[The view looking north; from left to right, the Hudson River, the West Side Highway, and the Whitney, with the massing concentrated West, stepping down from 170 feet to 50 feet, above the High Line. Courtesy of Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Cooper, Robertson & Partners.]
Tonight the Whitney made public for the first time its preliminary drawings for a new museum at Gansevoort and Washington Streets, right next to the High Line’s southern terminus in the Meatpacking District.
Whitney Director Adam Weinberg presented Renzo Piano’s plans, calling the new facility a “return to the Whitney’s downtown roots.” The original Whitney was on West 8th Street in the Village, the site of the current Studio School. We might add that its location right on the High Line also creates a nice art context– a literal connection to the galleries of Chelsea.
The new museum will provide 185,000 square feet of space, almost doubling the current floorspace of the Madison Avenue location, and offering an opportunity for the Whitney to showcase its permanent collection. It will also house a block-long special exhibition gallery, a theater and performance space, an indoor-outdoor restaurant, several sculpture terraces, and education facilities integrated into the galleries themselves.
Architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff of the New York Times is optimistic about the direction the design is headed, even going so far as to say that Renzo Piano’s design has “created a contemplative sanctuary where art reasserts its primary place in the cultural hierarchy.”
Logistically speaking, the new Whitney is important to the High Line in another way. Because the site is currently City-owned, it offers a rare opportunity for a much-needed Maintenance and Operations facility for the High Line. The new facility will be part of the easement of the Whitney, and is also being designed by Renzo Piano, but there will be no direct connection between it and the museum proper, and the M&O facility will be autonomously run by the Parks Department. The M&O facility will offer public restrooms, an elevator, and meeting rooms for community groups, as well as a home base for for landscaping, maintenance and security staff and equipment. If all goes according to plan, Friends of the High Line will also have offices there.
Right now, the High Line is scheduled to open 3 to 4 years before the Whitney, so in the meantime, our M&O facility will be a series of trailers on the High Line construction site itself. From what we saw of the Whitney’s plans tonight, though, it will be worth the wait.
Whitney’s Downtown Sanctuary [New York Times]