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Hugh Hardy Dies at 84

Hugh Hardy. Photo courtesy H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture

The architect Hugh Hardy, who played a key role in designing or renovating some of today's most celebrated performance spaces, died on Thursday. He was 84 and had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.

According to the New York Times, Hardy, on his way to attend a dance performance at the Joyce Theatre, fell from a taxi. During the performance, he lost consciousness and was rushed to hospital, where he passed away.

Born in Spain to American parents, Hardy graduated from Princeton University, later earning an MFA in architecture from the same institution. After a stint in the Army Corps of Engineer, he worked for the legendary Broadway set designer Jo Mielziner, who was then designing the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center. He joined United Scenic Artists Local 29 in 1958.

Hardy formed his first firm, Hugh Hardy & Associates, in 1962. It was followed by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer in 1967 and HC Hardy Collaboration Architecture in 2004. Among the performing arts spaces that Hardy was involved with included the renovation of Radio City Music Hall, restoration of Brooklyn Academy of Music (also BAM's Fisher Building); the Abraham Polonsky Shakespeare Center for Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn; the Claire Tow Theatre at Lincoln Center; the restoration of New Amsterdam Theatre and New Victory Theatre, both on 42nd Street; the Joyce Theatre; the Alice Busch Opera Theatre, for the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York; the Denver Performing Arts Complex in Colorado; the Pershing Square Signature Theatre Center in New York; the renovation of Schuster Hall at Wright State University, in Dayton, Ohio; DiMenna Center for Classical Music or Orchestra of St. Luke's in New York; the renovation of the David H. Koch Theatre (formerly the New York State Theatre) at Lincoln Center; the Royden B. Davis Performing Arts Center at Georgetown University; Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis; and Two River Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey.

Among his many honors, Hardy was made a member of American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1993 and made a full academician of the National Academy of Design in 1994. Awards include the Placemark Award, from Design History Foundation, in 2001; AIA New York Chapter's Presidents Award (2002); the General Services Administration Commissioner's Award for Excellence in Public Architecture and the Architectural League of New York's President's Medal, both in 2010; and the Historic Districts Council's Landmark Lions Award (2013).

Hardy is survived by his wife, the architect Tiziana Spadea; two children, Sebastian and Penelope; and three grandchildren.

Richard Pilbrow, founder of Theatre Projects, who collaborated with Hardy on various projects said, "Hugh was a remarkably special theatre architect ... he truly loved theatre, and he had a wonderfully bubbly sense of humor to accompany that dedication.

"From his earliest days, as an assistant to scene designer, Jo Mielziner, on the design of the Eero Saarinen's Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center, theatre was part of his life. He was an early American pioneer of 'three-dimensional' theatre, bringing back multiple level balconies and boxes with projects in Eugene, Oregon; Anchorage, Alaska; and the Alice Busch Opera Theater, for the Glimmerglass Festival. I personally was always somewhat puzzled by his enthusiasm for very large-scale decoration, which to me diminished rather than enlarged the performer, but his theatre restorations were models of perfect theatrical taste ... The Victory Theatre on 42nd Street, Radio City Music Hall, and most wondrous of all, the New Amsterdam Theatre for the Disney organization. I was honored to work with Hugh on this restoration of what must be one of the most beauteous theatres in the world."

"The last project on which we cooperated together was to be the Theatre for New Audience's Polonsky Shakespeare Center, the Samuel H. Scripps MainStage, in Brooklyn. This, at the specific request of founder Jeffrey Horowitz, was to be based upon our successful design of the Cottesloe Theatre at Britain's National Theatre. While the pure geometry of this model was at times somewhat frustrating to Hugh's theatrical instincts, he and his team created around it an inspiring and at the same time, totally practical, building of considerable distinction."

"Hugh was a wise, witty, and always enjoyable companion. He was a real New Yorker . . . a gentleman in the truest sense of that word, and will be sorely missed."

(20 March 2017)

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