My kind of backpacking — new Whitney Musuem in Meatpacking District with a stroll down the Highline

Seems like this is the week of museum news. The Whitney Museum (which focuses on American Art) just broke ground at their new site in the Downtown Meatpacking District (NYC). Renzo Piano, the Italian architect who has built Texas museums like The Menil Collection in Houston and the recently opened Nasher Sculpture Garden in Dallas, has designed a new home for Whitney’s over 19,000 piece permanent collection. (Since I wasn’t in NYC for this myself, I had help with this post from an online article. You can check it out here)

An interior view of the tent at the future site of the new Whitney building, with shovel canopy and yellow industrial drums.I checked out some pics and videos from the ceremony and it was AWESOME! The folks who attended stood beneath a tent with shovels hanging overhead. Speeches were made by the usual suspects: Mayor Bloomberg, Adam Weinberg (Whitney Director), Renzo Piano, and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s (founder) granddaughter.

Even cooler is that my beloved acrobatic, daredevil dance company Elizabeth Streb performed. (They flew through windows!) Lorna Simpson created a video documentary about the Whitney, as well. You should check out the link to this video because it gives details about the architecture of the museum and a virtual walk-through of the new spaces. (Click here — since I can embed this file type in WP. Scroll to bottom of article.)

In general, I am excited about the new building because it will replace the old monolithic building uptown. Although my architecture friends swear that the Marcel Breuer building is great, I think it’s depressing, dark, and unable to suitably house their dynamic collection. That  building has been purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and will house their modern and contemporary collection. Many shifts this week in major institutional buildings changing hands. (See my earlier post on the American Folk Art Museum.)

The site location (Meatpacking District) is perfect for the Whitney. Since this institution gets overshadowed by MoMA, it will have a chance to be a part of this new dynamic arts district which connects Downtown to Chelsea by the Highline (the Diller+Scofidio designed elevated park.) And will have a new kind of “funky” downtown identity that museums like the New Museum have come to profit from.

So now I dream about the day that I will get to stroll (having coffee and a chocolate chip scone in hand) to the Whitney, check out some art, walk into Helmut Lang and buy a funky black blazer, dip into Diane Von Furstenburg for a signature wrap dress, ascend the stairs to stroll down the Highline checking out the wildflowers and views to the Hudson River, and go to Chelsea Market and grab some lunch. Delish!

I hope that more and more cities are able to find ways in which to develop dynamic, cutting edge public spaces in harmony with institutions and retail. It’s truly an accessible and integrated human experience.

6 thoughts

  1. One thing I regret about my visits to NYC is that I never did the museum thing. I feel like I really missed out on something enriching, and living so far away now, I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to rectify that.

  2. The Whitney picked a safe location and a safe architect. It seems appropriate for them.
    As much as you dislike the New Museum, you have to admit that building it in the Bowery took some real guts. Now with Foster’s new gallery in the neighborhood there is a real spark. That is progressive urban thinking.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree that building in the Bowery took guts especially since it’s not particularly convenient to get to on the subway. (What a way to test patron loyalty.) But — come in — once I finally get there and once I have schlepped through it ( the circulation between floors being so poorly thought out), I feel like I deserve a gold star and a cocktail. On another note, I hope the New Museum will lose some of it’s “we are cooler than the rest of you” attitude. The art there can sometimes be hard enough, you know. BUT other than all of these highly critical comments — you are right. Buildings like this help shape what a neighborhood can be in the future. And it’s takes a collaborative vision to make it happen.

      1. It is true that the New Museum is not your typical strolling gallery. The circulation design is intentional though. It allows each gallery to exist independently. The drama is in the elevator and when those doors open and you have no idea what type of environment you are entering.

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