In Miami, Gehry’s New World Center

In South Beach, Jennifer May, a project manager for Italian furniture manufacturer Poltrona Frau, has completed the firm’s fifth project with architect Frank Gehry.

New World Center on 17th Street in Miami Beach is a 756-seat symphony hall.  It follows Poltrona Frau’s work with Gehry on the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and his Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

“It’s interesting because most of his buildings are seen and experienced from the outside,” May said.  “But this one is seen as more rectangular from the outside, with Frank Gehry features inside.  This is an inside-out Frank Gehry building.”

Its interior colors were inspired by the vibrancy of the ocean – with a royal blue, a sea green and a bright white.  And from its rooftop, views of the Atlantic Ocean are laid out for the adventurous viewer.

Its seating is steeply raked to bring audience members close to the orchestra.  The architect employed fixed seating, removable chairs, folding chairs and custom benches.

“Providing comfort for each chair is always a challenge,” she said.  “In this case we developed a special tool to pull elastic strips, stretching them onto a wooden frame, instead of using pre-molded foam onto steel frames.  That’s where you get your comfort, because you don’t feel like you’re sitting on a frame.”

Gehry asked for a mechanism for folding chairs into a retractable riser.  May and her collaborators engineered it, developed shop drawings and a prototype, then built it and shipped it.  A team from Tolentino, Italy installed it.

Conceived as a laboratory for the way music is taught, performed and experienced, New World Center was built around the program of the New World Symphony. Twenty-four individual rehearsal rooms, four ensemble rooms and three percussion rooms – all wired for audio/video recording and Internet2 capability, serve the academy’s 86 Fellows, while the SunTrust Pavilion and main performance hall are the intersection between the academy’s Fellows and the public’s experience with the building.

For more on New World Symphony, go to

For more on Poltrona Frau, go to

For more on Frank Gehry, go to

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