May 7, 2020
The Washington, D.C. Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently recognized OTJ Architects’ reimagining of New York’s iconic Webster Hall. The project received a chapter award in the Historic Resources/Preservation category of the Institute’s yearly competition.
OTJ’s efforts have ensured the continued relevance of this 1886 landmark while preserving the character that has earned the venue a hallowed place in New York City nightlife lore. Indeed, when fans returned, the experience was that of a homecoming immediately upon entry from three newly added doors. Inside, an elevator was installed to make each floor accessible to patrons with disabilities and, when combined with the new grade level entrance, facilitate show load-ins. Still, the most discernible improvements remain those made to the upstairs ballroom. Through the deployment of additional interwoven stairwells that accelerate egress, venue capacity was increased to over 1,400. Torn wall coverings, imperfect painting, scalloped balconies, and Art Deco details are seamlessly juxtaposed against state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems true to the original venue’s spirit yet dialed up to exceed even the most exacting modern-day standards. Additional program elements include the redesign of the performance facilities to improve the overall patron experience, and the execution of lasting structural improvements to secure the building’s longevity.
OTJ Partner Gary Martinez, FAIA, remarked: “We are humbled by AIA’s DC’s recognition of our work. Our team labored tirelessly to preserve the venue’s noted “grit” while unobtrusively incorporating modern conveniences and life safety improvements that are critical to the longevity of the building. We now look forward to Webster Hall’s next chapter as a premier 21st century venue for both performers and patrons.”
Additional project contributors include: Interior Designer, Farnum and Lee; Structural Engineer, ARUP; MEP Engineer, Code Consultants, Inc.; and Construction Manager, Shawmut Design and Construction.
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