Undulating Vision: Bard College set its frank Gehry-designed performing-arts facility at the leaf of the forest.

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Photo credit: Evan Sklar

The nineteenth-century Luminists who painted the water and also hills that the Hudson sink dissolving into backlit skies defined brand-new York’s many fabled landscape. However that flow view, therefore hazy and ephemeral, obstructed various other visions. Numerous years ago, a local historical preservation group opposed frank Gehry’s arrangement for a concert room at Bard college because, castle argued, a modern-day building would certainly intrude ~ above a historic panorama. Therefore the college moved the task to a less sensitive website backing top top a wood, building a larger structure when deftly parrying any type of objection the preservationists may have harbored about Gehry’s “Californicating” a it s as beautiful as picture landscape. “The preservationists did united state a favor, however for the wrong reasons,” says Bard chairman Leon Botstein. “They enforced their check out of the Hudson Valley, i beg your pardon is all around the past and Cherry Orchard mansions, without any kind of accommodation for modernity. Yet if you are in the business of the arts, you have to live in the present.”

The clergymans of aspic needn’t have worried. Students walking v the campus today can barely discern what seems like an undulating apparition melting into the skies at the far finish of a lengthy meadow: The rippling form belongs come the clouds. A canopy of steel floats like a large handkerchief over a voluminous carapace whose slim edges bending gently over the rojo lawns. V sunlight glinting on its brushed-stainless-steel surfaces, the gravity-defying framework is as ethereal as any type of Luminist vista.

Under the baton of Botstein, who doubles together music manager of the American Symphony Orchestra, Bard has acquired one of the outstanding structures constructed on American campuses in the critical generation. The Richard B. Fisher facility for the Performing Arts dwellings the 900-seat Sosnoff theater for dance, opera, and concerts. A lower, associated structure holds the 200-seat black-box theatre Two, along with classrooms, offices, and dance and drama studios.


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In Concert: The Fisher Center"s main hall seats 900.Photo: Evan Sklar

Botstein approached Gehry prior to the Guggenheim Bilbao made him an global celebrity. “We essential an artist-architect who wouldn’t humiliation the landscape,” claims Botstein. “We wanted someone who can settle the structure lightly top top the land.” Botstein has actually been instrumental in make Bard a resource and destination in the an ar with the annual Bard Music Festival. The program reinforces the mission that a college that specializes in the visual and also performing arts.

Compared with Bilbao, Fisher center is practically diminutive. Yet the architecture grows native the same concept of style conceived as gesture and movement, an idea the has motivated Gehry for nearly two decades. He is a Paganini among architects, able come build any cadenza of form. At Bard, Gehry virtually teases us with his virtuosity, the edges of the canopy rolling off in the air like the last cantilevered stretch the a tendril: sunshine ignites the surfaces. However walk v the glass enntrance gate wall, under the fluttering, supposedly unstructured canopy, and enter a extremely structured, no-nonsense world of steel, raw concrete, and also geothermal energy systems. The asymmetrical stainless-steel carapace centers top top a symmetrical concert hall. Stairs increase in the space left over between the shell and also the framework vaulting the theater. Gehry allows this area form itself as an informal space totally free of opulence. Yes sir a feeling of a Tanglewood burned here.

Gehry converts matter into energy. At Bilbao, he masked the interior of the shell and also its framework with white Sheetrock, but at Bard, that exposes the straight steel system supporting the nonlinear abstraction. The stole rib cage anchors one exterior surface that ripples and also unfurls through the energy of a flag snapping in a brisk wind.

A devotee of timeless music, Gehry collaborated v Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota to do the hall work-related for opera, concerts, and dance. The room itself takes the form of a lyre; Gehry scribbles gestural present on the walls to assist the beveled boxes and also balconies break the sound. Each of the performing arts, however, has its own preferable sight lines and also reverberation times, and also Gehry addressed the conflicting needs by producing a big stage because that opera and dance that might be fitted through a smaller concert shell. Substantial panels in the wings deserve to be configured onstage under more panels lower from above.

“I am doubtful of acousticians, therefore I held my breath,” notes Botstein. “But the acoustics have exceeded ours wildest expectations.” The conductor inaugurated the hall last weekend with Mahler’s huge 3rd Symphony.

The restricted capacity may guarantee intimacy, however it will certainly not make the number crunchers happy. “Opera, timeless music, dance, and serious theater call for patronage,” Botstein insists. “We’re not going to fee $150 a ticket, due to the fact that we want to be obtainable to the center class and to students.”

The need for patronage is every the much more acute in establishments with rarefied programs, follow to Richard Fisher, chairman emeritus of Morgan Stanley and the primary donor come the center. “It’s absolutely crucial to build financial assistance for risk-taking performing-arts centers,” claims Fisher, a member that the Bard board. “The facility will adjust the cultural life of the entirety mid-Hudson area. And Gehry’s design will include to the aesthetic endure of those going top top in the hall.”

A master of invention, Gehry is no less a realist, and also in this $62 million structure he thrust the borders of what the spending plan would bear. He focused his sources strategically on a roof envelope that complements the setting while conditioning visitors psychologically for an elevating experience inside.

Gehry buys his bell jar by leaving the back of the building and the loading docks undesigned. However he tamped down his virtuosity too much in the “teaching” building roughly Theater Two. The boxy creates support the roof like an overbuilt podium and also miss their possibility to follow flows cued by the roofscape. The too-stolid base refuses to join the dance and also isolates the roof, i beg your pardon looks prefer a different façade.

Still, the full-frontal charisma the the structure alone will certainly guarantee the success that the summer festivals, and also for the students, the structure sets the bar for artistic invention. It will instantly come to be both an item lesson and an oneiric object, the rare building that at once teaches by example and also provokes speculation and also even reverie. The structure practices the discipline and also vision that the college teaches, and also on the outside, it captures the ineffable beauty of a Luminist painting.

Preservation periodically masks reactionary instincts, and also reactionaries could justifiably feeling discomfited through a contemporary building the conspicuously succeeds in heightening the painterly impacts of the Hudson’s landscape. Gehry’s architecture even eclipses the flow mansions done by Stanford White nearby, as well as the smug assumption that the aesthetic quality of life peaked during America’s Belle Époque, never to be gone beyond again. White may have actually deftly adapted and reinvigorated classicized architecture, but Gehry exhibits an creative originality the a higher order. The Fisher facility invites what has long been the conservative Hudson Valley society into the twenty-first century ~ above the wing of this most luminous vision.

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Richard B. Fisher facility for the Performing ArtsAt Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, brand-new York. Architect: frank Gehry.