The New World Symphony's Debut
by Tom Austin
Architecturally, the NWS facility represents a marked leap from the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao or Disney Concert Hall, and is something of a return to Gehry’s earlier work. His trademark geometric shapes are found in the lobby behind a seven-story glass curtain wall, as well as near the front entrance and on the roof.
Indeed, the building blurs the private and public realms—a fitting touch for the voyeur’s paradise of South Beach. Audience members can scan the park, while park visitors can watch musicians rehearse in the glass-walled SunTrust Pavilion space or, in the evenings, NWS patrons at play in the rooftop garden designed by Raymond Jungles. The six-stories-high sky-lit atrium will eventually be open to the public when concerts aren’t taking place, while the illuminated glass bar with a titanium canopy is intended to serve as a town social center.
Adding to the architectural drama, Gehry’s tumbling geometric forms, framed by the glass-curtain wall like a stage proscenium, will be lit at night. Inside the main hall, 10 movable performance platforms allow for nearly unlimited flexibility—from solo recitals to full orchestral concerts—as well as intimate narrated concerts, accompanied by video projections and designed to be educational affairs.
Four decades ago, Tilson Thomas was a protégé of Leonard Bernstein, eventually going on to host Bernstein’s famed Young People’s Concerts. This season, the NWS will feature occasional Discovery Concerts aimed at younger audiences, hosted by Jamie Bernstein, Leonard’s daughter.
South Beach has a way of neatly tying up the loose ends of pop history. It’s another night, another opening for Gehry, who came to Miami recently to survey the building and seemed thoroughly pleased. “I didn’t want this place to be precious,” he explains. “It’s meant to be very purposeful, a beehive of activity, where the musicians will be bumping into one another in a kind of multistory village. And it’s personal, a social network where everything is visible from the outside: In this building, nothing is secret.”