Frank Gehry’s architectural style inside the New World Center, which greets guests in a vast, sun-lit atrium.
This past Sunday, PBS aired a special entitled The 10 Buildings That Changed America, which highlighted pioneering ventures in residential, commercial and industrial architecture in the United States from as early as Thomas Jefferson’s design of the Virginia State Capitol in 1788 to as late as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, completed in 2003 in Los Angeles by Frank Gehry.
Miami has its own share of architecturally noteworthy buildings, homes, landmarks, botanic gardens and public sculptures, including a one-of-a-kind Frank Gehry building on Miami Beach — the New World Center.
The New World Center is home to the New World Symphony, America’s only orchestral academy, where top music school graduates hone their skills while on their way to becoming orchestra musicians, all under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas and many noted leaders in classical music.
Though the building’s glass and white plaster exterior is rectangular and relatively unassuming — very much unlike the trademark sweeping sails of the Los Angeles music hall or the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao — the interior features an expansive, sun-lit atrium and the cavernous halls and curves that are a trademark of the Gehry style.
As well, a masterful design by Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota ensures that sound travels beautifully in the concert hall, which is flanked by curved video projection walls that provide visual enhancements to the music that’s performed in the 756-seat venue.
Inside the concert hall, a video-enhanced performance of a Stravinsky composition, digitally mastered by engineers in a control room behind the audience.
There are also some additional unique features to this Miami Beach building that go beyond a traditional concert hall.
For one, its high tech wiring: thousands of miles of cables make this a high-end Internet2 hub, where orchestra fellows can train virtually with coaches in other cities without loss of sound quality.
Miamians and tourists alike enjoy outdoor WALLCAST concerts in season. The sound quality is superb in the musical “garden.”
But it doesn’t just end there. The building offers WALLCAST concerts, projected on a 7,000 foot wall on the façade, which faces the SoundScape area — a 2.5 acre park designed by the Dutch urban and design landscape firm West 8. It’s here Miamians and tourists alike enjoy free live broadcasts of the music being performed inside the hall, while picnicking around an esplanade of pergolas providing support for tropical blooming vines such as bougainvillea.
In a statement, Frank Gehry spoke of his thoughts on the structure:
“I am very proud of this building, which results from a close working relationship with my lifelong friend Michael Tilson Thomas and brings to life his dream for New World Symphony and the entire world of classical music. I hope the spirit of creative engagement that Michael and I have enjoyed will live on in the building’s spaces. They are designed to encourage young musicians, their mentors and their audiences to try new things, interact in new ways and remain open to new experiences.”
The New World Symphony once called the quaint art deco Lincoln Theatre on Lincoln Road its home, but moved just across the street to create a cutting-edge, digital technology educational and cultural institution in the heart of South Beach. The New World Center is definitely one of many buildings that have changed Miami.
Numerous Miami Beach properties are close to this iconic building.
– Maria de los Angeles is a freelance wordsmith based in Miami.
All photos courtesy of New World Center.