Led by founder and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas, the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy, is dedicated to the artistic, personal and professional development of the next generation of classical musicians. It prepares gifted young graduates of major music schools to assume leading roles in orchestras and ensembles around the world.
Built in the heart of Miami Beach, New World Center, the New World Symphony’s new campus, is an innovative facility for music education and performance with state-of-the-art technical capabilities, and an adjacent 2.5-acre public event space into which the institution will extend its programming. The campus is the first purpose-built home for the New World Symphony. The design for the campus’ program-focused building, conceived to be at the intersection of music and architecture, has emerged from a long and close collaboration between two American artistic icons, Michael Tilson Thomas and Frank Gehry. The building is Gehry’s first Florida commission.
Location: 500 17th Street, Miami Beach, FL 33139
Located in Miami Beach’s vibrant new city center, New World Center is the focal point of a three-part city redevelopment project. The site is located on two city blocks bordered by Lincoln Lane, 17th Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, and Washington Avenue, which were previously used as surface parking lots. Miami Beach SoundScape, the public event space designed by the Dutch landscape architecture firm West 8, is located to the east of the new building. To the west of the new building is Pennsylvania Avenue Garage, a new 550-car parking structure designed by Gehry Partners, LLP.
The main entrance of New World Center is set in a soaring, 80-foot-high glass curtain wall on the east façade, providing uninterrupted views of the skylit main atrium and the dramatic, tumbling forms of the interior spaces beyond. Created using glass with no iron content, the curtain wall is utterly clear and disappears when lit from within, by the skylight during the day and by the space’s 44 programmable, multi-directional colored lights at night. The entrance is distinguished by a white, wave-like canopy, and opens out onto the Mary and Howard Frank Plaza and the two-and-a-half acre Miami Beach SoundScape. A 650-square-foot LED light field is positioned at the top of the transparent wall, to brand the institution and announce its programming. Located to the right of the atrium is the performance hall, its structure masked on the east façade by a giant, 7,000-square-foot projection wall, adjoining the glass-fronted entrance. The projection wall is used for outdoor presentations and is complemented by an immersive audio system in the adjacent outdoor viewing area, ExoStage@Miami Beach SoundScape. The main viewing area opposite the projection wall can accommodate up to 1,000 people, and is surrounded by speakers designed to look like two giant, gently curving ballet barres. On New World Center’s north façade, a protruding sunshade juts out over 17th Street, providing shade for the performance hall’s window below. On the west side of building a covered walkway leads to the adjoining Pennsylvania Avenue Garage, which is illuminated at night with LED lighting.
The six-story high, glass-fronted atrium provides a spectacular and dynamic entry-point to the building, with its playful, tumbling geometric forms delineating the structure of the internal spaces. When viewed from outside the building at night, these large, dramatically-lit, irregular forms take on the character of performers on a proscenium stage, turning the building itself into a performance. The skylit atrium incorporates the campus’ box office, a large, illuminated glass bar with an undulating, blue-tinted titanium canopy, and baby-blue banquettes with plywood backing. The space features polished concrete floors and painted walls. A plasma wall, measuring 17 foot long by 6.5 foot high, lines the box office, facing the atrium and Miami Beach SoundScape, announcing additional news about programming in the building and on the projection wall. The atrium also features the sculpture Taboehan (2003) by artist Frank Stella. A monumental work in unpainted bent tubing of stainless aluminum, the 1,200-pound piece measures 116 x 240 x 102 inches and is suspended by the main entrance to the building. Donated by Miami collector Martin Z. Margulies, Taboehan is the only work of art permanently on view at New World Center.
The iconic performance hall is a technically sophisticated, flexible and immersive space with seating for 756 people. Uniquely designed entryways lead from the atrium into the hall, with two serpentine corridors delicately narrowing and then widening to dramatically reveal the space. Visitors enter the hall in its center, by the stage, and are greeted by a 360-degree view of the space. Fourteen distinctive configurations of the stage and in-the-round seating allow for new performance experiences. The hall features 247 seats that retract to offer flat-floor and cabaret-style seating opportunities, while 10 individual mechanical stage lifts create various performance levels. Four satellite performance platforms within the hall not only reduce mid-concert stage resets but also alter the relationship between the performers and the audience. Large, 360-degree curvilinear acoustic sails span the upper half of the space, and double as projection surfaces that will enhance the concert-going experience with theatrical lighting, specially commissioned videos and projected contextual information from fourteen 30,000 lumen projectors. Natural light in the performance hall is afforded via an overhead skylight and a large panoramic window located behind the stage. The hall’s seats are upholstered in mottled patterns of blues and white – specially designed by Frank Gehry – which are inspired by the building’s tropical location and intended to bring imagery of the water and sky of Miami Beach into the performance hall.
An intimate space, the performance hall is designed to support everything from solo recitals to concerts by the New World Symphony’s full orchestra. To simulate the acoustical conditions of a much larger concert hall within a relatively small space, the design provides sufficient volume for the sound to develop. The three key components of the acoustical design of the performance hall are: Room shape – The tall ceiling, rising to approximately 50 feet above the stage, creates the volume required to produce a warm and rich resonance for orchestral music. Small walls have also been positioned to surround the audience in order to ensure the distribution of early reflections to all audience members for greater clarity. Materials – Attention has been paid to the weight and surface of the acoustic baffles, since they are the most important elements for reflecting bass tones and creating warmth. The ceiling baffle surfaces are coated with a very thin layer of soft material to temper the tonal quality of high frequencies, and micro-shaping has been applied to the main walls surrounding the inner audience and the stage area in order to provide an even and diffuse sound to the entire auditorium. Noise Control – The performance hall’s mechanical system is designed to produce no discernible background noise, creating the acoustic rating of NC15.
New World Center features recording, projection and webcasting infrastructure, fully wired with 17 miles of high-speed fiber optic cable for Internet2 transmissions. Internet2 is a broadband, next-generation Internet network connecting over 270 universities and government agencies in the US, as well as additional organizations in parallel networks around the world. A hundred times faster than regular Internet services, it is ideally suited for musical interaction and education. An exceptional environment for both audio and visual recordings, the performance hall is outfitted with 10 fixed-position and moveable robotic HD cameras, offering 360-degree coverage of the hall and numerous recording arrangements. The fiber-optic infrastructure of the building allows for instantaneous editing from a remote video recording suite, or instant “wallcasting” to the building’s exterior projection wall.
Rehearsal Spaces / Classrooms:
In addition to the performance hall, the building includes the SunTrust Pavilion, a large multi-purpose room that serves as both the primary teaching space for the orchestra and as a space for performances, film screenings, lectures, meetings and recordings. Located next to the atrium on the ground floor, the east wall of the space is made of glass, allowing passersby to see the activity inside and be encouraged to enter the building. An upper terrace permits people to observe the activities in the Pavilion without disrupting them, and offers an expansive view over Miami Beach SoundScape. Additional practice and rehearsal rooms, teaching rooms, and technical suites have also been incorporated into the design of the building. These include two ensemble rooms, each capable of holding a master class for 20-25 Fellows, located within a structure called The Flower on the third floor. The Knight New Media Center serves as a video and audio editing suite, allowing New World Symphony to capture and distribute content in a digital format.
The roof terrace on the sixth floor is accessible via two high-speed elevators, and features a pavilion reception space, a music library and a private suite, surrounded by an oasis-like garden.