Multi-use NYC Space for Professional Dancers

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Mixed use spaces for niche groups are a growing sector of interior design.  Our mobile lives now demand that spaces provide total support with everything at our fingertips wherever we go. Professional touring dancers, with their high-performance and demanding schedules, became the focus for one recent NYSID MFA-1 graduate, Erin Goldrick, who imagined the special needs of world traveling classical and contemporary ballet dancers who come to Manhattan to perform, audition, and seek opportunity to collaborate with other dancers.

Goldrick designed a space she calls, Kinesphere. This 80,000 square-foot, seven floor facility provides various accommodations to suit dancers including guest suites, a restaurant and bar, a retail area, dance studios, lounges, a theater, as well as areas dedicated to physical therapy, massage, and counseling.

We spoke with the designer about her multi-use one-stop space for dancers.

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How did you get the inspiration to design Kinesphere, are you or someone you know a dancer?
Yes, I am a classically trained ballet dancer and I have danced my entire life. I wanted to design a space that is sensitive to the various needs of dancers and accommodates their physically and often emotionally strenuous lifestyle as they pursue their career.

Can you speak about the “resistance/tension” metaphor you used to describe your project and how it translated into the design elements?
The resistance/tension concept is derived from how the dancers work with and against the floor and with and against their partner to achieve a certain balance and stability on the ground, and suspension in the air. There is also a concept surrounding the illusion of ease.  There's an image of a dancer I found, who had her leg lifted at a 180 degree angle, that really summed up the raw power and strength I wanted to depict in this space. Without that raw power and strength, dancers would not be able to perform as "delicately" and as "gracefully" as they do.

These design concepts were translated into the space in various ways.  There is a tension that exists in the layout of the circulation space, which is created by a long, angular void that runs vertically through the entire seven floors. There are bridges that cross this void and appear to overlap one another as you look up to the very top.  There is also a long, tilted wall that penetrates all seven floors of the building.  

The materials I used depict a solid environment of power and illusion – an illusion exposed, in a way, but with a beautiful feeling of strength. For example, I used undulating metal meshes that look soft at a distance, but are actually hard to the touch; frosted glass and resins; metal rope that sliced through one floor to the next, visually connecting the floors together.  The metal meshes and frosted resins were used as scrims, so outsiders can see a glimpse into the dancers lives, but not completely. 

Your illustrations show dancers stretching in the midst of various public or shared places that are not a studio per se, do you actually envision that the space would encourage that? Can you share with us some of the design decisions and materials that supported this kind of activity?
The objective of this facility is not only to provide the primary users with spaces to rehearse, perform, eat, drink, shop, sleep, maintain good health, etc., it is also intended to encourage networking and collaboration when the dancers are in between classes. Dancers often look for any open floor space they can find to warm up, stretch and simultaneously socialize. The bridges and lounge spaces allow the dancers to transverse one side of the floor to the other with ease, while creating an interpersonal connectivity between the dancers themselves. The bridges have the same vinyl flooring as the flooring in the dance studios and there are ballet barres and seating attached to the railings.  They can stretch, work on technique, or just hang out!

What inspired you to choose interior design as a career?
There were a variety of experiences in my past that opened my eyes to interior design.  A college internship with Hunter Douglas Contract and taking my first interior design class while studying in Florence, Italy as an art history major, are just two examples.  My ultimate inspiration to study interior design occurred when I worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a security guard. As a guard, I had the opportunity to explore the spaces and think about everything I observed on a day-to-day basis.  While I had a responsibility to protect the patrons and the art, I couldn't help but study the architectural detail of the space around me, and the creativity in design of the special exhibitions.  I came to the realization that I was more interested in sculpting the space around the art, than studying the art pieces themselves (although, still a great interest of mine!) As I paced back and forth, guarding the art, I got excited about the prospect of positively impacting interiors and people. 

What has the reaction been to your project?
I think overall, people have reacted to my project with positive feedback, as well as a genuine curiosity and interest about why a dancer would benefit from such a "one-stop-shop" facility. My dancer friends however, immediately connected with the description of my project and expressed great desire for such a place to exist!

What are some of your favorite spaces in New York City?
I have always loved the atrium and theater space of the David. H. Koch Theater and the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center.  The entire Lincoln Center campus thrills me. I have been going there since I was a kid, and I am still in awe of how captivating the spaces are (interior and exterior) every time I visit.  I also really love Grand Central and The New York Public Library, just to name a few!

What are your future plans?
Currently, I have a job with Lindsay Newman Architecture and Design an interior design/architecture firm in Manhattan where I feel challenged each day.  I am learning a lot at a rapid pace, which is great! In the future, I would perhaps like to work in retail or hospitality design. The ultimate goal would be to learn and grow as much as I can within the next decade or so, and eventually found my own design business.  I also hope to find a balance of design work and dance in my life.  I think I will feel most well rounded when I actively participate in both of these artistic worlds: dance, as an outlet and design, as a profession.

Phyllis Greer