Is the Shed the Defining Arts Institution of a New New York City?

Sparks fly inside the Shed. Specifically, in the McCourt, the performance hall whose retractable shell is the signature flourish of the 200,000-square-foot structure’s flexible design. The building, recently named in honor of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, is encased in Teflon-based polymer “pillows” cross-hatched with steel; the pillows are only partially inflated during construction, and the material puckers as men in the baskets of cranes graze its corners.

It’s a Friday afternoon, and the sun is creeping behind the Hudson River as Alex Poots, founding artistic director and CEO of the Shed, the multi­disciplinary arts center set to open here April 5, stands on the building’s eighth level looking down on construction workers milling about like helmeted ants.

The idea was, Let’s create the world’s most flexible cultural institution.

The 4,000-ton chassis retracts telescopically on six-foot-tall wheels to transform the space into an open plaza. The design, by lead architect Diller Scofidio + Renfro and collaborating architect the Rockwell Group, has been described as “gadget architecture,” but Poots says the plan’s malleability was what first appealed to him. “You had a chance for there to be no poor relation in any art form,” he says, noting that the design affords the possibility of commissioning works across disciplines and presenting them with parity.


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