Brooklyn, New York, USA
The Brooklyn Academy of Music has appointed Mitchell Giurgola and his architectural team to transform three adjacent properties in Downtown Brooklyn into a lively cultural destination for audiences, artists, and neighbors.
The BAM Strong project, as it is widely known, has been recently awarded a 2021 American Award for Architecture from The Chicago Athenaeum and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
The ten-year-long phased redevelopment includes renovation of the Harvey Theater, construction of a gallery and sculpture terrace on a small vacant lot, and a café and retail space to expand its cultural offerings and neighborhood impact.
The resulting unified complex is a key feature of the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District Development Plan.
BAM Strong revives the former Majestic, a 120-year-old burlesque house that became a movie house in the 1940s, was abandoned in the 1960s and rediscovered by BAM in the 1980s.
On a very tight budget, it was converted in 1987 to a thrust stage configuration seating 850. This renovation intentionally left the performance space and lobby with a distressed appearance that over time became unique and beloved characters.
The first of two phases included re-raking the orchestra and balcony areas, new properly spaced bespoke seats to improve sightlines and comfort.
New vomitories at the orchestra level improve circulation and the overall patron experience. Also included are 3D cinema, surround sound, and variable acoustics, all added without compromising the iconic, “roman ruin”.
The original building constructed under the cloud of immigrant and ethnic discrimination had one stair leading to the upper balcony directly from the sidewalk bypassing the lobby.
The second phase of the renovation introduces a new stair used by all patrons that twist and turns up through a former air shaft to deliver audiences to their seats full of anticipation of what is to come.
The entire complex has been made ADA compliant, including an elevator for the first time reaching all four floors. An expanded lobby and art gallery opens onto the street to welcome the community.
An artful restoration of the original failing façade and a distinctive 180 ft. long marquee unify the three properties and enhance BAM’s presence and build upon its importance to the cultural life of the district.
Project: BAM Strong
Architects: Mitchell Giurgola Architects LLP.
Client: Brooklyn Academy of Music
Contractor: Hunter Roberts Construction Group
Photographers: Albert Vecerka/Esto