The marble façades of the new Perelman Performing Arts Center in Manhattan recreate the theater in many aspects

The façades of the Perelman Performing Arts Center at late afternoon.

The building completes the redevelopment of Ground Zero after 9/11

Of course: it wants to be a theater like none other in the world, is to be read in all announcements and heard in all videos. And indeed: the Perelman Performing Arts Center in New York City’s Manhattan, which opened on September 19, 2023, has no equal anywhere in the world, and that is because it inimitably combines modern architecture, technology, and engineering.

The structure is the culmination of the redevelopment of Ground Zero following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. Already completed was the new building called One World Trade Center, roughly on the site of the former North Tower and now with its address as its title. The place of remembrance includes the memorial to the victims of the act of Islamist terrorists and, right next to it, a museum as a place of information.

Aerial of lower Manhattan including Perelman Performing Arts Center and National September 11 Memorial & Museum.One World Trade Center on the site of the former North Tower (behind), right from it the Perelman Performing Arts Center, in front the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Now the PAC NYC has been added as “a place to go to celebrate life,“ as a representative of the Board of Trustees of Memorial and Museum puts it in a video.

Part of what makes the PAC so unique is how recognizable its architecture is to the theater.

The building form is a simple cube (with 138-foot sides, total area 12,000 square feet) – which may be symbolic of a successful stage play that features a clear but simple storyline.

The façades recreate the lighting situation in the theater auditorium: at first it is bright there and you can see the curtain (in this case, the cladding with marble slabs); as the performance begins, it becomes dark in the auditorium, the lights on the stage come on, and a completely different world unfolds.

The façade of the Arts Center during the day.The façade of the Arts Center at night.

This inversion of light can also be found on the façade: during the day, the light from outside falls through the marble slabs and bathes the interior in an amber light; at night, the interior lighting falls through the slabs to the outside, giving the façade a brownish glow.

These marble façades deserve a closer look. In the 1960s, there were precursors at, for example, the Beinecke Rare Books Library at Yale University, designed by Gordon Bunshaft. Since then, there have been many further developments that solved the problem of thermal insulation, especially with the help of multiple panes.

Now the architects of the New York studio REX, in collaboration with the façade consultants of the company Font, have planned in detail on the computer the pattern of super-thin slices of marble (12 mm thick). This pattern, again like the story in a good play or movie, you do not overlook right away. It unfolds only after a while of contemplation.

The façade from inside, interior corridor on theater level.

Here it is a game of bookmatching, i.e., mirrored arrangement, in two ways, from top to bottom and from left to right: in the middle strips the mirrored panels are right next to each other, towards the outside they gradually get lost.

On very close inspection, one would notice that each panel is an individual piece, a description says. Nevertheless, they are all perceived together as a unit, so that all four sides of the façade seem to be identical.

The panels all measure an 5 feet by 3 feet. Each weighs just under 134 kilograms.

We will only briefly list those involved in the unusual façades:
* the marble comes from a quarry in Estremoz, Portugal,
* the Portuguese company LSI Stone cut the oversized rough block into the super-thin slices (we will soon have a detailed report),
* the French company AGC added the glass panes,
* at Interpane and Permasteelisa in Germany, 4 panels each became prefabricated elements for installation in place on the façades.

The building itself was a challenge in every respect at this site. For example, its foundations had to find their place above the railroad lines running underneath and the utility accesses for One World Trade Center. It rests on a granite base and is thus insulated against disturbing vibrations from below.

The John E. Zuccotti Theater in the Arts Center during load in for first performances.The Arts Center‘s mechanical room.

The 3 theaters inside are organized in a flexible way. Everywhere the walls and installation are movable so that the space can be adapted for any purpose. For example, the three theater rooms can become a hall for special purposes.

The construction of the Arts Center was set up from 2019 to 2023 by the company Sciame Construction.

The name refers to Ronald O. Perelman, who had provided for the project in 2016.

The PAC NYC and its restaurant and lobby, respectively, have the address 251 Fulton Street in Manhattan and are accessible without an entrance fee every day from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Perelman Performing Arts Center

LSI Stone

Photos: Iwan Baan Photography, courtesy PAC NYC

(08.10.2023, USA: 10.08.2013)