This stark arrangement of gleaming modernist temples houses some of Manhattan’s most important performance companies: the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera. The lobby of the iconic Opera House is dressed with brightly saturated murals by painter Marc Chagall. Various other venues are tucked in and around the 16-acre campus, including a theater, two film-screening centers and the renowned Juilliard School for performing arts.
Built in the 1960s, this imposing campus replaced a neighborhood of tenements called San Juan Hill (gleefully bulldozed by Robert Moses) – a predominantly African American neighborhood where the exterior shots for the movie West Side Story were filmed. In addition to being a controversial urban planning move, Lincoln Center wasn’t exactly well received on an architectural level – it was relentlessly criticized for its conservative design, fortresslike aspect and poor acoustics. For the center’s 50th anniversary (2009–10), Diller Scofidio + Renfro and other architects gave the complex a much-needed and critically acclaimed freshening up.
A survey of the three classic buildings surrounding the central Revson Fountain is a must: the Metropolitan Opera House, David Geffen Hall (known as Avery Fisher Hall until 2015) and the David H Koch Theater, the latter designed by Philip Johnson. (These are all located on the main plaza at Columbus Ave, between 62nd and 65th Sts.) The Revson Fountain is spectacular, particularly its Las Vegas–like water choreography lit up on summer evenings (daily; usually timed around the beginning and ending of performances).
Of the refurbished structures, there are a number that are worth examining, including Alice Tully Hall, now displaying a very contemporary translucent, angled facade, and the David Rubenstein Atrium.
On any given night, there are a variety of performances across genres happening throughout Lincoln Center – and even more in summer, when Lincoln Center Out of Doors (a series of free dance and music concerts) and Midsummer Night Swing (social dance under the stars) lure those who love parks and culture. For details on seasons, tickets and programming – which runs the gamut from opera to dance to theater to ballet – check the website.
Daily 75-minute tours explore the Metropolitan Opera House, Revson Fountain, Alice Tully Hall and more, and are a great way to get acquainted with the complex – and if you're lucky you might even catch a rehearsal in progress. Get more info and buy tickets online or by phone.