Dance Machine

Yale School of Architecture, Fall 2013

Critic: Brennan Buck

Site: The Highline, NYC

Identifying the Highline as a plinth, as well as a point of convergence between the street, the city, and the pedestrian, Dance Machine inverts the notion of "theater," making the city the stage and pedestrians the actors. The Highline acts primarily as a mediating element between the private functions of the dance school and the public interaction with the urban site. 

Projecting the elevation of the Highline across the site to the facade of the building marks the point at which the realms of dancer and public converge. Tangentially cutting through the building, two separate circulation paths define distinct sequences of entry, distinguishing between the focused dancer and voyeuristic public. From street level, the public follows a bottom up sequence of entry, beginning at the set back corner of the site, making the street a stage for the grand staircase leading to the Highline. Cutting back into the building from there, the pedestrian path leads one towards the central light core of the lobby, providing a visual connection to the dance studios, lounge, and cafe. In contrast, dancers follow a top down sequence of entry, moving directly from the lobby to the top level of the building. From there, progressively advanced studios lead from the top of the building to the level of the Highline, maintaining a visual connection across the circulation core from studio to studio. At this point below the Highline, the final collision of pedestrian and dancer, lies the formal theater stage. The Highline, acting as an informal theater of social interaction, exists as a reflection of the formal dance theater embedded beneath its structure.