Avery Fisher Hall Rehab Project to Begin in 2017

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Avery Fisher Hall is to going look – and possibly sound – a whole lot different.

Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic said Thursday they plan to radically overhaul the 50-year-old concert hall. The building – which has been criticized for its poor acoustics and increasingly outdated facilities – will be nearly gutted, forcing the Philharmonic to relocate for two seasons while construction takes place.

The remodeling is not expected to get underway before 2017.

The plans, which were revealed to the New York Times, are said to respond to a challenging economic climate for orchestras and shifting audience habits. The Philharmonic told the newspaper it wants Avery Fisher to be more flexible and bring audiences closer to the musicians on stage.

The orchestra declined to comment further on the plans.

Drew McManus, a Chicago-based orchestra consultant and blogger, said a rehab is sorely needed. "Of all the large orchestra primary venues in the country, it really is toward the bottom," he said. "From that standpoint it's a welcome project."

"I think they are hyping up the whole aspect of what else it can be for the organization," he continued. "Most of what they're referencing – about it being more in tune with today's audiences and a post-recession mentality – that's just simply putting enough bathrooms in, making the lobby facilities usable and a place you want to be, and comfortable seats."

The exterior of the building is not expected to be altered during the renovation.

Many questions remain unanswered. The Philharmonic doesn’t yet know where it will play during construction. Options floated include the Park Avenue Armory and the David H. Koch Theater. There is the issue of who leads the fundraising: Lincoln Center, the Philharmonic, or a combination of the two. And the flexibility within the current footprint remains a question.

"The Philharmonic has been needing a fine concert hall for a very, very long time," said Lawrence Kirkegaard, the president of Kirkegaard Associates, an acoustics consulting firm. "I think the flexibility and stature that is being sought are absolutely appropriate for where we are in music today.

"The challenge will be that you have an iconic campus and a volume set aside for the concert hall that was pretty much predicated on a shoebox. It's going to challenge the designers a lot to achieve the kind of flexibility that they're looking for within the constraints of the building."

Here is Drew McManus on Avery Fisher Hall. And please tell us: What do you think is most needed for Avery Fisher Hall?