top of page



Perelman Performing Arts Center (PACNYC) at the World Trade Center


New York, New York, United States

September 2023


REX (Design Architect)


Davis Brody Bond (Executive Architect), Charcoalblue (Theater Consultant), Threshold Acoustics (Acoustical Consultant), Magnusson Klemencic Associates (Structural Engineer), Front (Facade Consultant


Khady Kamara Nunez, Executive Director, Perelman Performing Arts Center (PACNYC)


Iwan Baan


A producing house for theater, music, dance, opera, and film, PACNYC pioneers new forms of theatrical adaptability to amplify the creativity of its artists and empower directors to surprise patrons with new processions and viewing experiences upon each visit.

To accommodate its program on this complex site, PACNYC is stacked into three main levels. The elevated Public Level presents a “living room” for Lower Manhattan, with a lobby stage for free programming and a restaurant, bar, and terrace. Above, the Artists Level contains performer spaces—such as dressing rooms, costume shop, and green rooms—and the theaters’ trap. Lastly, the Theater Level houses three performance spaces, four scene docks/assemblies, and a rehearsal room.

A performance instrument, the suite of theaters and scene docks can combine into 10 proportions and transform into 62 stage-audience configurations, from 90 to 950 seats, using a toolkit of automated and manual technical systems. They include four acoustic “guillotine” walls; four movable seating towers (for courtyard, horseshoe, in-the-round, thrust, and other formats); a two-tiered catwalk and walkable grid system; 56 "spiralifts" to mold the theaters’ floor into manifold geometries; and several removable catwalks and audience balconies. Further, a zone of mutability around the theaters—composed of eight acoustic doors, the cruciform of scene docks/assemblies, and a peripheral circulation loop—allows any of these areas to be allocated as front- or back-of-house, and form unexpected lobbies and performance antechambers. Four elevator/stair couplets can also be used individually or in combination, creating diverse circulation sequences from the lobby.


Adjacent to New York City’s most hallowed site, Perelman Performing Arts Center (PACNYC) is the cultural keystone and final public element in the World Trade Center master plan, embracing the restorative power of art as a counterpoint to the site’s commemorative import. The building’s pure form—rotated and elevated to accommodate complex below- and at-grade constraints—is wrapped in translucent marble. By day, the volume is an elegant, book-matched stone edifice acknowledging the solemnity of the 9/11 Memorial across the street. By night, this monolith dematerializes, subtly revealing PACNYC’s creative energy inside.

The building’s structure weaves through four subterranean levels and one above-grade stylobate of transit infrastructure, responds to pre-existing foundations of a previous architect’s design with insufficient bearing capacity, and accommodates stringent blast and acoustic isolation requirements. To overcome these constraints, seven “super columns” reach through the infrastructure like spider webs to grab bearing capacity wherever possible. These awkwardly spaced super columns resolve into a structural plate, on top of which a massive belt truss ties the entire building together. Nestled within the plate and truss, PACNYC’s three highly reconfigurable theaters float independently from each other and the rest of the building on high-density rubber pads, allowing simultaneous performances while protecting them from the low-frequency vibrations of the trains, subways, and trucks below. To address blast requirements while minimizing weight, the building relies on the suppleness of its unique marble-glass façade and complex hardened-plate steel assemblies, whose details had to be extensively reviewed by the site’s many governing authorities.


“The flexibility of the theater spaces is astonishing. Artists have been over the moon about their ability to create the audience/performer relationship that matches their artistic vision instead of conforming their creative desires to a space’s givens, as is typical. We have already produced music, dance, opera, theater, and musical theater, and the variety of configurations has served each genre with rousing success, also allowing us to select an audience capacity that matches each work, from an 80-seat chamber theater to a 400-seat theater-in-the-round to a 630-seat concert hall. We’ve received rave reviews from artists and audiences alike for the stellar acoustics, which notably must shift in approach with each configuration (“Vastly better than any hall I’ve ever performed in, including Carnegie Hall,” tweeted one Broadway star). Finally, the constant flow of visitors from all socio-economic groups, races, and ages, even when there are no performances, is thrilling. International and domestic tourists, local workers, and New Yorkers from all five boroughs come in to explore, rest their tired feet, check emails, or relax with a book, gathering in communion with one another. Our biggest problem has been that they don’t want to leave each night! As an artistic director, I have a boldly ambitious vision of a performing arts center that gathers people from all walks of life, altering their biases about the “other;” we now have five months of programming that prove our dreams are achievable, in large part due to the building’s architecture.” – Bill Rauch, Artistic Director, PACNYC

bottom of page