PAC NYC Named SEAOI’s ‘Most Innovative Structure’

The Structural Engineers Association of Illinois (SEAOI) selected New York City’s Perelman Performing Arts Center as this year’s Juror’s Favorite/Most Innovative Structure.

The top honor in SEAOI’s annual Excellence in Structural Engineering Awards, the award was presented to MKA for their role as Lead Structural Engineer on the project during the organization’s 45th Annual Awards Celebration on June 13 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Perelman Performing Arts Center—known as PAC NYC—completes the master vision for the 9/11 Memorial Grounds and was designed in collaboration with Design Architect REX and Architect of Record Davis Brody Bond – a Page/ Company. It opened in September 2023.

MKA’s structural design for the 129,000-square-foot PAC NYC may look incredibly humble or even simple from the outside as a solemn marble cube against the city’s skyline, but at night the cube’s glowing form hints at the intricacy hidden within—a world-class performance venue with a one-of-a-kind, immensely complex structural system capable of machine-like transformation.

Photos: Iwan Baan

MKA introduced novel design solutions to overcome numerous site challenges and deliver a building that sets a new benchmark for transformable, reconfigurable, flexible performance spaces.

To address the immense vibration and noise concerns from below-grade subway tracks and other infrastructure, PAC NYC’s three principal theaters “float” inside the exterior like three ships in a bottle or three boxes inside their marble cube.  These floating boxes are structurally independent and acoustically isolated from each other, the building itself, and the infrastructure below.

PAC NYC’s three main theaters and two adjoining storage areas, or “scene docks,” can be reconfigured, coupled, and de-coupled (transformed) into an unheard-of 11 different theater volumes and over 60 configurations.  Balconies roll in and out, seating platforms rise and drop to create raked or flat seating surfaces, moveable and removable ceiling rigging raises or lowers, and walls appear and disappear—all seamlessly transforming three performance spaces into many configurations ranging from intimate 100-person black-box venues to epic 1,000-person concerts.  This is thanks to four retractable, acoustically isolated, and gigantic “guillotine” doors separating the three theaters—the first of their kind for a performing arts venue at this scale and for this application.

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