Renzo Piano's new Whitney offers one of New York's largest art spaces

by Tom Anstey | 27 Apr 2015

The Renzo Piano-designed Whitney Museum of American Art in New York’s Meatpacking District will open to the public this Friday (1 May), offering indoor and outdoor galleries, a conservation laboratory and the largest column-free exhibition space in the entire city.

In the works for more than three decades, the nine-storey steel and concrete building was conceived as a ‘laboratory for artists’. Sitting between the High Line and Hudson River, the new museum is Piano’s response to the industrial setting amongst warehouses, railway lines and loft buildings. Landscape designer Matthew Nielsen and Netherlands-based garden designer Piet Oudolf worked on the outdoor spaces, while New York-based architecture firm Cooper Robertson worked with Piano to realise his vision. Turner Construction handled building work.

"The design of this building emerged from many years of conversations with the Whitney, which took us back to the museum's origins," said Piano. "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.

"The museum experience is about art, about being connected to this downtown community and to this extraordinary physical setting."

Cascading terraces offer the museum 1,200sq m (12,916sq ft) of outdoor exhibition space overlooking the High Line, while inside a column-free gallery is the grand space of the museum, occupying the building’s entire fourth floor. Above the main gallery, there are three smaller galleries – two occupied by the museum’s collection of 20th and 21st-century art, and one reserved for temporary exhibitions. The building also includes the Scanlan Conservation Centre, a space for educational programmes which features a 170-seat theatre and an area for study.

First founded in 1931, the Whitney is moving from its old Marcel Breuer-designed location on Madison Avenue to the significantly larger contemporary location. In its new US$720m (€664.5m, £475.8m) home, the 200,000sq ft (18,581sq m) museum will be able to display more of its 21,000-strong collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and films by more than 3,000 artists. Exhibition space is 58,000sq m (624,300sq ft) – around double that of the previous building.

The new Whitney will open to the public on 1 May, while its former home will now house New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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The Renzo Piano-designed Whitney Museum of American Art in New York’s Meatpacking District will open to the public this Friday (1 May), offering indoor and outdoor galleries, a conservation laboratory and the largest column-free exhibition space in the entire city. In the works for more than three decades, the nine-storey steel and concrete building was conceived as a ‘laboratory for artists’. Sitting between the High Line and Hudson River, the
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The museum is architect Renzo Piano’s response to the setting amongst warehouses, railway lines and loft buildings / Flickr.com/Changsterdam
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