The Whitney Museum, semi-flush after the sale of some properties uptown, is prepping to break ground on May 24th for the new museum set to rise next to the High Line in the Meatpacking District. The museum crew, headed by Whitney director Adam Weinberg, gathered with locals last night to show off the latest revised designs for the Whitney Downtown. Plans from Italian starchitect Renzo Piano call for loads of glass down low along Gansevoort Street, where a 14,000-square-foot
plaza Largo (in Piano-speak) stretches towards the Hudson River. And that's just the beginning, art fans.
The museum lobby will be fronted by glass on three sides, with uninterrupted views from Washington Street all the way to Weehawken and points westward. Above the streets, the north and south exteriors will be clad in some unspecified non-reflective metal recalling the industrial history of the area. To give it a modern edge, Piano has covered the east and west exposures in expanses of glass opening onto galleries covering the upper four floors.
A theater with convertible seating is tucked into the second floor, where performers will be backed by vistas towards the river. The third-floor gallery, the largest of the bunch, will house temporary exhibits. The fourth and fifth floors will show off the Whitney's considerable contemporary collection (18,000+ pieces), and up on the sixth floor, skylights will bring light into some special gallery spaces. There's way more exhibition space than in the Whitney's Upper East Side home, which the Met will most likely temporarily lease.
Rising above the High Line and overlooking the low buildings of the Meatpacking District, the museum's east side will have tiers of terraces with ample space for outdoor exhibits. The full height of Piano's plan, 166 feet at the tallest point, rises over West Street, with big windows and inset balconies sporting killer views. The Whitney has raised 70% of the $680 million needed to move forward with the 200,000-square-foot plan, and the Wall Street Journal reports that the museum will close on the land in February. In a bit of surprise, the museum will not connect to the High Line, due to security and pedestrian flow concerns.
We could go on and on about the Whitney's cool fly-through presentation, where galleries turned into sky and the art looked fab, but art lovers know that pictures are worth more than words, so check out the gallery to see what the Whitney has in store.
UPDATE: The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation recorded and posted the entire fly-through. Here she is: