Since plans to rebuild the World Trade Center were revealed in 2003, following the 11 September terrorist attacks, a major space has always been reserved for an arts institution, although what exactly remained a mystery for years, with several organisations linked to the project at various times but none staying the course. What has finally risen between One World Trade Center and Santiago Calatrava’s winged Oculus Transportation Hub is the Perelman Performing Arts Center, a $500m complex designed by the architecture firm Rex and named after Ronald Perelman, a collector and banker who gave $75m to kick off the project in 2016.
The centre will host its first public performance on 19 September, providing “the final piece of the puzzle” for the World Trade Center’s redevelopment, as former mayor Michael Bloomberg—who contributed $130m to the centre and serves as the chair of its board of directors—has put it.
The centre is housed in a 129,000 sq. ft cube designed by architecture firm REX, which is clad in thousands of half-inch-thick marble panels that admit light by day and glow from within at night for an effect that is minimalist yet striking, understated but still a little showy. Given the history of the site “it was requisite to make a building that was reverential”, Joshua Ramos, REX’s founding principal, said during a preview of the facility in June. “By wrapping the building in marble, we’ve created what we like to call a ‘mystery box’.”
Within, an incredibly complex set of gears, soundproof walls, lifts and movable seating can reshape the three adjacent performance spaces into 60 different configurations, from a 50-seat black-box theatre to a 950-seat concert hall.
The inaugural programme will include performances by Laurie Anderson and Raven Chacon, a partnership with the Tribeca Film Festival, and a reimagining of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats set within Harlem’s queer ballroom dance scene.
“If you’re an artist wanting to put on a performance, typically you have to adjust your vision to the venue,” Bloomberg said during the preview. “This centre tries to reverse that, so that the venue adjusts to the artist’s vision.”