Established in 1920, Kaufman Astoria Studios was the original home of Paramount Pictures and the location for the production of over 100 silent films. The historic movie studio is the largest film and television production center in New York and home to NYC’s only backlot. Today, hit movies, television shows, and on-demand series are produced inside Kaufman Astoria Studios’ 500,000 square feet of sound stages, production offices and service space, including Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, and Sesame Street, to name a few. Film productions have included Men in Black 3, the Bourne Legacy, and the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
In 2020, the ONStage facility was added to the legendary campus. The new building directly adjacent to the studio backlot, contains state-of-the-art soundstage facilities on the first floor and three additional stories reserved for office space. McLaren Engineering Group provided structural and geotechnical engineering design services for the entire ONStage building including the two sound stages which increased the campus’s stage space by 25 percent.
This L-shaped 4-story building was developed with a hybrid lateral structural system to eliminate structural cross-bracing at the stage level, opening up the use of stage walls for production companies. It was constructed using a structural steel frame braced laterally by solid grout-filled CMU shear walls from grade to the 2nd floor and moment frames from floors 2 through 4.
The ON Stage building was designed without a conventional gridiron. The structural steel above the stage floor was designed with rigging points welded to beams and girders at regular intervals to provide production companies flexible attachment locations to support their lighting and set arrangements. This also reduced the building height by approximately 8-feet had a convention grid iron been used, thus providing additional office space within the zoning height restrictions.
Additionally, composite hybrid steel build-up plate girders were utilized to accommodate strength and serviceability demands while supporting the architectural program for the new Stages. These large structural members cantilevered beyond the new foundation walls adjacent to Stage K (engineered by McLaren in 2010) to transfer the loads away from the existing shallow foundations which were supported by sensitive soils. Second floor framing required field splicing of 38” deep rolled steel framing to span over the Stages while supporting the production office spaces.
Stage O has 74 feet clear spans and Stage N has 72 feet clear spans in one area and 90 feet in another part of the stage. Both sound stages have 37 feet clear height to the underside of the structure providing events with a voluminous open studio.
On-site parking is contained beneath Stages O & N providing secured access into both Studios. Due to the high-water table and poor bearing soils, deep foundations using drilled-in pipe piles were installed to transmit building loads to a suitable bearing stratum. The pile caps were cast integrally with the structural concrete floor slab system to minimize the depth of excavation into ground water, thereby reducing the construction schedule, eliminating treatment of and cost for dewatering the site.
With noise and vibrations top of mind for soundstage fit-outs, interior spaces were isolated acoustically from each other via rigid insulation and wool fiber. The exterior noise was attenuated via 12″ thick solidly filled reinforced CMU walls. Additionally, large sound-deadening elephant doors were used for load in and load out of the studio spaces.
This project was selected as a Merit winner in ARCHITECT’s 2023 Architecture & Interiors Awards, Architecture: Mixed Use category.
Find out more about Kaufman Astoria Studios in this behind the scenes video.