The New World Symphony's Debut
by Tom Austin
Frank Gehry and New World Symphony artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas, the two marquee names behind the New World Center, are used to hoopla. But this should be a long winter of public-relations duty for the two old friends. In the life of any city, design is destiny, and attention, necessarily, must be paid to Miami’s newest landmark.
The $154 million facility just off Lincoln Road—which opens this month—is Gehry’s first project in Florida and major international news; it also entails a Gehry designed parking garage with an advanced LED lighting system woven into a steel-mesh skin. The front façade of the new NWS home is actually a 7,000-square-foot projection wall for concert broadcasts, movies and video art, which towers over an adjacent two-and-a-halfacre park designed by the renowned Dutch firm West 8, of New York’s Governor’s Island Park and Public Space Project.
A LONG TIME COMING
During the groundbreaking ceremonies three years ago, Tilson Thomas, always the showman, added a Miami-style jolt by merrily conducting a herd of bulldozers, a pageant accented by fireworks and Alberto Ginastera’s Estancia. But on this bright afternoon in Miami Beach, he’s all quiet satisfaction: “Frank’s building is going to inspire young musicians in ways we can’t even imagine now, allowing them to explore entirely new relationships with music.”
This architectural dream has taken a long time to play out (a quarter of a century, in fact), but the NWS complex—a true global musical meeting house— is about to transform Miami, and the future of classical music itself. After spending its first season in the Gusman Center in downtown Miami, the Symphony in 1987 relocated to Lincoln Road, into a converted movie theater, at a time when female musicians had to be escorted home at night and the street still had a certain seedy charm.
For the last 23 years—especially after the Miami City Ballet moved on from rehearsing in a glass-fronted space that’s now a Victoria’s Secret store—the NWS has single-handedly raised the tone of Lincoln Road. From its new campus, the NWS will broadcast concerts live and free in the park via robotic HD cameras mounted in the concert hall. In addition, high-speed Internet2 will allow for live broadcasts of NWS concerts all over the world.
A NEW WORLD ORDER
Years ago, the NWS had techno-driven dance parties at Crobar, and Tilson Thomas has embraced the new age of South Beach. "Pulse: Late Night at the New World Symphony" will feature Mercury Soul— conductor Benjamin Schwartz and DJ/composer Mason Bates—spinning electronica (programmed in conjunction with live, contemporary classical music works) until 2 AM in the concert hall of the new building.