Bard College – Part 2: Fisher Center
While visiting Bard, I met Nick Reilingh, Box Office Manager, who was kind enough to show me around. It was interesting to learn that in the rustic woods of the Hudson Valley, the college embraced building structures designed by prominent architects like Viñoly, Venturi, and Gehry. This year the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts celebrates its tenth anniversary.
Artist-architect, Frank Gehry, situated the facility/art installation on the edge of the campus. I took the long driveway toward the Fisher Center and as my car made a slight left-hand turn and began a gentle decent, the building appeared as if connected to the sky as well as the land below. The magnificent stainless steel roof seems to be draped over the two theaters inside. The roof envelope sweeps upward and swoops downward, and all the while reflecting the mood of the sky above it and complementing the terrain.
The main, Sosnoff theater, created by Yasuhisa Toyota designed acoustic shell that can be fully dismantled and allow for opera and dance, and again deployed for orchestral performances. The 900 seats are upholstered in custom fabric imprinted with all the names of Bard’s Class of 2003. The interior is voluminous, elegantly simple featuring wood and concrete.
The one thing that struck me as incompatible with the abundant charisma of the building facade, was the first floor main entrance/lobby. As you walk in through the metal and glass doors you are met with a ominous metal wall. It towers over you and seems to be right in your face. All the building’s sculptural beauty, movement, and light got crushed as I visually crashed into a solid wall. Luckily, Nick explained that the 107,000+ square foot structure has lobbies upstairs for gathering before and after a performance.
Leaving the concert hall, I walked down a series of cascading exterior staircases and looked back at the asymmetrical shell over the very symmetrical cultural building. Happily, once again, I perceived that lyrical energy between Gehry’s design and the sunlit sky above.