Two New Works by Rafael Viñoly


Nancy and I have recently been at the opening/dedication of two fabulous new works by Rafael Viñoly:  the new Hyde Park campus of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business (in Chicago, of course), and the new home for Jazz at Lincoln Center in the new Time Warner Building in New York.  These are venues well worth visiting, and a brief description of each follows (including a suggestion for what I'm proposing as my current #1 fun thing to do in NYC:  have dinner and take in the 7:30 set at Dizzy's Club in JALC, see below).


1)  Jazz at Lincoln Center  [Time Warner Building, 10 Columbus Circle, 60th and Broadway]


Rafael Viñoly has designed three spectacular venues in which to hear jazz at the Frederick P. Rose Hall, which is a 100,000 square foot complex billed as "the world’s first performing arts facility designed specifically for jazz education, performance and broadcast":


The Rose Theater is a multi-tiered, 1,200 seat, oval space that has been designed not only to have astoundingly good acoustics but also to feel warm and intimate--no small achievement for an auditorium of this size.  In its main configuration,  the ovoid rings of boxes continue around behind the performers; but the theater can also be configured with a more traditional proscenium stage for other types of performances.


The Allen Room is the visual gem of the triad.  It is an amphitheater arrangement (which can be used, via its adjustable risers, as seven levels of theatrical style seating or as four levels of cabaret or banquet seating, accommodating between 300-550 people) which focuses visual attention on a stage which is positioned in front of a 50 x 90 foot glass wall.  The quiet modernity of the room's architecture takes full advantage of the achingly beautiful vista that unfolds behind the performers:  one is looking straight east down 59th Street from a 5-7 story elevation above street level, ablaze with the lights from the cars moving along its length, with the splendor of Central Park spreading out to the left and the majesty of the Manhattan skyline looming to the right.  If there is a more beautiful venue in this City to hear music, I simply do not know what it is.


For listening to jazz, however, it is the intimate, 140 seat, Dizzy's Club that wins hands down.  This is a beautifully crafted, curvilinear  space, with warm bamboo woodwork, and undulating forms that actually themselves feel musical.  Dizzy’s Club is truly a real jazz club!  It has table seating, a bar...and serves food and beverages.  In fact, it may be my number one suggestion for a great new thing to do in NYC: 


Get a reservation for the 7:30 set (212.258.9595, or online at, where you can also view the calendar of performers), show up right at 6:00 when the doors open (while you need a reservation in advance, tables are assigned on a first-come first-served basis, so being early pays), and have a leisurely dinner before the music actually starts (and, believe it or not, the food--like steak, lamb chops, etc.--is actually passably good: and some things, like the chopped barbeque appetizer, are downright delicious), and then--the best part--listen to some rather traditionally enjoyable jazz in the ultimately perfected version of a traditional jazz club.  There are also sets at 9:30 and 11:30, and a lighter, quicker menu is served at those times--but obviously one ends up eating during the set, which I thinks of as a real disadvantage.


This, unfortunately brings me to the only real problem with the entire place:  it is run by Wynton Marsalis.  If this doesn't bother you, terrific; if, like me, this makes you cringe, you already understand the problem.  The larger rooms, and the Rose Theater in particular, are completely under the sway (rather than the swing) of this man and his taste--which, among other things, means that some of those we'd most like to perform here never will.  Nevertheless, the small groups that have been playing at Dizzy's Club seem to be the least "Marsalisized" of all--and to date have been quite good:  the opening night group there was Bill Charlap's Trio (with Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums; and joined by Frank Wess(!) on tenor and flute and a very good trumpeter and flugelhorn player, Jeremy Pelt, whom we didn't know but thoroughly enjoyed); and more recently we took in the 7:30 set (in the format described above) and heard Monty Alexander on piano, with a bass player I really liked, Hassan Shakur, and Leon Joyce on drums, joined for half the set by two tenor players--Red Holloway (always fun) and Plas Johnson (very good).   On a later evening, we heard The Eric Reed Trio with the fabulous Buster Williams (who has played with virtually every jazz great) on bass and Al Foster (who played with Miles after Jack DeJohnette left) on drums.  So, if this is any indication of things to come, this will be a great place to go to hear some good jazz.


[Also within the Frederick P. Rose Hall: The Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame.  This interesting space which was designed by the multi-talented David Rockwell (who has also designed the sets for our friend David Yazbek's new musical, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, opening on Broadway early in 2005) is the new home for the Jazz Hall of Fame.  It contains, among other things, several totally entrancing multimedia visual displays of the already-inducted giants of the jazz world.  Check it out after the gig.]


2)  University of Chicago Graduate School of Business   [58th St. and S. Woodlawn Ave.]


This quite simply is an extraordinary building, a true masterpiece of architecture, worth a special journey to see (which I guess means I'm awarding it three Michelin stars?).


The site of this building, located between Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style masterpiece, the Robie House, to its north and the College Gothic of the Rockefeller Chapel to its West (not to mention the College Gothic of the rest of the University of Chicago campus), was a crucial factor in its conception and plan.  Although the size and nature of the GSB is radically different from that of the Robie house, Viñoly respects its scale, materials, and horizontality in a way that makes his building seem to work with the Robie House, rather than to struggle against it;  the monumental cantilever of the Dean's office overhanging the main entrance of the GSB harmonizes with the cantilevered end of the Robie House.  On the other hand, the structural elements used to create the Winter Garden--ribbed groin vaults springing from the tops of engaged columns and forming point arches--are specific connections to the defining elements of Gothic architecture that evoke in the most emotional of ways memories of Gothic cathedrals.  Nevertheless, the building itself is totally modern in its feel and conception, and represents a creation that is a unique statement of its own.

To begin with, the GSB is a fantastic form:  the shapes and volumes are powerful yet gentle, individually assertive yet harmonious. And the mix of materials is a true tour de force:  the progression from Chicago limestone to metracast to metal and glass is so effective, and so architectural:  everything works to express the nuances of the spaces and functions--and the way the materials are drawn from the exterior into the interior is incredibly effective in a way that Frank Lloyd Wright would have appreciated.

The interior simply works perfectly.  It is a space with grandeur and majesty, but one that is warm and completely livable.   It is so characteristic of Viñoly to pay such attention to creating spaces that will nurture human interaction and enhance the humanity of the work that will be done in it.  There are intimate sitting areas at the landings of skylit stairways between office floors that practically beckon to people to pause to have conversations.  Movement within the building is shaped to encourage interaction.  And the way light is drawn into the building--even down to the floor below grade--makes the entirety of the building quintessentially livable and vital.  And the views of the surrounding buildings and spaces are drawn inward through the brilliantly placed windows and masterfully planned sight lines.  The colors that Viñoly has chosen for the office floors are astoundingly beautiful--effective and daring in ways that are nevertheless understated and subtle.

The interactive social heart of the building, the Winter Garden, is simply one of the finest spaces I've seen anywhere.  Even the taper of the ribs increasing the incredible sense of the spring of the vaults adds to the sense of their height and movement.  (Move over Abbot Suger! At times the GSB really does give the feeling of a Gothic cathedral--especially when the columns and vaults are repeated in their reflection in the glass behind).  But this is not Gothic architecture:  while these elements are borrowed directly from the principles of Gothic structure, they are used here to a radically novel end.  The vaults, their enclosed areas filled in completely with glass, form the ceiling itself, and the wonderful, funnel-shaped volumes that are created within their springing are actually open to the sky and the elements:  rain washes down into each of the four funnels and is carried down through the centers of the engaged columns.  And the Winter Garden is totally fascinating viewed from every level of the GSB:  each vantage point provides a different and effective interaction with this central core.  And the entirety of the building  is totally wonderful viewed from outside.  And then there is the way it looks after dark...


It is impossibly inadequate to attempt to describe this marvel in'll just have to go visit it.  In the meantime, you can view some of the drawing for it on the University of Chicago's website; and you can check out some photographs on the Rafael Viñoly Associates site at, and then going to "Projects/Works" and finding the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.


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