The Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) at the Herb Alpert Center has begun construction on The Renaissance Project. The school has been serving children and the community with after-school arts programs in music, dance, theater, art and design for 55 years. Funded by the Herb Alpert Foundation the renovation promises a world-class facility that will deepen artistic interaction and optimize the spaces for a wide range of events, dynamic exhibitions and performances. The project will significantly transform the organization’s 37,000-square-foot facility, located at 645 Saint Nicolas Avenue in north Manhattan, and includes structural, acoustical and technology upgrades. It is expected to take a full year to complete.
The award-winning HSA building was originally designed in the 1970s by modernist architect, Ulrich Franzen. The renovation’s design, led by Imrey Studio LLC calls for replacing a section of the building’s Brutalist-style brick exterior with a two-story glass wall, which will bring the HSA’s spaces and activities into view from the street. This dramatic design gesture will reinforce founder Dorothy Maynor’s goal of making art accessible to everyone.
“This new transparency will both literally and figuratively increase the school’s connection with Harlem’s vibrant cultural community,” says Celia Imrey, Assoc. AIA, LEED GA, principal designer and director. “By bringing the street in and the internal activities out, we set the stage for endless creative possibilities.”
The Renaissance Project is the most substantial renovation undertaken by the organization since occupying the building, 45-years-ago. Legendary musician /philanthropist Herb Alpert and his wife, Grammy Award-winning vocalist, and author, Lani Hall Alpert are funding the full project cost of $ 9.5-million-dollars, through the Herb Alpert Foundation.
When Alpert and Hall visited HSA in 2018 and were presented with the original facade design, he suggested more could be done to enhance the performance experience for students and audiences. Alpert recommended that award-winning acoustic consulting and studio design firm, WSDG Walters-Storyk Design Group be added to the collaborative design team. The expanded program calls for transforming the 3,500-square-foot double-height lobby into a light-filled multi-functional environment, which will also serve as an art gallery and a uniquely diverse performance space. Led by founding partner John Storyk, the global WSDG architectural/acoustical firm will utilize a number of advanced modeling programs to provide the dramatic space with pristine acoustics akin to their work for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Allen Room, the renowned Greenwich Village Le Poisson Rouge venue, and Switzerland’s KKL Luzern Concert Hall. One of the advanced design program studies resulted in a JALC-like angled glass facade solution complimenting the Imrey architectural concept.
“We were honored to have Herb Alpert reach out to us for the HSA project, “John Storyk remarked. “His appreciation for the critical importance of acoustical design is soundly based on his vast experience as an incomparable musician and recording executive. We are equally pleased to be working with Herb to design the acoustics for a small theater his foundation is funding on the UCLA campus. That project will be completed early in 2020.“
In addition to creating a warm, safe, welcoming, performance-ready HSA, the renovation will also make vital repairs to the building core including a new roof and windows throughout to make it more energy efficient. Two dance studios and a lounge will be renovated, and the organization’s signature courtyard garden and waterfall will receive a makeover.
“The organization needs to be seen as a space that invites people in,” says Eric Pryor, president of HSA. “It has always been an oasis on the inside, but that has not generally been known or fully reflected from the exterior. To remain relevant in our local community and within the greater artistic community, the public needs to see who we are and what we do.”
To that end, an impressive project team has been assembled to collaborate on the work of transforming the organization’s current home, into an inviting and transparent new facility. In addition to Imrey Studio LLC, and WSDG, the design team includes architect-of-record Eric K. Daniels Architect, with project management provided by Seamus Henchy and Associates.
About Harlem School of the Arts at The Herb Alpert Center: The Harlem School of the Arts at the Herb Alpert Center provides of arts education in four disciplines: music, dance, theatre, and art & design, all within its award-winning 37,000 square foot facility. The School’s reputation for artistic rigor and excellence attracts students of diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds from the five New York City boroughs, including Westchester County, and the tristate area. To learn more about the Harlem School of the Arts, please visit HSAnyc.org
About The Herb Alpert Foundation The Herb Alpert Foundation envisions a world where all young people are blessed with opportunities that allow them to reach their potential and lead productive and fulfilling lives. The Foundation has always sought out programs that were creatively conceived and run, initially focused in Los Angeles and now New York City. With few exceptions, the Foundation has cultivated a sense of community among these grantees. The Foundation relies on philanthropic and nonprofit partners in the field in order to fulfill its mission. It is committed to maintaining that spirit of collaboration across all aspects of the work it does. Beyond providing grants, The Herb Alpert Foundation aims to foster connections among its portfolio of grantees, by convening select groups, depending on need, to discuss issues they are facing and work with them to find solutions. To learn more about the Foundation visit .
ABOUT WSDG, LLC Over the past fifty years WSDG has designed over 3,000 media production facilities worldwide. Projects range from Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studio (1969) and Jazz At Lincoln Center in New York, to broadcast facilities for The Food Network, CBS and WNET, and corporate clients such as Sony and IBM. Recent credits include NY’s Jungle City, The Church Studio, in London, private studios for Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys and noted film composer Carter Burwell. WSDG has collaborated with such eminent architects as Frank Gehry, Philippe Stark, and Norman Foster. An eleven-time winner of the prestigious pro audio NAMM TEC Award, WSDG maintains offices in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Miami, Barcelona, Basel, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Belo Horizonte, Buenos Aires, Guangzhou, Mexico City and Mumbai.