May is Historic Preservation Month, a celebration of national heritage through historical places. An article published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTNP) in April of 2019 detailed how Preservation Month began as National Preservation Week in 1973. In 2005, the National Trust extended the celebration to the entire month of May and declared it Preservation Month to provide an even greater opportunity to celebrate the diverse and unique heritage of our country’s cities and states. We are piggybacking on this cool initiative by highlighting and celebrating the projects of historical significance that we have been privileged to collaborate on.
Phase One: New Construction
The historic Irish Arts Center (IAC), located at 553 West 51st Street New York, NY, is one of many projects we are highlighting across our social platforms. This facility in particular is special, as it is part of a complete re-design, including the preservation of the venue’s historic façade. The project is being completed in two distinct phases combining the aforementioned façade with new construction. Phase one broke ground on October 11th of 2018 and included “research and development, strategic and operational planning, fundraising, development, design, and construction of the new 11th Avenue building” according to IAC’s website. The new building was designed to match the urban aesthetic of the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.
Phase Two: Tying It All Together
Phase two encompasses the restoration of the historic property facing South on 51st Street and subsequently conjoining it to the new construction on 11th Ave. Joining the structures creates multiple performance venues while maintaining the historic charm of the original space and expanding opportunities for local area artists to display their craft and celebrate cultural heritage. The IAC website explains that the center, which was originally commissioned in 1972, served as a place “for the development, presentation, and celebration of Irish arts and culture and a dynamic hub for the global Irish community, intimately woven into the fabric of the world’s cultural capital.”
I had the pleasure of chatting with the Executive Director of the IAC, Aidan Connolly, and Mac Smith, Production Manager, who were thrilled to talk about the balance they had achieved between flexibility and identity. “We are crafting an intimate environment that our artists and audiences love. At the same time, we wanted the space to have a real identity, so that you always know where you are, no matter what the configuration,” Connolly said. As our conversation moved in the direction of enhancements and integration, and I asked why IA Stage? Why a SkyDeck™? Smith added, “With the Sky Deck™, we are able to have a set loading in while directly overhead, the lighting crew is able to hang the show’s light plot. It’s a game-changer operationally.”
The Skydeck™ consists of 20 panels covering an area over 1,600 square feet. Many factors during the installation were taken into account, one of the most important being the height of the deck. It had to be high enough to make an architectural statement without infringing too much into the overhead workspace. It also had to be low enough to accommodate crews working up above, so it was about “balancing the right amount of ‘usable’ height in the theatre while ensuring the right functional height for technicians on the grid,” Smith explained.
During our conversation, Connolly addressed the New York shut down, reflecting upon its effects on renovation efforts. While he acknowledged that projects had been halted and that some aspects of renovation halts were still being felt, he said they felt fortunate to have made as much progress as they did and were eager to welcome arts and patrons back with open arms. “The SkyDeck™ is a real favorite of our building tours!” Connolly said.
A cultural center such as the Irish Arts Center can be the lifeblood of a community. It is a central meeting point to promote culture, providing a venue for music dance, and art. As a premier provider of historic preservation projects, this one holds a special place in our hearts.
To learn more about the Irish Arts Renovation Project visit: Irish Arts Center
Check out our other projects here! SkyDeck Projects