Inside the Shed, the transforming arts center at Hudson Yards

 
April 4, 2019
The new cultural center will host live performance, art exhibitions, and more

Amid the gleaming new structures comprising the Hudson Yards megaproject -- the condo towers, the new seven-story mall, and Thomas Heatherwick's coppery shawarma -- the Shed, the cultural center opening this week, stands out.

That's largely because of the building itself, which is unique not just for the complex, but for a cultural center in the city. The Shed -- designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which acted as the lead architect, and Rockwell Group as the collaborating architect -- is covered in ETFE panels, which are lightweight, durable, and weatherproof, and gives the whole thing a puffy look (not unlike a Chanel handbag). It also has a retractable outer shell that expands to transform the space, and helps the venue accommodate many different types of performances.

The Shed has been in the works for nearly a decade -- it was originally known as Culture Shed -- and its design hasn't changed too much in that time. What has changed is the condo tower behind it, 15 Hudson Yards, which abuts the Shed and was also designed by DS+R and Rockwell Group. Liz Diller, a principal at DS+R, told Curbed in January that even though the two buildings are on separate sites, they're designed to be "in dialogue," with the cultural center occupying some space in the base of 15 Hudson Yards, and their designs echoing one another.

"As we were looking at these two buildings from every angle, we wanted them to play nice next to each other and with each other," she said.

The Shed itself comprises several different theaters and gallery spaces, and has the ability to put on many different types of events at once -- exhibitions, dance performances, concerts, you name it. The whole structure known as the Bloomberg Building -- named for the former mayor, who helped push the whole Hudson Yards project forward (and made a $75 million contribution). Other parts are also named for high-powered donors: There's the McCourt, the 17,000-square-foot performance space created when the outer shell is fully extended; that was named for Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who contributed $45 million to the venue. And just this week, Ken Griffin (of $238 million penthouse fame) made a $25 million donation; now, a 500-seat theater will be known as the Griffin.

Those names -- plus the location, within a complex that has been derided as "an explicitly rich person's neighborhood on the edge of an island that tilts ever forward into being 100 percent rich person's neighborhood" (as Curbed's architecture critic Alexandra Lange put it) -- may lead you to think that the Shed's programming will be out of reach for many New Yorkers. But its creative team, led by artistic director Alex Poots, has taken steps to ensure that more residents will have access: $10 tickets will be available to low-income New Yorkers, and a series called Open Call will offer free performances from NYC-based up-and-coming artists. The entry fee to the Shed to see its exhibitions is $10.

Curbed New York
By Amy Plitt