New York City has always been at the cutting edge of arts and entertainment and now, with the opening of The Shed at Hudson Yards, the city can add a shapeshifting new venue to its world class roster of cultural institutions. Opening to the public with an original musical performance, Soundtrack of America, on Friday, April 5th, The Shed is a non-profit cultural organization built to exhibit the work of established and emerging artists, as well as to promote the arts in New York City communities. The unique structure of The Shed, which features a distinctive moveable outer-shell, was designed to facilitate the ever changing needs of innovative exhibits and performances by contemporary artists. At the press opening for the new institution, members of the board and senior staff emphasized The Shed’s dedication to its civic duty as a non-profit institution built on city land and the flexibility of its future forward architecture.
The Shed, which was constructed thanks to $500 million of public and private funds, is made up of two defining spaces, a four level base structure, the Bloomberg Building, and The McCourt, an outdoor plaza which can be transformed into an enclosed space when covered by a 120-foot tall telescoping outer shell. When the outer-shell is moved out over the plaza the building’s footprint is doubled. Within the Bloomberg Building there is an 8,000 square foot lobby, two column free gallery spaces that total more than 25,000 square feet, the 500-seat Kenneth C. Griffin Theater and The Lizzie and Jonathan Tish Skylights and The Tish Lab. The Skylights is an event space with a wall of floor to ceiling windows that offer a stunning view which stretches from the Vessel to the Hudson River, and giant skylights which offer views of the looming skyscrapers that surround The Shed. The Shed’s back of house facilities such as offices, storage space and dressing rooms are located in the lower levels of the adjoining residential tower at 15 Hudson Yards.
Inside The McCourt covered by the outer-shell
The McCourt, whether used as an open air plaza or encased in the outer shell, can seamlessly interact with the adjoining building thanks to large glass walls that open up and connect the two spaces. Large doors on the side of the shell can roll up to allow trucks unloading supplies to drive directly into the building. The Shed’s outer shell moves thanks to “rail crane technology brought into 21st century,” says Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Diller Scofidio + Renfro was the lead architect on the project and Rockwell Group was the collaborating firm. It is constructed out of a steel frame covered with translucent cushions of a Teflon-based polymer. The inside of the shell will be temperature controlled with forced air and radiant heating in the floor. When performances take place inside the shell, sound and light proof curtains will cover the windows. It takes about five minutes for the shell to roll out and only uses the same horsepower as one Prius engine!
The defining characteristic of The Shed is its adaptability. Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group, Collaborating Architect, looked to the past and the future of art to design a building that is different from all of the existing cultural institutions in New York City. Diller noted that traditionally, arts have been separated into spaces designated for specific mediums, but The Shed is built to accommodate all types of art without the architecture getting in the way. The gallery and performance spaces can change shape and size on demand. There can be three performances happening within the building simultaneously in addition to art exhibits in the two massive galleries. Daniel Doctoroff, Chair of The Shed’s board of directors, called The Shed an “open ended structure” with tools for artists to imagine and execute nearly limitless ideas.
Reich Richter Part exhibit inside the Level 2 Gallery
The opening programming of The Shed features two art exhibits, an original musical performance and an original play. Soundtrack of America, a five night concert series will christen The McCourt with its premiere on April 5th. The series was created by Steven McQueen and explores the influence of African American music on contemporary culture. The art exhibitions include Reich Richter Part, an immersive live performance installation which explores the relationship of visual art and music, and an installation of new work by artist Trisha Donelly. Inside the Griffin Theater there will be performances of Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, a spoken and sung performance piece written by Anne Carson and starring Ben Whishaw. Future performances include a staged concert by Björk and Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a Kung Fu musical based on audition footage of Bruce Lee and written by the writers of the animated movie Kung Fu Panda. The only permanent installation at The Shed is In Front of Itself by Lawrence Wiener. Weiner’s piece is a site-specific installation embedded in The Shed’s plaza.
The Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Skylights event space
In addition to the exhibits and performances The Shed will also be used for artistic civic engagement. Tamara McCaw, The Shed’s Chief Civic Program Advisor called attention to The Shed’s goal of “increasing access and lowering barriers” to art in New York City. In order to make The Shed accessible, in addition to keeping the cost of admission to the exhibits affordable at only $10, admission will be free for teenagers under the age of 18 and CUNY students and for each performance at The Shed, 10% of seats will be reserved for low income New Yorkers. There will also be ongoing community programs, such as the Flex NYC residency dance program.
The Shed is located at 545 West 30th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. It is accessible via the High Line and street level. Tickets are on sale now for opening season performances which will run from April through August. The Shed will open on the evening of Friday, April 5th with the first performance of Soundtrack of America and the exhibits will be open to the public on Saturday, April 6th at 11:00a.m.
Check out more photos of The Shed below!