Two more pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place for the long-planned Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center: the project now has a chairperson and a design. The former will be Barbra Streisand and the latter is a breathtaking, translucent marble cube by Brooklyn-based architectural firm, REX.
These announcements come on the heels of two similar developments in June, when the project acquired both a patron and a name. The former is billionaire businessman, investor, and philanthropist Ronald Perelman, who announced that he would contribute $75 million, and the latter was the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center, which has recently been shortened to “the Perelman.”
The September announcement of Ms. Streisand’s involvement may augur further good news for the PAC’s balance sheet: She is known as a prodigious giver to causes she is passionate about, with public records indicating that she has made more than $16 million in charitable contributions in recent years, while also helping to raise another $25 million for various foundations, by donating live performances.
Both direct giving and fund raising will be welcome prospects for the Perelman, which now has $175 million allocated (with $100 million coming from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, in addition to Mr. Perelman’s $75 million), against a project budget of $243 million.
The remaining $48 million for the complex (which is now slated for completion in 2020) has yet to be raised, but the design, which seems likely to generate considerable excitement, may also help catalyze donations. The concept is built around a visually stunning alabaster hexahedron, which will appear as a windowless, white geometric solid by day, but by night will be transformed into a glowing cube, suspended above the World Trade Center Plaza.
This effect will be achieved with the use of white marble, shaved so thin that light from the outside will penetrate the building’s facade during the day, while light from the inside with radiate outward through the structure’s skin during the evening, giving it a milky iridescence. Joshua Prince-Ramus, the principal architect at REX, hopes to harvest this marble from the same Vermont quarry that was used during the construction of two Washington, D.C. landmarks: the U.S. Supreme Court building and the Jefferson Memorial.
Mr. Ramos also plans for the building to be highly adaptive on a functional level. The 90,000 square feet of interior space will include three auditoria (with seating capacities of 499, 250, and 99, respectively) and a rehearsal space that can double as a fourth venue. The facilities will have moveable walls that will allow them to be reconfigured to create seven additional unique performance spaces, for a total of 11 possible arrangements. This will enable the facility to host performances of dance, opera, music and theater, as well as film screenings. (It is slated to become the future home the Tribeca Film Festival.)
REX has attracted attention and critical praise in recent years for striking designs that have included the Seattle Central Library and the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, part of AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, Texas.
The Performing Arts Center was first promised to the Lower Manhattan community in 2003, when it was included in the master plan for rebuilding the World Trade Center site. Since then, the plan has gone through numerous revisions, delays, and periods of uncertainty related to the lack of funding. But the newly unveiled design, the support of Mr. Perelman and Ms. Streisand, and the allocation of more than half of the project’s budget, all seem to indicate that the Performing Arts Center may at last be gaining traction. And it also recently took one additional small step toward becoming a tangible reality: the recent opening of the World Trade Center Transit Hub allowed the Port Authority (which controls the World Trade Center site) to close the “temporary” entrance to the PATH station, which has occupied the planned home of the Perelman (at Vesey Street and West Broadway) for more than a decade. This clears the way for the demolition of the above-ground portion of that structure (not expected to begin until sometime in 2017), and the eventual start of construction for the Performing Arts Center.