New York City, truly the master of reinvention, does it again. This time, it showcases a one-of-a-kind cultural venue in Manhattan that redefines the concept of an art space by also doubling up as a muse. By Ananya Bahl
If you’ve walked on Manhattan’s High Line — a historic elevated railroad that’s been converted into a public park with walkways, landscaped gardens, and artistic showcases –chances are you’ve seen the mammoth construction site that is Hudson Yards. Situated in the western part of Midtown Manhattan, this multi-faceted neighbourhood is purpose-built for leisure, gastronomy, upscale residences, and retail therapy. Just when it looked like this borough was bursting at its seams with things to do and see, an endless possibility made its presence felt here. In Hudson Yards, you will find a magnanimous marvel — The Vessel. It is a spiral staircase made up of 154 interconnected flights of stairs and 80 landings, designed by Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio, to give visitors unique views of New York City from various heights, angles and vantage points.
The Vessel is in good company—approximately a three-minute walk from The Shed, a glorious complex which is redefining the traditional and contemporary artistic ethos of vibrant New York City. Here’s everything you need to know about its awe-inspiring design, construction, flagship events and upcoming calendar for 2020.
Dare to design
Dubbed as a ‘new arts centre for the 21st century’, The Shed is a venue that commissions and showcases original artwork across all disciplines, for all age-groups. How does a single venue accomplish this feat? The answer lies in its design. Whether it’s a hip hop performance, dancers suspended from mid-air, theatre production, traditional art exhibits, digital media showcases, a display of sculpture, or a literary or classical performance, the venue can host it all.
It does so by using a movable edifice which transforms the performance space into indoor and outdoor venues, spectator-seating spaces, soiree venues, concert premises, and lots more. At the centre of this dynamic construction is the Bloomberg Building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Rockwell Group. While the former has the redesigning of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the High Line in New York to its credits, the latter is credited with the set designs for Kinky Boots, and She Loves Me, which was awarded the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design in 2016. To the layman, the whole structure and its working feel like an advanced lesson in geometry with its many mechanisation and movements. The dynamic façade enables artists to stretch their imaginations and envision a plethora of possibilities to make their creative dreams come true. It ensures that the venue’s constraints don’t foil an artist’s imaginative vision.
One-stop, many venues
The Shed’s design results in several different venues. The Bloomberg Building’s eight-level base structure is made up of two huge gallery spaces, a rehearsal venue, an artists’ lab, a theatre that morphs as per performance requirements, and sky-lit event space. Tisch Skylights illuminate all these different venues.
All of this is possible because of the one-of-a-kind 120-foot telescoping outer shell of the building. Covered in ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) ‘pillows’, the shell deploys from over the base building and glides along rails onto an adjacent plaza to double the building’s capacity. Its bogie wheels enable it to glide. When this shell is deployed, The McCourt is created — a larger-than-life space for performances, installations, and events, which can seat an audience of 1,250 and more than 2,000 when standing.
The Shed’s construction has been in the making for more than 10 years. While it has officially opened to the public, constant additions are still being made to the building. As of winter 2019, its construction is almost complete. Metal cladding, architectural finishing to corridors and escalators, and the installation of paving stones on Lawrence Weiner’s site-specific artwork, IN FRONT OF ITSELF in The Shed’s Plaza are some of the additions that are underway.
The Shed commissions works that are as versatile as its construction. Since its launch in mid-2019, it has showcased Verdi’s Requiem interpreted by conductor Teodor Currentzis and filmmaker Jonas Mekas; Collision/Coalition by Tony Cokes, Oscar Murillo, Yanina Valdivieso and Vanessa Bergonzoli; Maze – a display of street dance and social conscience; and Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, which is a kung fu musical co-conceived by Chen Shi-Zheng, Kung Fu Panda’s Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, with songs by Sia and choreography by Akram Khan, among others.
For a detailed listing of The Shed’s artistic calendar for 2020, click here.