The New Whitney

By Kirsten Kiser

The New Whitney, Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Ed Lederman
 

Renzo Piano’s strong, asymmetrical design responds to the industrial character of the neighboring loft buildings and overhead railway while asserting a contemporary, sculptural presence.

The new Whitney, clad in pale blue-grey enamel steel panels, is situated at the southern entrance to the elevated High Line park. With panoramic views of the Hudson River to the west and the city skyline to the east, the new museum is designed to engage a lively and diverse international, national, and local audience.

The cantilevered entrance shelters “the Largo,” a public plaza carved out of the first floor at street level. Transparent glazed walls create a sense of openness between it and the lobby, which includes a gallery for the permanent collection and special exhibitions, as well as a spacious area for installations. Further unfolding the notion of community space, the lobby is open to the public free of charge.

The expansive fifth-floor temporary exhibitions gallery, the largest column-free museum gallery in New York City, is designed to give artists and curators great freedom.

All gallery floors are made of reclaimed Heart pine from former factories in the area. Lattice-like grid gallery ceilings make it easy to suspend work.

Outdoor galleries, situated on three levels of the building’s rooftops (floors 5, 6, and 7), offer dynamic exterior exhibition spaces.

In addition to over 50,000 square feet of gallery space, the nine-story building includes a 170-seat multi-use theater, a black-box theater for film, video, and performances with an adjacent outdoor gallery, a “Works on Paper” study center, a conservation lab, and a library reading room. The building also features a restaurant on the ground floor and a café for museum visitors on the skylit eighth floor.

Conceived as a laboratory for artists, the new building approximately doubles the Whitney’s exhibition floor area, providing unprecedented space for the museum’s exhibitions and programs, and contributing to a vibrant downtown neighborhood.

The design of this building emerged from many years of conversations with the Whitney, which took us back to the Museum’s origins. We spoke about the roots of the Whitney in downtown New York, and about this opportunity to enjoy the open space by the Hudson River. Museum experience is about art, and it is also about being connected to this downtown community and to this absolutely extraordinary physical setting.
— Renzo Piano

The Whitney’s inaugural exhibition, America is Hard to See, presented fresh narratives of American Art, featuring works by 400 artists filling every indoor and outdoor exhibition space. Drawn from the Whitney’s holdings, America is Hard to See examined the themes, ideas, beliefs, visions, and passions that have preoccupied and galvanized American artists over the past 115 years.

The only commissioned works of art in the building are the interiors of four elevators by the late Richard Artschwager. “Six in Four, door, window, table, basket, mirror, and rug” is the last major artwork Artschwager created before his death in February of 2013. Each elevator is designed as an immersive installation that features one or more of these themes.

The Whitney and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art have confirmed a collaborative agreement under which the Met will present public exhibitions in the Whitney’s Marcel Breuer-designed building on Madison Avenue for a period of eight years after the Whitney’s new building opens.

Country and City

New York

Architect

Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Cooper, Robertson & Partners

Landscape architect

Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects

Built

2015