Lincoln Center's New Come-Hither Design

Performing-arts complexes want to connect with their neighborhood. One of them is succeeding

Iwan Baan

The renovated Alice Tully Hall is paneled in an African wood called moabi.

When Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was first proposed, in the mid-1950s, it was imagined as a sort of island of culture in the midst of Manhattan — a symphony hall, an opera house, a theater and a stage for ballet, all standing back a bit in their travertine glory from a neighborhood on the Upper West Side that still had some very rough edges.

As the place opened in stages from 1962 to 1969, Lincoln Center turned out to be not just an island but an acropolis. At its northern and western boundaries,...

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