The Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) at the Herb Alpert Center has begun construction of The Renaissance Project. Funded by the Herb Alpert Foundation, the renovation promises a world-class facility that will ‘deepen artistic interaction’ and optimise the spaces for a wide range of events, dynamic exhibitions and performances.

Harlem School of the ArtsThe school has been serving children and the community with after-school arts programs in music, dance, theatre, art and design for 55 years. The Renaissance Project. will significantly transform the organization’s 37,000sq-ft facility, located in north Manhattan, and includes structural, acoustical and technology upgrades. It is expected to take a year to complete.

Designed in the 1970s by modernist architect Ulrich Franzen, the HSA renovation was led by Imrey Studio LLC and required a section of the building’s Brutalist-style brick exterior be replaced by a two-storey glass wall –bringing the HSA’s spaces and activities into view from the street. This dramatic design gesture reinforces founder Dorothy Maynor’s goal of making art accessible to everyone.

‘This new transparency will both literally and figuratively increase the school’s connection with Harlem’s vibrant cultural community,’ says Principal Designer and Director, Celia Imrey. ‘By bringing the street in and the internal activities out, we set the stage for endless creative possibilities.’

The Renaissance Project is the most substantial renovation undertaken by the organisation since occupying the building, 45 years ago. Musician/philanthropist Herb Alpert and his wife, vocalist, and author Lani Hall Alpert, are funding the full project cost of US$9.5m, through the Herb Alpert Foundation.

When Alpert and Hall visited HSA in 2018 to be presented with the original facade design, Alpert suggested more could be done to enhance the performance experience for students and audiences, and recommended acoustic consulting and studio design firm WSDG Walters-Storyk Design Group be added to the collaborative design team.

The expanded programme calls for transforming the 3,500sq-ft double-height lobby into a light-filled multi-functional environment, which will also serve as an art gallery and a uniquely diverse performance space. Led by founding partner John Storyk, the global WSDG architectural/acoustical firm will use a number of advanced modelling programs to provide the dramatic space with acoustics akin to their work for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Allen Room, the Greenwich Village Le Poisson Rouge venue, and Switzerland’s KKL Luzern Concert Hall. One of the advanced design programme studies resulted in a JALC-like angled glass facade solution complimenting the Imrey architectural concept.

Harlem School of the Arts‘We were honoured to have Herb Alpert reach out to us for the HSA project,’ Storyk says. ‘His appreciation for the critical importance of acoustical design is soundly based on his vast experience as an incomparable musician and recording executive. We are equally pleased to be working with Herb to design the acoustics for a small theaterehis foundation is funding on the UCLA campus. That project will be completed early in 2020.’

In addition to creating a warm, safe, welcoming, performance-ready HSA, the renovation will also make vital repairs to the building core including a new roof and windows throughout to make it more energy efficient. Two dance studios and a lounge will be renovated, and the organization’s signature courtyard garden and waterfall will receive a makeover.

‘The organization needs to be seen as a space that invites people in,’ says HAS President, Eric Pryor. ‘It has always been an oasis on the inside, but that has not generally been known or fully reflected from the exterior. To remain relevant in our local community and within the greater artistic community, the public needs to see who we are and what we do.’

To that end, a project team has been assembled to collaborate on the work of transforming the organisation’s current home. In addition to Imrey Studio LLC and WSDG, this team includes architect-of-record Eric K. Daniels Architect, with project management provided by Seamus Henchy & Associates.

More: www.wsdg.com

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