The campus of the Manhattan School of Music is the intersection of a century of architectural history. The design traditions that have shaped New York City for the past one hundred years continue to shape the Manhattan School of Music, from the 1910 main building, to the 2001 G. Chris and SungEun Anderson Residence Hall. Situated between Morningside Heights and Harlem, the Manhattan School of Music shares the immediate surrounding neighborhood with Union Theological Seminary, Jewish Theological Seminary, International House, Columbia University, and Riverside Church. The MTA serves the campus through the #1 train and several bus lines, and three City parks—Riverside Park, Sakura Park, and Morningside Park—are within walking distance. This dynamic location—between neighborhoods, between cultural and educational institutions, and along this major Manhattan transportation artery—has long been reflected in the dynamic character of the campus. Like the city growing around it, the Manhattan School of Music has sought to be an intersection of communities and ideas.
The campus consists of three connected buildings: the three-story 1910 main building, a seven-story expansion dating to 1931, and the 2001 G. Chris and SungEun Andersen Residence Hall. Within these three buildings, a vibrant community of artists and audiences learn and create together. The original building, designed by noted American architect Donn Barber, is a distinctive reflection of the founding ideas of the Institute of Musical Art, the building's original tenant (and the forerunner of the Juilliard School) and the founding vision of Manhattan School of Music. The dean of the Institute of Musical Art, Frank Damrosch, believed that American conservatories would be instrumental in the development of America's unique musical culture. To that end, the building is a free revival of the Adam style, characterized by clarity, brightness, and unity of design. Elegant departures from the style are evident on the limestone exterior; in place of the typical honeysuckle and fan ornaments are violins, trombones, bagpipes, and musical notes. The roots of the Adam style in America date to colonial times, and the style predominates the Morningside Heights neighborhood, particularly on the Columbia University campus. Already, the school was modeling itself as the intersection of tradition and innovation, and as the nexus of the neighborhood.
Upon its opening in 1910, the main building was particularly praised for its interior. The centerpiece of the school was a concert hall, now known as Greenfield Hall, which according to Architects' and Builders' Magazine, was “decorated with rich simplicity which approaches perfection.” That hall has since been lovingly restored to acoustical perfection, thanks to generosity of the Greenfield family. However, it maintains its original design. Simple blue and white walls, combined with generous natural light from the stained-glass window, lend the hall openness and clarity. The simplicity of the walls and French doors gives way to the much more ornate vaulted ceiling. This ceiling is extensively decorated with intricate cornice moldings, characterized by alternating corbels and rosettes. These motifs reach a climax on the balcony, where the arched doorways are capped with lintels featuring large corbels, and lutes against a floral background. Similarly, the face of the balcony is decorated by floral wreathes and pairs of crossed horns and panpipes. These features make Greenfield easily the most pastoral room at the Manhattan School of Music.
Other rooms of the main building include the lobby outside of Greenfield, known as the “Blue Room ”, and the Grand Foyer on Claremont Avenue, which once served as the main entranceway. These two rooms receive natural light from two large arched windows that look out onto Sakura Park. Though the “Blue Room” is no longer blue at all, it retains its striking Federal-style marble fireplace, above which is a large mirror in an antique frame with azure trim. The “Blue Room” progresses into the grand foyer, which is dominated by an impressive marble Imperial staircase with wrought-iron balusters. Atop the landing is an unusually simple Art Nouveau stained-glass window, with the seal of the National Institute of Music surrounded by floral and honeysuckle details. These motifs are continued in the intricate acanthus and harp molding of the ceiling, and in the elegant Adam style chandelier, with its mirrored base. Through the arched doorway on the right of the foyer is the beautiful Rahm Boardroom, whose dark wood-panelling and red carpet provides a contrast to the rest of the main building.
Renovated through the generosity of the Board President David Rahm, the Boardroom has been the setting of its own interesting bit of history. In 1959, when the Juilliard School still occupied the campus, the composers Dmitri Shostakovich, Aaron Copland, William Schuman, and Vincent Persichetti among others gathered in this room to hear the Juilliard quartet perform Bartok's Sixth string quartet. It was a piece that, due to the artistic politics of the Soviet Union, Shostakovich had never heard before. Cultural intersections like this one had by this time come to define the campus and the neighborhood. In 1931, the school had completed a large, seven-story addition, made possible through the $13 million endowment of Augustus D. Juilliard. Designed by Arthur Harmon, of the firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, this expansion includes classrooms, studios, and an auditorium, one of the “Art Deco treats of the city,” according to the New York Times. The Shreve firm had just completed the Empire State Building, and the Borden Auditorium (as it is now called) shared many of the skyscraper's design characteristics. The lobby of the hall is lined with gray and tan marble, while overhead hovers an angular star-burst chandelier. Inside the hall, dark wood wainscot, lace metalwork, and Art Deco exit lamps combine to evoke streamlined energy. It forms an elemental contrast to the stately main building. Named for John C. Borden, former President of the Board of Trustees, the auditorium is the School's flagship concert hall, housing opera, symphony, and chamber music performances.
In 1969, the Manhattan School of Music came to occupy the current campus on Claremont Avenue. In that year, the School retained the architects MacFayden & Knowles to refurbish the lobby and build the glass-encased Mitzi Newhouse Pavilion, which adjoins the main building on the Broadway side. The Pavilion serves as the School's cafeteria, and it is an exemplar of the New Formalist style.
By the 1980's, the School had become a thriving international community of artists, and a prime music destination in the city. The administration recognized the need for a dormitory, and in 2001 the G. Chris and SungEu Andersen Residence Hall was completed. The building was made possible by the indispensable support of long-time donors G. Chris and SungEun Andersen. At 19 stories, the building houses 517 beds, 58 practice rooms, the William and Irene D. Miller Recital Hall, and the Alan M. and Joan Taub Ades Performance Space. Designed by the firm Beyer Blinder Belle, Andersen Hall is an intersection of the campus' architectural traditions. Above a five-story limestone base rises a yellow and tan brick tower, a distinguished addition to the campus. The high-ceilinged lobby combines gracious hyperbolic curves with retro lighting fixtures and futuristic spherical cooling vents. Andersen Hall completes an architectural complex that the New York Times called “one of the richest... in the city.”
The three buildings that make up the campus of the Manhattan School of Music represent a century of intersections, between teachers and students, between past and present, between artists and audiences. More than intersections, in fact these are the collisions and collaborations that make for living art. The campus continues to be a place that makes those collaborations possible.