Meet the New World Center

February 16, 2011

As one of the most advanced learning centers for music in the world, the New World Center in Miami Beach pushes the boundaries of teaching, learning, and performing. Theatre Projects collaborated with Gehry Partners and Nagata Acoustics to design and plan this exciting interactive campus for the New World Symphony, one of America's leading and most innovative music academies.

The campus design creates endless opportunities for learning and performing. Combining highly flexible spaces with forward-looking technology, the performance and rehearsal spaces transform instantly into broadcast studios for recording and long-distance learning. With Internet2 connectivity, advanced audio systems, and video projection integrated throughout the facility, performers and teachers can interact with far-flung audiences or students in real time.

The heart of this learning center is the intimate concert hall. In 2002 when we began helping the New World Symphony imagine their new campus, the concept was a technology-supported rehearsal space where the symphony could train with conductors and musicians physically scattered around the world. Fast forward to 2011, and we've helped develop that original vision into a ground-breaking, 756-seat interactive concert hall that gives the symphony and its audience room to redefine how they experience music and music performance.

Multiple performance configurations

Taking a cue from our orchestra platform design at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (another collaboration with Gehry Partners and Nagata Acoustics), we designed a 10-lift system for the New World Center that transforms the room into 14 different performance configurations. The lower bank of audience seating even retracts to make a flat floor space for alternative performances and events. Watch the video to see this versatile space in action.

Integrated performance lighting

We carefully integrated a complex, high-performance lighting system into the architecture of the room and the infrastructure of the building, allowing enormous flexibility without compromising aesthetics. With a wide range of adaptable presets, the latest in LED technology, and ultra-quiet moving lights, the performance lighting changes easily from symphony to theatre to rehearsal to interactive broadcast performance!

Transparent planning

New World Symphony asked us to help them create a new model of transparent music education - where the public can experience the rehearsal process without disrupting the flow of learning. Glass walls expose rehearsal rooms to public areas, allowing the public to watch musicians at work while giving the musicians the acoustic separation they need for rehearsal. When musicians want even more separation, they can pull shades for privacy. Through a careful design process, we helped create a building that publicly celebrates performance and education balanced with adjustable privacy for sensitive learning moments.

Interactive, immersive environment

Working with the design team, we created a first-of-its-kind immersive concert hall. With no seat further than 43 feet from the performance platform, nearly 360-degree video projection, and acoustics that support music ranging from Bach to pop, audience members are wrapped by sound and visuals. But it's not just paying audience members who get this complete surround experience—the projection continues outside onto the wall of the building where concerts are broadcast live for the public to enjoy from the park.

Read what the critics think

New York Times, Gehry Design Plays Fanfare for the Common Man by Nicolai Ouroussoff
"Enclosed inside a simple stucco box, its raucous interior forms — a pileup of rehearsal studios joined to a 756-seat hall — are part of an effort to break down the emotional distance between performers and the public, and in doing so to pump new life into an art form that is often perceived as stuffy and old-fashioned." Read more.

New York Times, Airy Home for Music and Its Fans, by Anthony Tommasini
"The centerpiece is the concert hall, which has 756 seats bunched in groups around the tall, airy auditorium. The steeply raked rows bring every audience member close to the musicians onstage." Read more.

Washington Post Architecture review: Miami's new concert hall, designed by Frank Gehry by Philip Kennicott
"Gehry's concert hall for the New World Symphony . . . is the first American concert space built from the ground up to include sophisticated video, theatrical-style lighting and flexible stage space that can accommodate not just an orchestra, but soloists and chamber groups . . . the centerpiece of the campus is Gehry's $160 million concert space, and it works brilliantly . . . for the first time, that technology does not feel like an invasion into the 19th-century concert space, but an essential element of a newly emerging entertainment form . . . The fourth wall, whatever remained of that supposedly off-putting imaginary barrier between audience and spectacle, is now entirely shattered." Read more.

Miami Herald, Orchestra resplendent in its new New World Symphony's futuristic home by David Fleshler
"The visual experience of the performance was different from that to which most classical audiences may be accustomed. The hall is distinctly vertical, with the audience placed not only in front but all around the orchestra. And with the use of risers to give the orchestra itself five levels of seating, it was possible to see the faces of the bassoon players, second violinists and many more musicians, making the ensemble seem less remote from the audience than in traditional concert halls." Read more.

Miami Herald, Concert Hall for the people: New World Center debuts by Andres Viglucci
"The concert hall, equipped with a sophisticated control room, can broadcast or record performances live in HD. The auditorium can also morph from symphony hall to nightclub, and will host a series of late-night events, dubbed Pulse, that blend classical instrumentalists and D.J./classical composer Mason Bates.

"'A building that's the future of music,' NWS president Howard Herring called it." Read more.

Performance lighting technical details

Concert hall

  • grandMA 2 running on ETC Cat-5 data distribution network
  • grandMA light running live back up
  • 20 portable Ethernet nodes (16 2-port nodes and 4 4-port nodes)

  • 4 dimmer racks
  • 313 performance dimmers (290 2.4kW dimmers, 23 6.0kW dimmers)
  • 48 houselight dimmers (48 sine wave dimmers)
  • 140 relays (66 120v relays and 74 220v relays)

  • 36 Vari-Lite VL1100 ERS automated robotic fixtures
  • 20 Vari-Lite VL550 Wash automated robotic fixtures
  • 150 conventional fixtures
  • Over 400 feet of Color Kinetics i-Color Cove lights

Multipurpose hall

  • ETC Ion console

  • 1 rack of 96 dimmers
  • 36 relays (12 120v relays and 24 220v relays)

  • 8 conventional fixtures

  • ETC Paradigm and AMX touchscreens controlling 96 dimmers

Stage engineering technical details

Concert hall

Concert platform lifts
  • Concert platform floor consists of 10 lifts with 2 self-adjusting access stairs
  • All lifts travel from flat floor condition to 5'-8" above audience level
  • Upstage right lift travels to +14'-0" to service upper platform
  • Lifts driven by Macton screw jack stand system with sequenced controls
  • Decking is resonant Alaskan cedar with integrated performance lighting and sound connections

Performance rigging
  • Architecturally integrated 2,200 lb. strong (attachment) points with acoustic and finish plugs
  • 45-channel distributed chain motor control system
  • Load cell monitoring
  • Projection screen and rigging
  • Utility box truss

Adjustable acoustics
  • 20 axes of control
  • Variable reverberation time from 0.9 to 1.5 seconds
  • Stacking banners, travelers, and straight-lift double-sided panels

Multipurpose hall

Performance rigging
  • Fixed truss array
  • Projection screen and rigging

Meet the New World Center
Credit: Richard Patterson
Meet the New World Center
Credit: Theatre Projects
Meet the New World Center
Credit: Theatre Projects
Meet the New World Center
Credit: Emilio Collavino