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ARCHITECTURE LEADERS TODAY

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Kostow Greenwood passionate people, beautiful designs From guitar solos to inspired design, Michael Kostow, founder of Kostow Greenwood Architects, has been creating world renowned performance spaces for 22 years.


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2 Architecture Leaders Today

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Kostow Greenwood From guitar solos to inspiring design.

by Joel Cornell

What’s the difference in style between classic hard rock and post-grunge rock? It can be hard to define, but it’s that same unique and complex variation between designing performing arts venues and corporate offices that founder Michael Kostow and co-principal Jane Greenwood have had a lifelong fascination with. The 23 year old firm Kostow-Greenwood Architects specializes in creating and renovating everything from theatres to recording spaces to broadcast studios. They bring with them not just a passion for creating acoustic spaces for culture and media, but an infatuation with the art that will radiate from within them for years to come. Starting as a performing musician, Michael Kostow went on to graduate from the Yale School of Architecture in the late 80s. He then had a short stint with the large-scale commercial firm Fox Architecture. In ’87, he started his own firm to specialize in performing arts and broadcasting, still retaining his passion for music and the arts; an indie group tired of the record execs and striking out on their own label, if you will. “I always enjoyed live performances and venues. In school, I worked for a small architecture firm that did studio spaces. I never realized how involved I could be in the performing arts, and that’s where my interests overlapped.” Jane Greenwood joined Kostow in ’93, becoming co-principal in ’98 and eventually partner in ’03. After graduating from the Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture around the same time as Michael, she worked for a smaller specialty firm, concentrating on development projects for special needs and assisted living buildings. Here, Jane learned to narrow her scope and focus on the finer points of specialized architecture, instead of the broad preponderances of general corporate structural design. The end result is a niche architectural design firm, a label Michael and Jane sing of proudly. “It’s a very different experience to design performing arts and broadcasting spaces,” Jane explained, “as opposed to an office space fit for working or conferencing.” Michael continues on about these differences from a perspective earned from years as a musician: “Sometimes you have an office:

THIS PAGE: 92Y Tribeca, NY. The 92nd Street Y’s new downtown venue is a cultural, educational and community center located at 200 Hudson Street in lower Manhattan. Program elements in the facility include a 72 seat film screening room, a live music performance space, seating up to 200 patrons, a street level café with food prep and kitchen, four lecture seminar rooms, an art gallery a production sweet for live broadcasts and administrative offices.

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OPPOSITE PAGE: Jerome Greene Performance Space, NY. The NYC public radio station WNYC engages KGA to bring their new interactive multimedia performance space on-line and on-air. The street front studio known as The Greene Space is a state-of-the-art broadcast studio that brings a live audience to radio. Others will be able to stream audio and video of live events and download podcasts created in the space. Beyond the 125 seat performance space, the project includes a control room, video production room, equipment room, green room and support spaces.

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you need the right lighting, well positioned air conditioning and proper spaces for people to work. But with the performing arts, there are many more factors: you have highly technical audio/visual systems, proper rigging, complex lighting and dimmers and effects. It’s a very high level of complexity that I find fascinating.” In dealing with clients in creative fields, there is a very different understanding of how spaces are used. Between the constantly evolving complexities of the technology and the sophisticated infrastructure that goes into creating space for creative work, an architectural mind is required that is at once focused on the final purpose of the project, yet also broad enough to encompass the often disparate priorities involved. When bringing these concepts together as successfully as Kostow-Greenwood has done over several decades, “it’s so challenging and fulfilling to create something truly beautiful and moving,” boasts Michael. The 92YTribeca cultural and community center in New York City, founded in 1874, was recently and fully renovated by Kostow-Greenwood. Jane elaborated, “I can’t name a favorite project; that’s like naming your favorite kid! The 92Y center was particularly interesting, because it was a very complex project in a very small space (just over 16,000 square feet). The center includes a 72 seat film screening room, a live music performance space seating up to 200 patrons, a street-level café with food prep and kitchen space, 4 lecture/seminar rooms, an art gallery, a production suite for live broadcasts

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and administrative offices. Just because we’re a niche firm doesn’t mean we can’t cover multiple niches like the 92Y challenged us with.” Michael continued, “It’s always an interesting challenge to bring an old space up to date technically without altering the architectural style of the old theatre.” In working on the renovation of the Longacre Theatre on Broadway, “It was almost like working behind the scenes to make the theatre current in terms of technology, but still bringing back the original beauty of the theatre. Several renovations left it with a dull feeling of being painted over, and we brought it back to being a spectacular space. For me personally, it was really rewarding to go to opening night and see the space with its new capability as a first rate contemporary production.” When discussing their clients, both Michael and Jane had an appreciation for people who were as hands on as they were. Michael explained, “It’s nice to work with clients who have the same appreciation for the complexities and technology and nuances of designing a space. They care about acoustics as we care about acoustics. They care about the lighting and the behind-the-scenes aspects as we do. Designing multimedia spaces are an entirely unique experience.”

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Project spotlight: SteelStacks Performing Arts Center, PA. This projects was a joint effort by Arts Quest and WLVT PBS 39. Located in the heart of the historic former Bethlehem Steel Mill site, the project will anchor the cultural core of the re-development. KGA developed the program and conceptual designs for three distinct venues. WLVT-PBS 39 planned a new 45,000 sq. ft. broadcast center with two live “black box� production studios, multiple control rooms and post production facilities, public outreach and educational programs, and supporting offices for administration, production and operations. ArtsQuest, a community-focused, not-for-profit arts organization, proposed a new performing arts center to enhance their rich resident partnerships in the Lehigh Valley. The center will house a new 450-seat proscenium theater as the new home for several participating arts organizations. The design also includes a new 400-seat cabaret style live music and dinner club, two art-house screening rooms, two full sized dance studios and office space for the resident art organizations. Additionally, a 20.000 sq. ft. event center will be created within a re-purposed historic steel mill building providing a 10,000 sq. ft. open exhibition space, catering and support facilities for up to 1,000 patrons and an outdoor courtyard as a performance space.

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THIS PAGE: Longacre Theatre, NY. In order to restore the 1923 French neo-classical theatre to its original luster, a two-year large-scale restoration and preservation effort was undertaken in order to overhawul all public areas and fully modernize the theatre’s technical infrastructure. New and expanded amenities were achieved by excavating beneath the orchestra floor, carving out space for new lounge, bar and toilet facilities below grade and by using “borrowed” space from a former attic to create additional lounge, bar and restrooms above. The plaster detailing and gold-leaf finishes were carefully reconstructed, and historically consistent carpet patterns and wall coverings were re-introduced. All photos courtesy of Kostow Greenwood Architects.

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In the overall development of a project, collaboration with clients and contractors alike is of the utmost importance. “We aim for an environment that is accessible and open to dialogue. We are all on a common mission, so it’s easy for us to stay on course.” John Thomann, vice president and general manager of Turner Construction, has been a partner to KostowGreenwood since 2002 for exactly this reason. “They are involved in every detail, every step of the way. They come out into the field on a weekly basis to solve problems and to form a true working relationship.” Concerning Kostow-Greenwood’s style or method, Jane said, “It’s not a style in particular; each project is unique to each client, both of us keeping cognizant of the context. We are always learning about new ideas and technology so we can keep everything we do green and environmentally friendly. If I had to define a style, it would be something close to ‘clean and crisp’.” “We’re currently working on a project in Abu Dhabi,” Michael touted. “The United Arab Emirates is a rather modern place with lots of cultures coming together. They don’t have the centuries of architectural heritage like many places in the Middle East. We’re trying to help create a common identity that is unique, so we draw on a lot of different influences, some very traditionally Arabic, some as a modern interpretation of that.” Kostow-Greenwood has survived the economic rollercoaster by maintaining their culture of openness and by relying on a core group of talent while reaching out to communities, domestic and international. “We’re going into these emerging markets using our expertise to build something more than buildings for music, ideas and culture. We want to build an experience.” ALT

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Kostow Greenwood Architects  

From guitar solos to inspired design, Michael Kostow, founder of Kostow Greenwood Architects, has been creating world renowned performance s...

Kostow Greenwood Architects  

From guitar solos to inspired design, Michael Kostow, founder of Kostow Greenwood Architects, has been creating world renowned performance s...

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