center illustrates how distinct artistic, administrative, and architectural teams can coalesce to turn a struggling entity into a successful venue through thoughtful planning and reconstruction.

Architect (Jerome Robbins Theater)
WASA/Studio A
740 Broadway
New York, NY  10003
p 212.420.1160
f 212.529.9079

Architect (Dimenna Center for Classical Music)
H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture
902 Broadway, 19th Floor
New York, New York 10010
t. 212.677.6030
f. 212.979.0535



Owner: Baryshnikov Arts Center

Completion Date:  January 2010

Total construction cost:  $6 million

WASA/Studio A
740 Broadway
New York, NY  10003
212.420.1160 p
212.529.9079 f

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Architecture & Design Partner-In-Charge:  Martin Kapell, RA

Engineering Partner-In-Charge:  Harry Spring, PE

Project Architect:  Laura Boynton, LEED AP

MEP/SP/FA Engineer:
WASA/Studio A

Harry Spring, Partner-In-Charge

Alex Rempel
Yelena Fayan

Subhas Chanda
Mark Brisson

Walter Bishop
Cristian Dupir

Structural Engineer:               
Gilsanz Murray Steficek, LLP
129 West 27th St., 5th Floor
New York, NY  10001
212.254.0030 t
212.477.5978 f
Philip Murray, Partner-In-Charge
Jessica Mandrick, Project Engineer

Theater Consultant:      
155 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY  10013
212.229.2669 t
212.229.1056 f

David Taylor, Project Director
Rachid Abu-Hassan, Associate (Acoustics)
Jim Niesel, Senior Consultant (Theater/AV), ASTC, ETCPR-T
Richard Fisher, Consultant (Lighting)

General contractor
Alcon Builder’s Group
29 East 19th Street
New York, NY 10003
212.489.0300 t
212.489.0440 f

John Dwyer, Vice President of Operations

Bill Conklin, Project Manager

Bob Schoendorf, Site Superintendant

CAD system, project management, or other software used:  Autodesk Revit Architecture, Autodesk Revit Engineering, Autodesk Revit Structural


Owner: Orchestra of St. Luke’s

Completion Date: March 2011

Gross square footage: 20,000 sq. ft.

Total construction cost: $10 million

H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture
902 Broadway, 19th Floor
New York, New York 10010
t. 212.677.6030
f. 212.979.0535

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Geoff Lynch, AIA, LEED AP, Partner-in-Charge / Project Manager
Hugh Hardy, FAIA, Design Advisor
Lee Nel, LEED AP, Project Architect
Angela Chi, LEED AP, Project Coordinator
Margaret Sullivan, LEED AP, Director of Interiors
Lissa Evans, LEED AP, Interior Designer

Interior designer: H3 – see above.

MEP/F Engineering: ICOR Associates

Structural Engineering: Gilsanz Murray Steficek

Lighting: George Sexton Associates


Theater : Auerbach Pollack Friedlander 

Cost Consulting: Davis Langdon

Signage/Branding: Entro Communications/Base Design

Telecom & Security: Clarient Group

LEED Consultant: Ambrosino DePinto & Schmieder

General contractor
Barr & Barr Builders

Francis Dzikowski/Esto
t. 718.541.9637

CAD system, project management, or other software used: BIM / Revit




Structural system
Interior construction:
Steel frame at Orchestra & Balcony structures and gallery catwalks.  Reinforced concrete floating floor. 

Existing building:
Reinforced concrete

Special Windows (sound control):
900 Series Operable Acoustic Window (Customized):
St. Cloud Window, Inc.
P.O. Box 1577
St. Cloud, MN  56302

Special doors (sound control):
Industrial Acoustics Company (IAC)
1160 Commerce Avenue
Bronx, NY  10462

QuietStar Industries (Manufacturer’s Representative)
7216 Bergenline Avenue
Suite 500
North Bergen, NJ  07047

Corbin Russwin


Exit devices:
Von Duprin


Other special hardware:
Horton Automatics (Power Operator)
4242 Baldwin Blvd.
Corpus Christi, TX  78406-3399

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings:

Paints and stains:
Benjamin Moore

Acoustic Wall Panels:

Special surfacing:
LightBlocks (Stair Guardrails)
MB Wellington Studio
142 Canal St.
Nashua, NH 03064

Bentley Prince Street
4641 East Don Julian Road
City of Industry, CA  91746

Acoustical Wood Veneer Wall Panels:
Rulon Company
2000 Ring Way
St. Augustine, FL  32092

Fixed seating & Platforms:                                         
143-145 Banker Street
Brooklyn, NY 11212-3147

Bartco Lighting, Inc.
5761 Research Drive
Huntington Beach, CA  92649

Bruck Lighting Systems (AB2)

Delta Light
Headquarters Delta Light NV
Muizelstraat 2
8560 Wevelgem (Moorsele)
+32 (0)56 435 735

Kurt Versen Company
10 Charles St.
Westwood NY  07675

Linear Lighting Corp.
31-30 Hunters Point Ave.
Long Island City, NY 11101

Winona Lighting
3760 West Fourth Street
Winona, MN 55987

Dimming System or other lighting controls: See Spec

Energy management or building automation system:
Indoor Custom Air Handling Units:Haakon Industries (represented by HTSny)

BAS Control Panels (HVAC):
Alerton (

Sensors (HVAC)
Veris Industries (
Kele (

Lighting controls:
Sylvania Optotronic

Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:
Cor-ten Steel (guardrails):  ThyssenKrupp Steel

QuietRock Soundproof drywall: 
Serious Materials
1250 Elko Dr.
Sunnyvale, CA  94089  


Structural system
Existing building is poured in place concrete, masonry, and selective steel framing

Exterior cladding
Metal/glass curtain wall: Bendheim Mapes R-Panels (storefront)

Glass: Infinite Glass and Metal Inc (for skylight and lay-lite)

Skylights: Wasco Classic Series (skylight in Cary Hall)

Insulated-panel or plastic glazing: N/A – adaptive reuse project

Other: Dorma Storefront in lobby for production offices

Entrances: Revolving Door: International Revolving Door Company

Metal doors: Long Island Fireproof Door (Rooftop access)

Special doors: Acoustic doors: Overly Door Company

Locksets: Best Lock, Accurate Lock & Hardware Co.

Closers: Stanley

Exit devices: Precision

Pulls: Mockett, Rockwood

Security devices: ADT

Other special hardware: Dorma (storefront system), Precision, Rockwood (stops)

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: USG Halcyon Clima Plus and Logix and Custom Red Oak Panels (Cary Hall)

Suspension grid: USG with hangers from Vibration Products and Kinetics

Demountable partitions: Hadrian Elite Ceiling Mounted Stainless Steel Toilet Partitions

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Custom red oak wood slats (Cary and Benzaquen Halls) and custom red oak bar (café)

Paints and stains: Benjamin Moore

Wall coverings: Weitzner Aura (Green Room), Innovations Pearl (Practice Rooms), Sutherland Industrial Felt (Green Room, Media Studio, and Practice Rooms)

Paneling: Steeletex Custom Stretch Fabric (Benzaquen Hall, with Red Oak Slats)

Plastic laminate: Formica (Work surfaces)

Solid surfacing: Corian (restrooms)

Floor and wall tile: Daltile (Shower area flooring and walls)

Resilient flooring: Forbo Marmoleum (IT Room)

Carpet: Bentley Prince Street Pure Element & Bare Earth (offices)

Wood Flooring: Custom red oak

Office furniture: Haworth Compose (President’s office), Custom millwork (open offices), Knoll Generation Task Chairs (offices)

Chairs: Tom Dixon Slab Chairs, Moroso YY Chairs, and Bo Concept Couches (Lounges), Arper Stacking Chairs (Learning and Media Studio)

Tables: 5 Star custom coffee and side tables (Lounge)

Upholstery: Carnegie Gem (Café bench upholstery)

Custom Café Bar: Skyline Glass EcoTech (glass divider), Stainless Steel (worksurface top)
Modern Office Library Compact Shelving

Interior ambient lighting: Flos

Downlights: In Cary, Benzaquen, and lobbies: Kurt Versen, Zumtobel, Litelab, Se’Lux, Insight; in lobby: Lucifer; exit signs: Lithonia; Bega.

Task lighting: Conran Mini-Z LED Desk Lamp (office task lighting)

Exterior: Ereo (spot light down onto skylights)

Dimming System or other lighting controls: Lutron Graphik Eye, Luxtrol Light Control Dimmer, Strand Lighting Occupancy Sensors, Lutron Occupancy Sensors,  Barbizon

Caroma Walvit Dual Flush High Efficiency Toilets
Kohler Steward Waterless Urinals
Toto Self-Generating EcoPower System Contemporary Spout Sensor Faucets
Zurn Temp-Gard III LowFlow Shower Unit

Grohe Minta Faucet (café)
Hawes Wall-Mounted Drinking Fountains

Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:
Mecho Shade Flat Skylighter Roller Shades (for Cary Hall skylights)