new york: whitney museum relocation

© nic lehoux

have you heard the whitney museum of american art has moved to an imposing new location in new york city? if not, you've clearly been living under a rock and we suggest you better read on. founded in 1930 by gertrude vanderbilt whitney [1875-1942], a prominent socialite, sculptor, and last but not least, patron of american art, the museum got its own building one year later in the west village. from there, the museum moved to an expanded site uptown on west 54th street in 1954. as its collections and operations grew, the whitney museum acquired a landmark building by architect marcel breuer on swanky madison avenue in 1966. and earlier this month, the museum's history came full circle as it moved back to the neighbourhood where it all started, occupying a brand new purpose-built design by italian starchitect renzo piano.

the new venue – mind you, it accommodates over 19,000 works of modern and contemporary american art – is situated between the hudson river and the popular high line park, clad in pale blue-grey steel panels, the eight-storey building has an asymmetrical shape, with the bulk of the museum facing the river, with tiers of lighter terraces and glazed walkways stepping down to the elevated urban park and more or less embracing it into the project. the building is entered via a dramatically cantilevered ‘largo’, a public space that serves as a kind of decompression chamber between street and museum, with views to the hudson and the high line entrance just a few steps away. accessed from the ‘largo’, the main entrance lobby also serves as a public gallery – of free-entry exhibition space. 

a museum shop situated on the ground floor, as well as a restaurant operated by renowned restaurateur danny meyerlevel three houses a 170-retractible seat theatre with double-height views over the river, along with technical spaces and offices. approximately 50,000 sq.ft [4,650 sqm.] of gallery space is distributed over levels five, six, seven and eight, the fifth level boasting a 18,000 sq.ft [1,670 sqm.] column-free gallery. reserved for temporary exhibitions, its expansive volume will enable the display of really large works of contemporary art. the whitney museum's permanent collection is exhibited on level six and seven. these two floors also step back towards the west to create 13,000 sq.ft [1,200 sqm.] of outdoor sculpture terraces. 

the museum offices, an education centre, conservation laboratories and a library reading room are situated north of the building’s core on levels three to seven, including a multimedia theatre on level five. the top floor is home to the ‘studio’ gallery and a café, also run by the aforementioned hospitality guru, naturally lit by a skylight system in striking saw-tooth configuration. location: 99 gansevoort street [west village].

© nic lehoux