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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

New York's spectacular new Shed arts space previewed prior to tomorrow's opening

For Jonathan Tisch, vice chair of The Shed’s board of directors, New York’s new arts center, which opens tomorrow, is about “the future of New York City.”

For board chair Daniel Doctoroff, who likewise spoke yesterday at a grand opening press preview of the extraordinary edifice within Manhattan’s new West Side Hudson Yards complex on West 30th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, The Shed is “a dynamic one-of-a-kind structure.”

It’s a museum by day and a performance space by night, per artistic director and CEO Alex Poots, and for Elizabeth Diller of the Shed’s lead architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, it represents an “architecture of infrastructure—all muscle and no fat.”

So it only made sense that Diller prefaced her remarks by surreally looking out at the huge space and saying, “I feel so out of body!”

Indeed, the multi-leveled Shed, which resides in the Bloomberg Building named to honor former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s foundational role and leadership in conceiving and nurturing the project, is an innovative 200,000-square-foot facility, the core of which is The McCourt: the space formed when the Shed’s signature movable outer shell is deployed over the adjoining Plaza to create a 17,000-square-foot light-, sound-, and temperature-controlled hall for large-scale performances, installations, and events.

The McCourt (named in recognition of Shed board member Frank McCourt, Jr., and his family) can accommodate a seated audience of approximately 1,200 and a standing audience of more than 2,000. The Shed also features two expansive and flexible column-free museum-quality galleries totaling over 25,000 square feet, that can be conjoined with The McCourt via operable east-side walls to accommodate space or seating needs for large-scale installations and performances.

Additionally, the 11,700-square-foot sound-isolated black box Kenneth C. Griffin Theater can be used as a single large theater with 500 seats or subdivided into two smaller theaters that can host concurrent events. The top floor’s Tisch Skylights and Lab offers a 1,700-square-foot creative space for local artists, a 3,300-square-foot rehearsal space, and a 9,500-square-foot flexible and multipurpose event space.

The Plaza, meanwhile, can be used as an outdoor public space for programming when The Shed’s movable shell—which is clad in translucent pillows of durable and lightweight Teflon--based polymer--is retracted to nest over the base building. The shell, incidentally, travels on a double-wheel track based on gantry crane technology commonly found in shipping ports and railway systems; it takes approximately five minutes to deploy.

“Arts in New York are siloed,” said Diller. “That’s not how artists think today.”

Tisch observed how “other buildings in our town are about the past,” whereas The Shed addresses the future. Doctoroff counted 1,200 cultural institutions in New York, then cited Bloomberg’s original dictum that The Shed be different than any of the others while keeping the city on the cultural cutting edge.

Poots stressed the “fluidity” of art and culture in his remarks, and Diller picked up on it. She noted how The Shed can house all the arts under one roof while adapting to the changing and unpredictable needs of artists in the future.

“Contemporary art is always in flux,” said Diller, thus The Shed, which came out of the design her firm had submitted 11 years ago, had to be flexible in order to adapt to both changes in artwork and audience size. She now hopes the finished building will actually be “a perpetual work in progress” that will respond “in real time” to forthcoming evolutions in artists and arts.




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