Hudson Yards’ art center The Shed wraps up steel construction on its movable shell

May 25, 2017

After an announcement yesterday morning that Michael R. Bloomberg made a $75 million gift towards Hudson Yards‘ arts center The Shed–bringing the total raised towards the $500 million capital campaign to $421 million–the “new center for artistic innovation” held a tour to mark the completion of steel construction. The eight-story structure, designed by Diller Scofidio & Renfro in partnership with the Rockwell Group, is a “fixed” base building made up of two gallery levels, a versatile theater, rehearsal space, creative studios for artists, and a sky-lit event space. But what makes the project truly unique is its telescoping outer shell that deploys over the building’s courtyard, doubling its footprint and creating a myriad of options for flexible, multi-disciplinary work. Ahead, 6sqft shares an up-close view of this amazing structure.

The design for The Shed was first unveiled in 2011. Two years later, the group behind it was incorporated as an independent nonprofit, and in 2015 construction kicked off with the prefabrication of the steel and the motion system in Italy. Now, the steel for the movable shell is erected, the bogies (or wheel systems) installed, and finishing on the interior has begun. Construction is expected to be complete in 2018 ahead of a 2019 opening.

The building is located on 30th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. Its main entrance will be at an 8,000-square-foot lobby on 30th Street below the High Line, where there will be a cafe, bookstore, and admissions area. A secondary entrance will be located on 31st Street and have access to the Hudson Yards subway station.

When starting the project, architect Liz Diller noted that she and her team asked the question, “What will art look like in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years?” They realized that they’ll always be a need for space, electrical power, and structural loading capacity, but were then inspired by the open infrastructure and flexibility of the never-built 1964 “Fun Palace” by British architect Cedric Price. Though The Shed takes this to a new level with its “plug and play’ capabilities. Closer to home, the kinetic mechanics are inspired by the gantry cranes that once operated on the High Line and West Side Railyards.

A press release explains: “When deployed, the shell creates a 17,000-square-foot light-, sound-, and temperature-controlled space that can serve an infinite variety of uses. When the hall is combined with the adjacent gallery on Level 2 (Plaza Level) it creates a nearly 30,000-square-foot contiguous space. The shell can accommodate an audience of 1,250 seated or 2,700 standing; flexible overlap space in the two adjoining galleries of the base of the building allows for an expanded audience in the hall of up to 3,000. The shell’s entire ceiling operates as an occupiable theatrical deck with rigging and structural capacity throughout. Large operable doors on Level 2 allow for engagement with the public areas to the east and north when open.”

In terms of nuts and bolts, the shell is constructed of an exposed steel diagrid frame clad in ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene), translucent “cushions” of a strong but lightweight (1/100th the weight of glass) Teflon-based polymer.

The shell is moved by six massive bogie wheel assemblies–four single-axle and two double. They forged steel wheels are six feet in diameter and can support the shell’s weight of 4,040 tons/8.9 million pounds. It takes five minutes to deploy the shell at a speed of 1/4 mile per hour.

The motor, or sled drive, is on the roof of the building. It totals 180 horsepower (by comparison, a Toyota Prius is 134 horsepower).

Weiner’s 20,000-square-foot work is titled “IN FRONT OF ITSELF” and will showcase the phrase in 12-foot letters

When the shell is nested, the 20,000-square-foot plaza can be used as a public space or for outdoor programming. A large-scale, site-specific art piece by Lawrence Weiner will be featured on the ground of the plaza; it’s likely to be the only permanent work of art at The Shed.

According to board president Dan Doctoroff, it will be the first commissioning center in NYC for all artistic outlets and will be a “way to democratize the arts.” Along these lines, the top floor will have free space for local artists, who will be chosen by a panel. And MIT Media Lab’s Kevin Slavin has been named The Shed’s Chief Science and Technology Officer, a position that shows a commitment to exploring how science and technology can meet the arts.


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