The $500 million gut renovation planned for David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, nearly twenty years in the making, has been scrapped, according to Michael Cooper of the New York Times. Originally referred to as Avery Fisher Hall, it was renamed in 2015 after media mogul David Geffen donated $100 million to the center. The plan, which Geffen’s gift was supposed to push into high gear, called for creating a new concert hall while protecting the exterior of the Max Abramovitz¬–designed building.
There were many concerns with taking on such an extensive and costly refurbishment project, which would have displaced the center’s primary tenant, the New York Philharmonic, for many seasons. The evacuation would have been quite problematic for the financially struggling orchestra, as it cannot afford rent on a temporary space. “There was a general sense that the project had just gotten too complicated,” said Debora L. Spar and Deborah Borda, Lincoln Center’s new president and the Philharmonic’s new president and chief executive, respectively, in a joint interview.
Since 1999, the Philharmonic has been desperate to spruce up the center. The architect Norman Foster was hired at one time to envision a redesign, which never moved forward, while at another point the orchestra tried returning to its old home at Carnegie Hall, which didn’t work. The orchestra has been mired in indecision for years because it couldn’t figure out what it needed, who was going to pay for it, and how it would continue to operate once construction began. Also, both organizations lost their leaders during the planning: Jed Bernstein resigned last year as Lincoln Center’s president, and Matthew VanBesien, the Philharmonic’s president, bowed out of his position earlier this year. Nonetheless, Lincoln Center and the Philharmonic’s owners are still keen on improving the hall’s acoustics, common areas, and auditorium, so long as it can be done with fewer problems and considerably less expense.