Two decades in the making, the Perelman Performing Arts Center (PACNYC) in Lower Manhattan’s Ground Zero officially opened to the public in September 2023. The translucent, marble clad building is the last piece of Daniel Libeskind’s master plan for rebuilding the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks. The Perelman Performing Arts Center was always envisioned as a way to breathe new life into the site and help to heal the community through art.
The Perelman Performing Arts Center
Named after its principal benefactor, businessman and philanthropist Ronald O. Perelman, the opening of the Perelman Performing Arts center is a long time in the making. From the very beginning of the plans to rebuild the Ground Zero area in 2003, planners and architects intended to include a performing arts center. Developers and the mayor at the time, Michael Bloomberg, envisioned Ground Zero eventually blossoming into a thriving community with businesses, schools, parks, memorials, museums, and of course, a performing arts center. Now, 22 years after the attacks, Lower Manhattan has more businesses than it did before 2001 along with hundreds of millions of memorial visitors each year.
The PACNYC project was first announced in 2004 by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Initially, architects Gehry Partners LLP and Snøhetta were hired to design and construct the building. However, due to funding issues, the project fell through. Luckily the project picked back up in 2014 thanks in large part to a $75 million dollar donation by Ronald O. Perelman. Joshua Ramus of Rex and Davis Brody Bond were selected as new architects and the long awaited project broke ground in 2017.
Designed by Architecture studio Rex, the cubic structure’s most prominent feature is its façade of translucent veined Portuguese marble. From the outside, this facade shines like a white pearl among the other ground zero memorials and buildings. On the inside, the marble, which architects laminated in thick glass, glows a warm beige in the sunlight.
The building is located adjacent to the World Trade Center memorial. This created a challenge of sorts for Rex. The Architects envisioned the building as a subtle and respectful, yet inviting space that could fit New York’s legacy of excellence in the arts. The marbled exterior ensures that visitors of the memorial will not be able to see in and visitors inside the center can still enjoy beautiful natural light.
The site of the center sits atop four stories of existing infrastructure, not to mention leftover construction from the previous design. Both of these factors made the design of the building itself a logistical challenge. Rex remedied this by elevating the primary spaces of the center above street level and dividing the building into three stories.
Because the building is stacked, architects organized each story to have different functions. The bottom floor contains the lobby, the middle floor has back-of-stage facilities, and the top floor contains the stages and performance areas.
The lobby acts not only as the welcoming center for guests, it also features a bar, restaurant, terrace, and stage that the public can enjoy. The top floor/ theater level has three theaters laid out in a cruciform pattern. The theaters can be adjusted for various types of performances because they were cleverly designed with walls that can be opened up, demountable balconies, reconfigurable floors and seating. In fact, the theaters are so customizable that they can be set up in 62 different configurations.
PACNYC is Open for Business
Thanks to the generosity of donors like Robert O. Perelman and the determination of the project’s architects, Lower Manhattan now has an iconic Performing Arts Center that will be enjoyed for generations to come. So, Next time you’re in NYC be sure to drop by the Perelman Performing Arts Center. Catch a show, eat at Metropolis restaurant (opens Fall 2023) on the first floor, or simply admire the beautiful marbled facade from the street below.