Built in 1903 as a neighborhood theater, the 874-seat Majestic Theater, now BAM Harvey, had an active early life, at one point housing Broadway tryouts for Gershwin musicals. The story of the building’s construction, its use for movies and religious services, and its subsequent abandonment, is traceable through its vividly hued layers of finishes.
In restoring the theater for Peter Brook’s epic Mahabarata, we took advantage of what nature had accomplished. Rainwater had reached its interior surfaces, creating a rich tapestry of color and texture, which became a major element of the auditorium’s design. To create a dramatic arena that suggests a Greek amphitheater, the performance area was raised five feet and thrust 21 feet forward of the proscenium. The first balcony was extended toward the stage, and the second balcony was reduced to ensure good sightlines from all areas. The result is an intimate relationship between audience and performer—both are now actually in the same room.
To ensure public comfort and safety, contemporary electrical and mechanical systems were introduced, and the air-conditioned interior meets every standard of the New York City building code.
Erosion of the Harvey’s interior now contributes to its performance environment. It taunts the senses with random juxtapositions brought about through the layering of time.
CLIENT: Brooklyn Academy of Music
SIZE: 35,000 square feet
COST: $5 million