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Architects: FXCollaborative Architects
General Contractor: Yorke Construction Corporation
Client: Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Photographers: David Sundberg, Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Lead Architect: Sylvia Smith
Original Architect: Williams Welles Bosworth (1908)
Landscape Architects: Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, PC.
Construction Management: Yorke Construction Corporation
Owner’s Representative: Envoie Projects LLC.
The rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of the Orangerie at Pocantico Center, the historic Rockefeller estate located in Tarrytown, New York, transforms the former Beaux-Arts style greenhouse on a National Trust Historic Site into an exemplary Net-Zero performing visual art center. The David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center is open to the public and provides visitors with a glimpse inside the artistic process, offering performances and exhibits; residencies for visual, performing, and literary artists; and other cultural events.
The building rehabilitation harmonizes historic restoration with contemporary features and flexibility and builds on the mission of the Pocantico Center with its commitment to a more just and sustainable world. Built in 1908 and designed by architect William Welles Bosworth, the Orangerie was originally conceived as a winter greenhouse capable of sustaining orange trees imported from Europe. The building is modeled after the 17th-century Orangerie at the Palace of Versailles in the fashion of other French greenhouses of the time.
The building sat largely dormant since the 1930s and had fallen into disrepair. In 1979 Nelson Rockefeller bequeathed the Orangerie to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2019, plans were announced to transform the building into a public arts venue with the goal of expanding their Culpeper summer performance program to be year-round and incorporate the visual arts.
The transformative sustainable design for the new center was informed by the history and original use of the building, its new role as a home for people and the arts, and RBF’s deep concern for the environment. The design reuses as much of the existing structure as possible, expands in an essential and timeless manner consistent with the building’s ethos, establishes new connections to the landscape beyond, and provides flexibility for a variety of arts programming while being deeply sustainable.
LEED v4 BD+C Platinum and LEED Zero – Net Zero Energy certifications are anticipated for the project. For simultaneous art programs to occupy the space, the long volume of the Orangerie is subdivided into performance and rehearsal, gathering, gallery, and studio spaces, each of which has its own programmatic requirements. Clerestory glazing above partitions allows the continuous wood ceiling plane and architectural steel grid to run overhead throughout the different spaces, keeping the sense of the original volume intact.
In the center of each partition large, glazed sliding doors provide access and views down the main axis, preserving the character of the space. The new architectural steel grid is supported by the existing steel columns and follows the rhythm of the existing structure, accommodating the different infrastructure and lighting needs in each space in one consistent unifying move.
The acoustic treatment above the ceiling provides specific tuning for each space. The south facade was originally a blank wall shielding the estate from a train line that ran adjacent to the building. To support the arts program housed in the main volume of the Orangerie, the sensitive addition of a modern pavilion is positioned close to the south façade on top of a newly established plinth. Above the pavilion, a hundred-sixty-foot-long trellis stretches across the southern exposure embracing the landscape beyond while shading the outdoor terrace space below.
A new forty-foot-wide proscenium opening with insulated operable pivot doors animates the terrace, allowing for outdoor performances and connection to nature. Circulation from the north entry vestibule is extended through the support pavilion establishing access and views south to the landscape. The expansion is a composition of elements that respect the rhythm and proportion of the Orangerie. No longer a “back,” the expansion makes inspiring connections to the natural setting, putting the sustainable energy and site features on display for artists and visitors alike.