New York City’s major cultural infrastructure is so iconic that it can seem immutable, more a collection of monuments than a living organism that breathes and grows. And, really, you don’t expect Lincoln Center to change with the times any more than the Lincoln Memorial.
The latest significant addition to the city’s cultural landscape, the Shed was designed with flexibility in mind. Opening at Hudson Yards on April 5, 2019, the multidisciplinary arts center will be able to physically transform itself to accommodate each performance, installation and exhibition it hosts.
Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Lead Architect, and Rockwell Group, Collaborating Architect, the complex boasts a cutting-edge architectural feature: an enormous shell, covered in translucent panels of a Teflon-based polymer, that can be pulled up over the entire eight-story structure or rolled out to turn the spacious outside courtyard into a massive enclosed space, complete with sound, lights and temperature control. Indoors, things are just as malleable: The McCourt Theater’s 17,000 square feet—double that when the shell’s extended—can be arranged in an infinite number of ways. Upstairs, there’s a gallery space and a smaller theater, each with its own customization options.
To fill all that space, the Shed is commissioning new works from a staggeringly diverse range of heavy-hitting talent from across every conceivable artform: music, theater, visual art, film, and even poetry and literature. According to artistic director and CEO Alex Poots, having artists create original works for such an adaptable space is already producing unique results. “There have been occasions when artists arrive at the site with one idea and leave with something more ambitious,” he says. “The brilliance of the building’s design and functionality is that it doesn’t force the artist in one direction.”
The Shed will also be giving space to emerging artists, especially local talent. For example, more than 52 New York City artists have been commissioned for the Open Call exhibition, which will run throughout the opening season. DIS OBEY, a workshop that allows teens to explore art as protest, and FlexNYC, a program that teaches young New Yorkers to engage with social issues through flex dancing, will be ongoing. Who knows? Maybe the upstairs talent incubator will end up launching artists who will eventually fill the sprawling space below.