When Alex Poots, founder of the Manchester International Festival, hesitantly agreed to take on the Shed as artistic director and chief executive, he made a number of changes to the plans that he came to in 2014. The name, for one, was something that Poots tweaked – it went from the Cultural Shed to simply, the Shed finding that the ‘culture’ portion of it to be a bit redundant. One thing that didn’t change, though, was the fluidity of the building. David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group, which collaborated with the project’s main architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro recalled that in the outlines for the project, ‘FLEXIBLE was in capital letters.’ In the end, they really liked that notion and it stuck.
Tomorrow, the Shed, a multi-faceted art centre capable of expanding and retracting as needed that joins New York’s High Line to Hudson Yards, will have its moment of glory. The $475 million cultural institution will kick off just a couple of weeks after New Yorkers were invited to climb around the Vessel for the very first time. The Shed, though, will begin defining itself through a slew of new productions and artworks critical to the Shed’s mission.
‘It’s part museum, part performing arts centre, part pop-up venue—providing parity across all art forms, for all audiences,’ said Poots of the cutting-edge centre. The eight-story building was first a part of a 2005 deal between developers and then-mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office. In 2008, New York began the search for a proposal for a non-profit cultural centre and put up $75 million to contribute to the $550 million campaign for the building, the cost for startup, and the first three years of commissions. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with the Rockwell Group, the finished product is like no other and will feature exhibitions and performances just as unique.
It sits above the West Side rail yards and the Shed’s garden calls on the industrial past of the site. The Shed features a theatre fit for all kinds of events, two large galleries, a creative lab, and rehearsal space. Most notably, though, is the Shed’s ability to literally roll out its outer shell to encompass the plaza, doubling the footprint of the building (see it in action about 40 seconds into the video below). ‘It moves quite majestically, like a ship through the sea,’ say Poots of process, which when expanded, offers sound- and temperature-controlled space for exhibitions and performances alike.
The Shed will hit the ground running with a series of exhibitions and concerts in its starting lineup. Its inaugural commission, though, will feature artist Gerhard Richter alongside works by composers Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich and run from April 6th through June 7th. Titled Reich Richter Pärt, the exhibition will feature an acapella choir singing works by Pärt in one space while another will boast an orchestral piece by Reich. Each performance will be accommodated by immersive installations created by Richter.
Tickets for the production will set visitors back $25 and include access to a film installation by conceptual artist Trisha Donnelly. Individuals can also choose to only visit Donnelly’s work for tickets priced at $10. 10% of the tickets offered for performances and exhibitions will be reserved for low-income families and cost only $10.
‘This idea that we’re making new work, commissioning across all art forms, allows for parity,’ said Poots. ‘Across art forms, but also across society.’ It’s nearly time now, for the Shed to show us what it’s got.