SO much has been made of the new Whitney in New York’s Meatpacking District… and by that I mean there’s mostly been bitching about the way it looks from the outside. I’ve never heard SO many amateur architecture critics spouting their idea of what they think of starchitect Renzo Piano‘s latest museum building. (SO many very smart professionals weighed in on this space and design, it’s kinda laughable to me that many think THEY know better… but social media armchair quarterbacking is a sport where everyone is an expert.) From a prison, to a pharmacutical headquaters to an enlarged copy machine, the digs about these new downtown digs have run the gamut. One of the designers of Center Pompidou in Paris, the architect of one of the greatest buildings of the last 25 years, the Menil in Houston and MANY others, Piano’s offices are across the street from the awkward Whitney site. The building, bordered by the High Line park, a six-story yellow brick wall, the West Side Highway and low meatpacking buildings, couldn’t have a more difficult, and yet more vibrant and central site for a museum. The plaza in front intersects with the High Line, two restaurants and it had hundreds of people going in every direction but it didn’t feel crowded. I’m not going to defend the exterior from the street. Either you like it or you don’t. I do. It quotes Marcel Breurer‘s uptown Whitney zigurat, responds to the site and the river, as well as the New York skyline, beautifully.
But the real test of any space is how it feels to navigate through it –and, it feels pretty great. I was there yesterday on a near perfect sunny day, and as you can see for yourself these vistas are without parallel in NYC. The photo opps are nearly infallible –like shooting in Paris, Rome or Big Sur… just click the shutter and you’re going to get something interesting. A series of terraces and staircases that from the street, or The Highline look interesting, but not high or vast are a whole new experience in person, connected to and yet separate from the interior spaces. Outdoor sculpture is perfectly at home but in many cases lost to the dynamic views. Mary Heilman‘s “Sunset” terrace made use of pink digitally printed canvases in her signature shapes, and multi-color plywood chairs arranged randomly, along with an outdoor flatscreen to view her video installation, "Swan Song" (1982) which documents the demolition of the West Side Highway and includes the surrounding area. A broken concrete tile was highlighted with barriers (see below) and I heard two guests (semi-jokingly) ask a security guard if it was “an installation.” Snarky and semi-legit question. I’ll cover the inside in my next post. But just look at the images here, and tell me you don’t want to come see for yourself? And as I’ve said before, my front door is 2 minutes away so I can, and will, go frequently. My prediction is people who hate the outside are going to have to admit, as a museum “it works.” It opens to the public this Friday, May 1. For more info, you can go here.