Since taking over control of the massive same-named building in 2006, the Park Avenue Armory has transformed the hulking structure into one of the city’s biggest and most unique spaces for arts productions of all sorts, from theater and dance to visual art. The organization has already poured $73 million into the historic block-sized building, but announced on Wednesday plans for a more extensive and costly renovation of the entire structure to be guided by world-renowned architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron.
The renovations, which will presumably begin in earnest in the new year, right after the hotly-anticipated last show ever by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company on New Year’s Eve, aims to restore parts of the building to its original state while adding details like balconies, a huge elevator (see below) and back-of-house spaces like dressing rooms, artist-in-residency studios and so on.
The program is two-pronged, with restoration efforts focused on the historic period rooms in the five-story Head House—which faces onto Park Avenue—and renovations slated for the massive Wade Thompson Drill Hall. In the latter, new perimeter balconies will unobtrusively allow visitors to look down on the expansive hall and, in some cases, will accommodate exhibition elements. Lower walls from the mid-20th century will be removed to reveal more of the structure’s historic iron truss work, and heavy curtains will provide sound-proofing for productions that require it. In addition to the balconies, the only major additions will be ten new emergency exits and the aforementioned elevator.
In the Head House, the main goal is to restore the 18 historic period rooms on the first and second floors, which were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, the Herter Brothers, Pottier & Stymus and other leading designers of the 19th century. Also included in the project will be a new rehearsal space on the house’s fifth floor and renovations to the existing city-operated shelter for women, which will be housed on the fourth floor.
The building’s exterior won’t change a great deal, save for the removal of extraneous fire escapes and window bars. Most notable, perhaps, is a planned green roof for the Head House that will also double as a patio for the new rehearsal space. No timeline has been specified for the building’s overhaul, and the extent to which it will impede programming remains unknown.