Sunnyside, Queens, New York
The new Thalia Hispanic Arts & Culture Center will provide a much needed home for Hispanic Culture for all of New York City, while also being a part of the daily life of Queens. The building is designed to be iconic and at the same time an integral part of its neighborhood and block.
Our design includes references as diverse as Pre-Columbian ruins, the Art Deco terra-cotta and brick designs of the neighborhood (themselves referencing Pre-Columbian art.)
The building’s four floors and cellar accommodate a program of two theaters and support spaces, recording studios, rehearsal rooms, rooms for visual arts and education, and administrative offices. The two theaters are stacked one on top of the other, connected by a removable wall and fitted with retractable seating. The space outside of the theaters is visible directly from the street, on two levels; this space is programmed to accommodate public and educational events, as well as the normal gathering that happens before and after theater productions. Most of the day this interior public space will display its life to the sidewalk and invite the public to participate.
The two theaters are arranged according to the two Maya calendars. The lower theater is Sol, with 365 seats, echoing the 365 days of the Haab (civil) Maya calendar. The upper theater is Luna, with 260 seats, echoing the Tzolkin (divine) Maya calendar. Like the two Maya calendars, the two theaters work both independently and together. They combine to create a destination theater that can host globally touring artists and productions. They can operate separately to provide completely independent events. Because of the retractable seating, Luna may be hosting an intimate acoustic guitar performance while Sol has its seating retracted to allow for an installation of paintings.
The rehearsal spaces, art studios, and classrooms are located on the upper floors of Thalia with large and long windows, giving these spaces a sweeping vista of the neighborhood.
At the lower floor openings and the ceilings for the public lobbies, eroded boulder-like shapes become the primary structural elements. This gives this two story public space a scale befitting its importance to the community, while connecting it with the neighborhood.
The upper floors are clad in highly textured brick masonry, accented by horizontal bands of glazed, colored terracotta with intermediate bands of carved stone which provide opportunities for artistic collaboration.