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Rooftop Theatre: Lincoln Center’s New Venue, The Claire Tow Theater, and the Opening Production of “Slowgirl”

June 10, 2012


Lincoln Center Theatre facade night light lighting LCT LCT3 "Vivian Beaumont" "Claire Tow" "New York" NYC architecture

Someone at Lincoln Center knows what they’re doing, and it makes me really happy.

A new theatre in Manhattan has just popped up in the most unlikely of places — on the roof of another theatre!  And it’s not just any roof; it’s the roof of the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, the home of the Lincoln Center Theater and the current production of War Horse, a building originally designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen in 1965.  (You may recognize Eero Saarinen’s other prominent works of American architecture such as Washington-Dulles International Airport or the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.)

Designed by H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, the new Claire Tow Theater sits lightly atop the monumental Saarinen structure, just barely peeking over the thick concrete roof as it looks down onto the reflecting pool and plaza below.  If you weren’t paying attention you’d almost miss it during the day, as its blue-green glass facade and low profile almost make it disappear into the sky vault above.  At night, though, the structure glows with light, providing a trim illuminated “cap” to the Beaumont Theater below.

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Cloud: An Interactive Light Art Installation – BOFFO NY

cloud boffo ny nyc "show house" showhouse light lighting interactive design art architecture "focus lighting" "new york" led hallway

Hallways are usually pretty boring, lifeless places.  Think about it: when was the last time you were in an “interesting” or “exciting” hallway? Their whole purpose is to take us from one room to another, so, unfortunately, they aren’t usually paid much attention by the people who design them or the people who walk through them.

But what would happen if a hallway were actually an interesting and exciting place to be?  What if it were inviting and beautiful? What if it could react to your presence? What if it could appear different every time you entered it? What if it were a fun place to walk through? What if the hallway were the destination rather than the path to it?

Meet “Cloud,” our interactive light art installation featured at Boffo New York’s Show House on the Lower East Side this past month, which was designed with all of these questions in mind.

cloud boffo ny nyc "show house" showhouse light lighting interactive design art architecture "focus lighting" "new york" led hallway

Photo by Ryan Fischer

Watch this video, which I both edited and starred in (how’d that happen?), to see it in action!

I had a blast working on “Cloud” because it allowed us to challenge the stereotype of a typically boring architectural space and breathe a whole new life into it using light.

This kind of stuff really fascinates me.  I’m interested in using light and architecture to create places that engage people both physically and mentally; that get people to notice and interact with their environment instead of merely passing through it.  Part of that challenge is to break people’s expectations of reality —  to surprise them, to get them to engage with and enjoy the moment, the space, and the people around them — which is getting harder and harder to do nowadays.  But, based on all the positive feedback we’ve received about “Cloud,” we must be heading in the right direction!

Now, if only I could convince my landlord to put one of these in my building …