Thursday, December 30, 2010

What Kennedy Could Learn From Lincoln

(Photo: Mark Bussell/Lincoln Center)
The vast majority of the redesign and rebuilding of New York's Lincoln Center is now finished. And even on a blustery winter day, the 16-acre arts center, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, is looking livelier, smarter, hipper and more inviting - it is a change that should be studied closely not just by the Kennedy Center and Washington's public art institutions, but by anyone who cares about the peculiar freedoms of urban life.

More to the story and a "before and after" photo gallery after the jump. 

It has been a remarkable evolution. The arts, according to outdated stereotypes, are rule-bound and hierarchical, enamored of imposing facades of cold stone, and closed off from the rabble and hoi polloi. The striking thing about the changes that Diller Scofidio + Renfro have made at Lincoln Center is that they coexist with an architectural style - the giant columns of Philip Johnson's New York State Theater, the colossal arches of Wallace Harrison's Metropolitan Opera - that defined those old and worn cliches.
(Photo: Mark Bussell/Lincoln Center)

Rather than subvert or sabotage or demolish the old monumentality, the architects have simply added to it, a few wry gestures, a wink, a gentle touch on the shoulder. And suddenly the stone campus isn't just friendlier, it seems to embody an ideal the very opposite of the worst and most debilitating tendencies of the other great architectural engine today: the relentless drive to secure public space. 

View the Lincoln Center "before and after"gallery here.

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