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Overwrought Shell Conceals Porous, Visitor-Friendly Design in Renzo Piano's New Whitney Museum

Welcome back to Critical Eye, Alexandra Lange's incisive, observant, curious, human- and street-friendly architecture column for Curbed. This week she heads to the Meatpacking District to scope out the brand-new Whitney Museum, which officially opens to the public on Friday, May 1.

[All photos by Max Touhey.]

The best view of the new Whitney is west on Gansevoort Street, if by best view you mean the one where Renzo Piano Building Workshop's $422 million museum building makes sense. From there, just outside Gansevoort Market, you see the four levels and 50,000 square feet of galleries stepping back above the leafy frill of the High Line, the thrust of the exterior gray steel staircase, a fire escape on steroids, and the sawtooth skylights that say Art Lives Here. The mind edits out the concrete core and the northern block that contains offices and conservation spaces, the back-of-house glimpsed only when the doors of the elevators open on the wrong side. From there, you can imagine those galleries as trays akin to the High Line trestle, an industrial framework for whatever sculpture, paintings or trees the curators choose to deploy.

All eight floors of the new Whitney, analyzed >>