New York | the new home of the Whitney

Place: New York, Country: United States
Cleint: Whitney Museum of American Art
Design Architects: Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Executive Architects: Cooper, Robertson & Partners
Text by Riccardo Bianchini, Inexhibit
Images courtesy of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

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 The Whitney building near completion. Photo by Timothy Schenck

The new NY home of the Whitney Museum by Renzo Piano

The Whitney Museum of America Art is housed since 1966 in a building, designed by the celebrated modernist architect Marcel Breuer, which over time has become one of uptown Manhattan’s landmarks. But, after almost half century, and with the Whitney’s collection growing from 2,000 to over 19,000 pieces, the old stone-clad construction has reached its physical limits and some years ago it was decided that the museum needed a new, larger home.

After some vicissitudes, in 2008 the Italian architect Renzo Piano was selected for the design and its effort is now close to completion.
Whitney recently announced indeed the museum’s new home to open its door on May 1st 2015, in coincidence with the largest exhibition of works from the Whitney’s collection ever made (see details at the end of the page).

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top, middle left and bottom: photos © Nic Lehoux; middle right: photo © Karin Jobst

The location of the building is quite impressive; from the upper east side the Whitney will relocate to lower Manhattan, on a plot of land overlooking the Hudson river in the Meatpacking District.
The museum will be located right at the end of the High Line raised linear park, actually forming its southern incipit.
The urban park, following a redevelopment started in 2006 on a design by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, has rapidly become one of the most popular green urban spaces and recreational areas in the city, stretching for more than 1 mile across Manhattan’s West Side at an average height of 25 feet over the street level. The Meatpacking district takes its name from the several food-related activities, mainly slaughterhouses and meat-packing facilities, that, along with other industrial activities, characterized the neighbourhood from late 19th century to the 1970s. Many of them were located there also due to the presence of the elevated freight railway that now supports the High Line park. Since the 1990s the district, after a period of decline, is more and more becoming the site of famous fashion boutiques and art-related galleries and one of the most trendsetting neighbourhoods in New York.

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Top: The south edge of the High Line before the museum realisation, photo by Mike Boucher
Middle: photo by Timothy Schenck
Bottom: the High Line, photos by Urban Land Institute

The Piano’s design looks for a relationship with the old Meatpacking’s industrial character. Thus the new building is not a steady monument but a highly dynamic, asymmetrical construction. On its main entrance side, the museum shape is defined by protruding boxes, slipped on one another, with an impressive cantilevered volume which forms a large sheltered public space before the museum entrance, in direct visual connection with the adjoining High Line southern edge.
The new 9-storey building features an overall exhibition space of 63,000 square feet, 50,000 indoor and 13,000 outdoor, the latter mainly represented by terraces overlooking the Hudson.
An education facility, a study centre, two theatres and various services to the public, including a 6,000 square feet lobby, a restaurant, a café and a retail-shop, as well as storage spaces and offices will also be part of the new museum. As usual for Piano, a particular attention is reserved to sustainability. The adoption of reconditioned timber as flooring material, the use of natural lighting controlled through an advanced shading system, the introduction of LED-based lighting (quite innovative for an art museum) and state-of-the-art cooling and heating solutions will made the Whitney one of the fist museums in NYC to be LEED-certified.

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from top to bottom: photograph © Nic Lehoux:  sketches of the project by RPBW,  photograph © Nic Lehoux; rendering images by RPBW and, bottom: Photograph © Nic Lehoux

As mentioned earlier, the new Whitney opens in Spring 2015 with an impressive inaugural exhibition featuring many of the masterpieces forming the museum permanent collection, the most important in the world exclusively dedicated to 20th and 21st century American artists. All the exhibition galleries of the new museum will be involved, on a total floor area of over 60,000 square feet.

More on the Whitney museum website at: http://whitney.org/

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Whitney’s Inaugural exhibition, installation views; photographs © Nic Lehoux

Article by Riccardo Bianchini, Inexhibit


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The Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District, Manhattan, New York, is dedicated to the United States modern and contemporary art


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