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Renzo Piano's Whitney Debut a 'Lovefest'

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It's a little hard to get a feel for Italian starchitect Renzo Piano's proposed design for a new branch of the Whitney at the southern end of the High Line, because the designs unveiled at last night's community meeting are a little distant and don't really enmesh us in the nitty-gritty of the museum, which will have double the floorspace of the Whitney's Madison Avenue location. One surprise, however, is that Piano decided to do away with his now ubiquitous glass curtain in favor of some sort of stone bunker thingy, when?given the museum's future surroundings at Washington and Gansevoort Streets right along the High Line in the bustling Meatpacking District?it would seem that a wall of glass would be a smart move. But that would take all the attention away from the art, writes the Times' Nicolai Ouroussoff, who already likes what he sees in the "faceted surface" that "seems hewed from a massive block of stone." The archicritic writes: "It makes a powerful statement about the encroaching effects of the global consumer society. Inside, Mr. Piano has created a contemplative sanctuary where art reasserts its primary place in the cultural hierarchy."

Sanctuary or no sanctuary, it's impossible not to wonder what this new branch of the Whitney will eventually mean for the High Line. The park will get a lot of mileage out of the museum, according to the High Line Blog:

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.
Yay, toilets! And speaking of big stinks, will locals make one? Not if last night's presentation was any indication. Our Curbed correspondent planted in the crowd reports that the event was pretty much a "lovefest," and while some people (including the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation's Andrew Berman) had some questions about height, setbacks and noise, Whitney director Adam Weinberg smoothly navigated the minefield and said they hadn't worked out all the answers yet. But, like, don't worry, because they totes will. Example:
The one woman with a complaint was genuinely disheartened to have to say it, and that was that the Whitney would be built on city property-- if there's room for a museum, there should be room for new schools, right? Weinberg agreed with her and just replied that he, too, hoped there could be schools. And this worked! She thanked him and apologized again for having a complaint at all.
Apologizing for complaining? The MePa truly is a strange place.
· Whitney’s Downtown Sanctuary [NYT]
· Whitney Museum to Debut MePa Piano Solo Tonight [Curbed]