Gehry in Miami 11.08.11


The first thing to say about the New World Center in Miami Beach, by Frank Gehry, is that it bears little or no relation to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles – one of the world's most iconic public arts buildings, designed by Gehry in 2003. However, the New World Centre is not, primarily, a public arts building but a private one: a school for the innovative orchestral academy New World Symphony (NWS) and an inherently "contextual" structure that required a wholly different approach to the flamboyance of Gehry's notorious, singular edifices.

An elite teaching orchestra dedicated to the development of its students and orchestral music, the ideals of the NWS define the building. Project designer Craig Webb, describes it as "a school that has performance as part of its program. The building is designed to enhance a sense of community among the musicians".

The New World Center eschews an expressive carapace in favour of a more rectilinear form: "It is a part of the fabric of the city of Miami Beach, blending in with its context," says Webb. "We felt it was not appropriate to make a big architectural statement." That is not to say the building is not imposing: on the east facade is a 7,000sq ft projection wall used for outdoor presentations and public performances. Complemented by an advanced audio system, this is a dominating external feature, albeit a culturally altruistic one. In stark contrast, the facade is completed by a huge glass curtain wall, which creates a "transparency that will invite the public in".

And it is within that Gehry is able to delight again in the freedom of form. Delineating the rigorous external lines, tumbling, performing volumes activate and illuminate the space. The performance hall itself is uniquely sophisticated in its deference to multiple media, incorporating advanced acoustics and numerous parabolic screens. "Digital projectors and robotic cameras allow the music to be transmitted out into the community [and] create a fully immersive visual environment," says Webb.

In this surprising building, Gehry has created a centre that, despite its relative restraint, does not hide in its context. Its alternating layers of simplicity and complexity are a beguiling mix that invite, foster and project participation both for the school and the fortunate community.




Claudia Uribe



Tom Wright

quotes story

It is "a school that has performance as part of its program. The building is designed to enhance a sense of community among the musicians"

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