Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, NY | CruiseBe
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Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

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Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is a 16.3-acre (6.6-hectare) complex of buildings in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. It hosts many notable performing arts organizations, which are nationally and internationally renowned, including the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Ballet.


A consortium of civic leaders and others led by, and under the initiative of, John D. Rockefeller III built Lincoln Center as part of the "Lincoln Square Renewal Project" during Robert Moses's program of urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s. Respected architects were contracted to design the major buildings on the site, and over the next thirty years the previously blighted area around Lincoln Center became a new cultural hub.

Rockefeller was Lincoln Center's inaugural president from 1956 and became its chairman in 1961. He is credited with raising more than half of the $184.5 million in private funds needed to build the complex, including drawing on his own funds; the Rockefeller Brothers Fund also contributed to the project. The center's three buildings, David Geffen Hall, David H. Koch Theater (formerly the New York State Theater) and the Metropolitan Opera House were opened in 1962, 1964 and 1966, respectively.

While the center may have been named because it was located in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, it is unclear whether the area was named as a tribute to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. The name was bestowed on the area in 1906 by the New York City Board of Aldermen, but records give no reason for choosing that name. There has long been speculation that the name came from a local landowner, because the square was previously named Lincoln Square. City records from the time show only the names Johannes van Bruch, Thomas Hall, Stephan de Lancey, James de Lancey, James de Lancey Jr. and John Somerindyck as area property owners. One speculation is that references to President Lincoln were omitted from the records because the mayor in 1906 was George B. McClellan, Jr., son of General George B. McClellan who was general-in-chief of the Union Army early in the American Civil War and a bitter rival of Lincoln.


Architects who designed buildings at the center include:

  • Max Abramovitz: David Geffen Hall
  • Pietro Belluschi: The Juilliard School (including Alice Tully Hall). Modified by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in association with FX Fowle
  • Gordon Bunshaft: The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
  • Wallace Harrison: the center's master plan and the Metropolitan Opera House
  • Lee S Jablin: 3 Lincoln Center, the adjacent condominium built by a private developer
  • Philip Johnson: New York State Theater, now known as the David H. Koch Theater
  • Eero Saarinen: Vivian Beaumont Theater
  • Davis, Brody and Associates: The Samuel B. and David Rose Building.
  • Billie Tsien, Tod William: The David Rubenstein Atrium
  • Hugh Hardy/H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture LLC: The Claire Tow Theater

Facility history


The first structure to be completed and occupied as part of this renewal was the Fordham Law School of Fordham University in 1962. Located between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, from West 60th to 66th Streets in Lincoln Square, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the complex was the first gathering of major cultural institutions into a centralized location in an American city.

The development of the condominium at 3 Lincoln Center, completed in 1991, designed by Lee Jablin, Harman Jablin Architects, made possible the expansion of The Juilliard School and the School of American Ballet.

The center's cultural institutions also make use of facilities located away from the main campus. In 2004, the center was expanded through the addition of Jazz at Lincoln Center's newly built facilities, the Frederick P. Rose Hall, at the new Time Warner Center, located a few blocks to the south. In March 2006, the center launched construction on a major redevelopment plan that modernized, renovated, and opened up its campus. Redevelopment was completed in 2012 with the completion of the President's Bridge over West 65th Street.


When it was first announced in 1999, Lincoln Center's campuswide redevelopment was to cost $1.5 billion over 10 years and radically transform the campus. There was an architectural competition, won by the British architect Norman Foster in 2005, but a full scale redesign was not approved until 2012, in part because of the need to raise $300 million in construction costs and the New York Philharmonic's fear that it might lose audiences and revenue while it was displaced. Among the architects that have been involved were Frank Gehry; Cooper, Robertson & Partners; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Beyer Blinder Belle; Fox & Fowle; Olin Partnership; and Diller & Scofidio.

In March 2006, the center launched the 65th Street Project  – part of a major redevelopment plan continuing through the fall of 2012  – to create a new pedestrian promenade designed to improve accessibility and the aesthetics of that area of the campus. Additionally, Alice Tully Hall was modernized and reopened to critical and popular acclaim in 2009 and the Film Society of Lincoln Center expanded with the new Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. The film center is part of a new pavilion that also houses a destination restaurant, Lincoln, offices, and is topped with a sloping lawn roof. Subsequent projects were added which addressed improvements to the main plazas and Columbus Avenue Grand Stairs. Under the direction of the Lincoln Center Development Project, Diller Scofidio + Renfro in association with FXFOWLE Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle Architects provided the design services. Additionally, Turner Construction Company and RCDolner, LLC were the construction managers for the projects. Another component to redevelopment was the addition of the David Rubenstein Atrium designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, a visitors' center and a gateway to the center that offers free performances, day-of-discount tickets, food, and free Wi-Fi.


  • April 21, 1955: Lincoln Square designated for urban renewal.
  • June 22, 1956: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. incorporated.
  • May 14, 1959: Ground-breaking ceremony with U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • September 23, 1962: Philharmonic Hall (now David Geffen Hall) opened. A two-hour live CBS special, Opening Night at Lincoln Center, preserved the event on videotape.
  • April 6, 1964: Lincoln Center Fountain opened. Renamed the Revson Fountain
  • April 23, 1964: New York State Theater opened.
  • October 14, 1965: Vivian Beaumont Theater and the Forum (now Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater) opened.
  • November 30, 1965: The Library & Museum of the Performing Arts opened.
  • September 16, 1966: The Metropolitan Opera House opened.
  • May 22, 1969: Damrosch Park and the Guggenheim Band Shell opened.
  • September 11, 1969: Alice Tully Hall opened.
  • October 26, 1969: Juilliard School opened.
  • October 19, 1976: Avery Fisher Hall re-opened after renovation to improve acoustics.
  • December 4, 1981: The Big Apple Circus performed at its winter home in Damrosch Park for the first time. The circus has performed every winter at Lincoln Center ever since.
  • September 7, 1982: New York State Theater re-opened after renovation to improve acoustics.
  • September 2, 1986: Former Jewish Defense League National Chairman Victor Vancier throws a tear gas grenade during a performance of Soviet ballet in the Metropolitan Opera House as a protest against the Soviet practice of not letting its Jews emigrate to Israel.
  • November 19, 1990: The Samuel B. and David Rose Building opened; houses the Walter Reade Theater, the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse, the Daniel and Joanna S. Rose Rehearsal Studio, the Clark Studio Theater, the School of American Ballet, and Juilliard School student residences, as well as office space for a number of the member organizations.
  • December 3, 1991: The Walter Reade Theater opened within the previously completed Samuel B. and David Rose Building.
  • July 12, 1997: The Paul Milstein Plaza dedicated.
  • October 18, 2004: Jazz at Lincoln Center opened.
  • March 2006: Preliminary construction on the West 65th Street Project begins
  • June 8, 2006: Plans for Lincoln Center to transform the nearby Harmony Atrium into a public space for the arts open to the public, neighbors, students, and Lincoln Center patrons are announced.
  • June 12, 2006: The Lincoln Center Promenade initiative to revitalize Lincoln Center's Columbus Avenue frontage and the iconic Josie Robertson Plaza is unveiled.
  • August 20, 2006: Paul Milstein Plaza dismantled as part of 65th Street Redevelopment project.
  • February 22, 2009: Alice Tully Hall reopens after redevelopment.
  • May 21, 2010: Renovation of central and north plazas unveiled.
  • June 4, 2012: Claire Tow Theater opened
  • October 1, 2012: The President's Bridge opened over West 65th Street.
  • May 15, 2013: Jed Bernstein begins his term as president.
  • September 24, 2015: Avery Fisher Hall was renamed David Geffen Hall.

Performance facilities at Lincoln Center

The center has 30 indoor and outdoor performance facilities that include:

  • Alice Tully Hall: a 1,095-seat concert hall located within the Juilliard School building; the home stage of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
  • David Geffen Hall (formerly Philharmonic Hall and Avery Fisher Hall): a 2,738-seat symphony hall; the home stage of the New York Philharmonic.
  • Metropolitan Opera House: a 3,900-seat opera house; the home stage of the Metropolitan Opera; as well as List Hall.
  • David H. Koch Theater (formerly New York State Theater): a 2,586-seat theater; constructed to be the home of the New York City Ballet, it is also the former home of the New York City Opera and the Music Theater of Lincoln Center companies.
  • Vivian Beaumont Theater: a 1,080-seat Broadway theater; operated since 1985 as the main stage of Lincoln Center Theater; previously occupied by The Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center (1965–1973) and The New York Shakespeare Festival (1973–1977).
  • Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater (originally known as the Forum): a 299-seat theater; operated by Lincoln Center Theater for its Off-Broadway-style productions
  • Claire Tow Theater: a 131-seat theater operated by Lincoln Center Theater to house its more experimental productions.
  • The Walter Reade Theater: a 268-seat movie theater; used by the Film Society of Lincoln Center; features a raised dais used for post-screening filmmaker discussions.
  • Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center: home to the Francesca Beale Theater, Howard Gilman Theater, and the Amphitheater.
  • Bruno Walter Auditorium at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
  • The David Rubenstein Atrium: a facility on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd Streets; includes a public visitors' and discount-ticketing facility with amenities that include free performances and a café
  • The Clark Studio Theater: a 120-seat dance theater; a part of the facilities of Lincoln Center Education
  • Damrosch Park: an outdoor amphitheater with a bowl-style stage known as the Guggenheim Band Shell; used for free Lincoln Center Out of Doors presentations and with a special dance floor for Midsummer Night Swing.
  • Daniel and Joanna S. Rose Rehearsal Studio
  • Josie Robertson Plaza: the center's central plaza, featuring its iconic fountain; the three main buildings (Metropolitan Opera House, David Geffen Hall, and David H. Koch Theater) face onto this plaza; used as an outdoor venue during Lincoln Center Out of Doors presentations
  • Juilliard School: a facility housing the school of the same name: building also incorporates Morse Recital Hall, Paul Recital Hall, the Juilliard Drama Theater and the Peter Jay Sharp Theater
  • Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse: a nightclub-style venue; used for intimate concerts, "Meet the Artist" and Great Performers events, lectures, and other events where a small, intimate space is preferred; was also used for jazz performances prior to the construction of the new Jazz at Lincoln Center facilities
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center: while a part of the center, it is located separately in the Frederick P. Rose Hall complex within the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. It consists of the following performance and related facilities:
    • The Allen Room: a 508-seat amphitheater with 50-foot (15-metre) glass wall overlooking Central Park; from 2011 to 2013, it was used as the studio for Anderson Live, a daytime-television talk show hosted by Anderson Cooper
    • Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola: a nightclub-style venue that allows jazz to be performed in its traditional venue
    • Rose Theater: a 1,094-seat concert hall designed for jazz performances
    • Irene Diamond Education Center: a rehearsal, recording and classroom facility
  • Other outdoor venues include Hearst Plaza, Barclay's Capital Grove, and Broadway Plaza.

Resident organizations

The center serves as home for eleven resident arts organizations:

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. (LCPA) is one of the eleven resident organizations, and serves three primary roles: presenter of artistic programming, national leader in arts and education and community relations, and manager of the center's campus. As the world's largest presenter of performing arts offering some 5,000 programs, initiatives and events annually, its programs include American Songbook, Great Performers, Lincoln Center Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Midsummer Night Swing, the Mostly Mozart Festival, Target Free Thursdays, the White Light Festival and the Emmy Award–winning Live from Lincoln Center.

In July 2006, the LCPA announced it would join with publishing company John Wiley & Sons to publish at least 15 books on performing arts, and would draw on the Lincoln Center Institute's educational background and archives.

In popular culture

Lincoln Center is featured in the 1968 films No Way to Treat a Lady and The Producers. In the former, the character played by Lee Remick works there as a tour guide, and in the latter, the theatrical producers Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, played by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, meet at the fountain to discuss their scheme to defraud their investors; the climax of the scene is provided by the eruption of the plaza's fountain while Bloom dances around it. Lincoln Center is also where the final competition takes place in Pitch Perfect.

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