8.09.2010

Great Public Spaces: David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center

Longtime New Yorkers walking near Lincoln Center may inadvertently breeze past one of the city's best new public spaces on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd Street. A light-infused and music-filled airy space, the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, as it's officially named, is now the starting point for the center's guided tours and ticket office for day-of discount tickets for Lincoln Center performances. But it's an extremely well-designed public space that not just fulfills the city guidelines for such spaces but reaches for a higher design standard.

As I've discussed in other posts on the topic, usually in reference to outdoor spaces such as Greenacre Park, elements that create great public spaces have been well-defined and codified over the years - movable chairs, a water feature, natural elements, the presence of food, a variety of things to do, and so forth. The idea is that people will more likely gravitate to places that humanize them and allow freedom of choice in the way they socially react in those spaces.

At the basic level, the atrium, named in honor of the philanthropist and Lincoln Center Vice Chair, provides all the features - many places to sit, a 'witchcraft cafe for light meals, a comfortable climate-controlled environment, restrooms, wifi access, and a variety of things to do, including checking out the schedule for Lincoln Center. Target Free Thursdays sponsors free performances every Thursday at 8:30 p.m. But it goes beyond that.

The Atrium design by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien features many visual delights, including a tall ceiling with oval-shaped skylights, two vertical gardens with real plants, a ceiling-to-ground water fountain, and artwork by Dutch textile artist Claudy Jongstra. The multitude of textures on the walls and floor, including natural light and materials, wraps the visitor in a sensual, inviting space. And it's green.

A recent visit at noon, depicted in these images, demonstrate the success of providing an innovative space that works equally well for tour groups or smaller meetings or the solo traveler. What's most impressive, however, is the acoustics. In spite of many people gathered in the atrium to talk and dine and ask questions at the information desk, you can hear what your friend is saying or actually hear yourself think. And, on top of that, when there's a lull in the conversation, you may actually hear the sound of an orchestra or other music. When I was there, it was Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, the Eroica.

How sublime. This is Lincoln Center, after all. And someone was thinking.

David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center
Broadway between 62nd and 63rd Streets

Hours: Mon-Fr 8 a.m. -10 p.m.
Sat-Sun 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Day of Discount Tickets/Zucker Box Office Hours:
Tues-Sat 12 p.m.-7:45 p.m, Sun 12 p.m.-5:45 p.m.
Box Office is closed on Mondays. 

Consult the website for the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center for current happenings.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from August 5, 2010.

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