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A Theatrical Plaza For Brooklyn
The Theater for a New Audience, Brooklyn Cultural District

Landscape Architecture by Ken Smith Workshop, NYC


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The plaza paving is composed of Mt. Airy white granite exposed aggregate concrete separated by 4-inch wide bands of brushed stainless steel set flush into the paving surface. The pervious concrete (darker paving band) allows stormwater to hydrate the soil within the subgrage Silva Cells, a suspended pavement system of rigid modular cells that keeps the weigh of the hardscape from compacting the soil, allowing the roots of the young honey locust trees (Gleditsia triacanthos) to get the air and water they need to reach maturity. The cell system also helps manage stormwater.

Photo: (C) Francis Dzikowski / Esto // Renderings: Ken Smith Workshop


The TFANA (Theater For A New Audience) Arts Plaza is at the entry to the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, a new theater building in the Brooklyn Cultural District, formerly known as the BAM-Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District. The Brooklyn Cultural District is a $100 million development project.

TFANA (http://www.tfana.org), founded in 1979 by Jeffrey Horowitz, is a 30-year old theatrical company "devoted to the performance and study of Shakespeare and classic drama." TFANA notes that in 2001 the company became the first American theatre invited to bring a production of Shakespeare to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The new building for TFANA was designed by Hugh Hardy and conceived as a black box theater-in-the-round with only a very minimal lobby space at the front of the building. The plaza design therefore took on the function of "extending" the theater lobby into the public plaza space. The architects accomplished this by continuing the plaza's "S" curve patterns onto the terrazzo floor of the building lobby to unify the lobby and plaza hardscapes.

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The curving band pattern in the plaza extends onto the terrazzo flooring of the lobby of the Theater For A New Audience, a design element to "extend" the rather small lobby. The curving lines were inspired by the "fluid folds of a traditional theater curtain." The theatre in fact does not have a stage curtain. Ken Smith Workshop worked closely with the customizing division of an established outdoor furnishings manufacturer to fabricate the colorful, convivial social seating.
Photo Credits: (C) Francis Dzikowski / Esto (Top); (C) Brooklyn Eagle (Bottom)


The plaza paving is composed of Mt. Airy white granite exposed aggregate concrete separated by 4-inch wide curving bands of brushed stainless steel set flush into the paving surface.

The genesis of the "S" bands is based on the curious quirk that the Theater For A New Audience has no stage curtain. The "S" curves in the hardscape were visually based on the "fluid folds of a traditional theater curtain."

Small groves of honey locust trees are sited on either side of the building. At each grove, bands of pervious concrete are incorporated into the paving pattern to provide stormwater infiltration into the below grade soil cell planting system for tree health.

To complete the plaza and provide social seating custom banquette seating was fabricated for the project. Based on classic nightclub banquettes the seating provides convivial places to congregate before and after the show.

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Mt. Airy Granite
The Mt. Airy, N.C. granite quarry has been in operation since 1889. It is purported to be the world's largest open-faced granite quarry, covering about 90 acres and a mile long. However, geological mapping reveals the granite mass covers an area 7 x 4 miles at 6,000 to 8,000 feet deep, enough granite to harvest "for hundreds to thousands of years," estimates the North Carolina Granite Corp. Granite from the quarry was used to build the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., among many other monuments and buildings.

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TFANA Arts Plaza Team
Client: City of New York Economic Development Corporation
Landscape Architect and Team Lead: Ken Smith Workshop
Building Architect: H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture
Soil Design: James Urban, FASLA - Urban Trees + Soil
Civil Engineer: Langan Engineering
Lighting Design: Tillotson Design Associates
MEP Engineer: Dagher Engineering
Irrigation Consultant: Northern Designs

Manufacturers Specified
DeepRoot: Silva Cells



As seen in LASN magazine, February 2017.






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Last Updated 07-17-17