TWB Design sets the stage for Midtown entertainment-production company Ars Nova
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 9/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Yearning to break into the hypercompetitive Broadway theater scene? You're not alone. Every season, flocks of bright-eyed hopefuls come to the Big Apple to fulfill their thespian ambitions. To stand out from the crowd, you'd better have a memorable face and an ability to perform flawlessly in any role that happens to come your way.
Production company Ars Nova has both, courtesy of a multitasking facility that's the architectural equivalent of a one-man show. Designed by Franke, Gottsegen, Cox Architects, the 10,000-square-foot building deftly juggles the three roles of theater, office, and penthouse suite.
Ars Nova owners Jon Steingart and Jenny Wiener tapped TWB Design to create an interior bridging the institutional-commercial-residential program. "It was an intriguing project—potentially fabulous, potentially frightening," says principal Teri Brajewski, offering a riveting scene-by-scene breakdown of the plot line.
The curtain rises on the prologue, a tiny lobby. Animated by a textured cream-colored vinyl wall covering, the space funnels visitors past a mahogany door and into Act I, a 99-seat theater.
A collaboration between architect, designer, and a host of consultants, the space looks rather ' like a no-frills black-box theater—plus Wiener's collection of 19th-century vaudeville memorabilia. "In reality," says Steingart, "we went the distance, with a sophisticated sound system and lighting capabilities on par with Off Broadway." Auditorium seating is stand-alone for easy repositioning according to performance. Giancarlo Piretti's stackable chairs can be set in rows, with copper-finished aluminum stools behind, or all can be grouped cabaret-style around circular 18-inch tables.
In Act II, the scene shifts to work spaces. The second floor's seven turnkey offices can be rented by visiting producers and independent theater organizations. A floor above—directly off a rear patio—Steingart and Wiener's twin offices mix residential-style furniture with such century-old curios as a wooden radio cabinet and an Edison phonograph. Both come from the collection of Wiener's late brother, to whose memory Ars Nova is dedicated.
These venerable pieces, says Brajewski, lend an "established" feel to the brand-new offices. The same goes for the nearby conference room. Here, Charles and Ray Eames chairs pull up to a custom mahogany-stained table topped in faux leather and spotlit by a retro aluminum pendant fixture.
Ars Nova's closing act is the fourth-floor penthouse, comprising a bedroom and a public room. In addition to serving as a crash pad for visiting producers, the suite is often rented out for events, Rufus Wainwright's tour launch and Liza Minnelli's birthday party among them. "The spirit of the place is residential, but we didn't have to meet a particular person's program," explains Brajewski.
A pair of Achille Castiglioni's Arco lamps mark the entry to the public room's sitting area. "Since there's so much individuality to the furnishings, we pulled the look together by incorporating strong silhouettes and high-touch textures," says Brajewski. Across the room, a baby grand piano awaits impromptu jazz sessions, and a retro billiard table doubles as a buffet for large parties. "Theater people spend killer hours at work," says Steingart. "It's important for them to have somewhere to relax."