Archive for the ‘Harris’ Category

10/19/2006

What Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance might have been, or, can Architecture can “powerfully convey the drama and delight that can be found on stage.”

Since I’ve told you I find the Harris Theater prosaic, you may ask what I would prefer….

James Russell writes today of now-abandonned plans in New York for a new home for the New York City Opera. It was to have been built diagonally across from the northwestern corner of Lincoln Center.

Russell, as I do, believes that Architecture can “powerfully convey the drama and delight that can be found on stage.” That a theater lobby can “orchestrate audience movement with balletic theatricality.”

He writes that the architect, the Paris-based Christian De Portzamparc

“packaged the building in a very simple box, placing it right up against the street, where it could assert its presence.”

So far, that’s like the Harris. Then,

“He allows the taffy-pull shapes inside to collide with — and trace their shapes on — the exterior, so that a merry alternation of glass and solid panels covers the box with Jean Arp abandon.”

Now we’re getting interesting….

“Designing from the inside out, De Portzamparc shaped the lobby spaces as if from thick, viscous liquid, flowing the movement of the audience in sensuous curves. The floors warp up to mold themselves around elevators, stairs, coatrooms and other essentials. Viewers would pass from womblike enclosures to grand spaces that spiral up to mysterious heights.”

That’s the kind of experience missing at the Harris. The kind that excites your cells, and opens them to aesthetic and artistic experience.

I thought twice about posting this, because

a, We got the Harris built, and New York will not build this.
b, I’m glad the Harris is there, we needed that theater, and once you’re in your seats and the lights go down it is well above average.
c, the above is just words, could Portzamparc have pulled it off? I’ve been in his theaters in Paris and did not find them inspiring. Actually, I prefer the Harris! It’s more timeless and honest.

But I posted this to help answer the original question, “can architecture powerfully convey the drama and delight that can be found on stage.”

It is possible. Scharoun does it in his Berlin Philharmonie. Garnier does it in his Paris Opera House. Our Civic Opera House does it.
And our man Sullivan does it in his Auditorium Building.

And here’s the Harris

Photo: Jon Miller © Hedrich Blessing
From the American Institute of Architects Citation of Merit for this building.

-Edward

10/19/2006

What Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance might have been, or, can Architecture can “powerfully convey the drama and delight that can be found on stage.”

Since I’ve told you I find the Harris Theater prosaic, you may ask what I would prefer….

James Russell writes today of now-abandonned plans in New York for a new home for the New York City Opera. It was to have been built diagonally across from the northwestern corner of Lincoln Center.

Russell, as I do, believes that Architecture can “powerfully convey the drama and delight that can be found on stage.” That a theater lobby can “orchestrate audience movement with balletic theatricality.”

He writes that the architect, the Paris-based Christian De Portzamparc

“packaged the building in a very simple box, placing it right up against the street, where it could assert its presence.”

So far, that’s like the Harris. Then,

“He allows the taffy-pull shapes inside to collide with — and trace their shapes on — the exterior, so that a merry alternation of glass and solid panels covers the box with Jean Arp abandon.”

Now we’re getting interesting….

“Designing from the inside out, De Portzamparc shaped the lobby spaces as if from thick, viscous liquid, flowing the movement of the audience in sensuous curves. The floors warp up to mold themselves around elevators, stairs, coatrooms and other essentials. Viewers would pass from womblike enclosures to grand spaces that spiral up to mysterious heights.”

That’s the kind of experience missing at the Harris. The kind that excites your cells, and opens them to aesthetic and artistic experience.

I thought twice about posting this, because

a, We got the Harris built, and New York will not build this.
b, I’m glad the Harris is there, we needed that theater, and once you’re in your seats and the lights go down it is well above average.
c, the above is just words, could Portzamparc have pulled it off? I’ve been in his theaters in Paris and did not find them inspiring. Actually, I prefer the Harris! It’s more timeless and honest.

But I posted this to help answer the original question, “can architecture powerfully convey the drama and delight that can be found on stage.”

It is possible. Scharoun does it in his Berlin Philharmonie. Garnier does it in his Paris Opera House. Our Civic Opera House does it.
And our man Sullivan does it in his Auditorium Building.

And here’s the Harris

Photo: Jon Miller © Hedrich Blessing
From the American Institute of Architects Citation of Merit for this building.

-Edward

10/19/2006

And I learned from Rich Cahan’s book that Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium Theater reopened after a long overdo restoration on October 31st, 1967, with – guess who performed there that night?

The New York City Ballet. I saw them last night. At the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. All night long I thought, “this would be so much better in the more lyrical space of Sullivan and Adler’s Auditorium…”

The NYCB last night was nothing fabulous, except for a duet to music by Stravinsky. “Duo Concertant.”

The acoustics for the live orchestra were not bad, but not exceptional. The pointe shoes clacked loudly on the floor of the Harris (and Balanchine, whose dances were performed last night, consulted on dance floors! Such as the one at our own Ravinia.)

Still, worth seeing. And probably, the more contemporary works, such as Fearful Symmetries – to music by John Adams – will look okay in that pallid and concrete setting. Nixon in China (the John Adams opera) performed in the Harris last season by Chicago Opera Theater was riveting.

-E