The redevelopment of Lincoln Center from a classic but aloof 1960s Modernistic collection of austere buildings and plazas into an inviting, comprehensible campus of arts events and organizations is revolutionizing the Upper West Side. Its staid past behind it, Lincoln Center now pulses morning and night with people walking, talking, dancing, singing, stretching, practicing their crafts and watching one another.
Surrounding restaurants, shops, sidewalks, and parklets seem perpetually busy as the neighborhood becomes the destination it was long meant to be. The saga of how this came about is laid out by former president Reynold Levy in his Game-of-Thrones-like chronicle, They Told Me not to Take that Job: Tumult, Betrayal, Heroics, and the Transformation of Lincoln Center.
New Yorkers have so thoroughly made the new Lincoln Center their own that it can be hard to remember what was once there (including a lost neighborhood of San Juan Hill),—and therefore the subtle genius of what’s been done.
Here are a few things you might not know about the new Lincoln Center:
1. The aim of the new Lincoln Center, once the country’s largest construction site, is “to remove Lincoln Center from its pedestal and have it embrace the cityscape all around it,” says Reynold Levy.
The Josie Robertson Plaza has a new staircase with welcoming LED lights.
In the $1.2 billion renovation overseen by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the new Lincoln Center is determined to welcome you in every conceivable way. While not everyone loves the LED lights on the 171-foot-wide grand stairs spelling out “bienvenue” in multiple languages, the new wayfinding signage, or the perky pink pingpong-paddle-like signs, they represent a distinctive approach that seems to work. Glass canopies leading to Avery Fisher Hall and the David Koch Theatre flank the stairs. More important for our age of pedestrian-access, the staircase covers an underground drop-off road for cars, introducing to Lincoln CEnter Frederick Law Olmsted’s crucial principle of separating different modes of traffic.