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The Shed

New York, USA


December 2018


3 years




Project achievements

A space to bring together all types of artists

The Shed is an arts centre dedicated to commissioning, producing and presenting all types of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture. It will bring together artists from all art forms under one roof and promote transformative collaboration between disciplines.

The Shed consists of an eight-level, 115,300-square-foot base building and a telescoping outer shell. The base building houses large, column-free galleries, a black-box theatre, event and rehearsal space, and a studio lab for early-career local artists.

When an event calls for more space, the outer shell can be deployed over a plaza to define a 17,000-square-foot space. Operable door and wall elements allow the space to be an open-air pavilion or a fully enclosed, climate-controlled hall that integrates with the base building.

The shell’s exposed-steel diagrid frame is clad in semi-translucent ETFE, a strong, lightweight material that’s more energy-efficient and less costly than glass. Rolling out 114 feet at its fullest extent, the shell can be fully deployed in just five minutes.

Did you know …

  1. A moving structure of the scale and flexibility of The Shed, which provides a fully conditioned, Class-A gallery and performance space is unprecedented.

  2. The project consists of two structures: a four-storey steel braced frame stationary building that houses exhibition space and a telescoping outer shell that rolls out over the adjoining plaza on 6ft-diameter, 10in-wide wheels.

  3. The Shed weighs approximately 4,000 tons and the travel distance is 114 feet. It takes approximately five minutes to move it from open to closed, or vice versa, with a speed of approximately 23 feet per minute.

Project achievements and benefits

The Shed commissions original works of art, across all disciplines, for all audiences. Its goal is to bring together established and emerging artists in fields ranging from hip-hop to classical music, painting to digital media, theatre to literature, and sculpture to dance. This unprecedented movable structure adapts to support ambition and invention in all creative fields.

One of the ways in which open access is encouraged includes the Open Call program, The Shed’s commissioning program for New York City-based artists who have not yet received extensive support from a large cultural institution. Intensive review panels selected 52 artists and collectives for the inaugural season. Each artist has received funding, resources, and support to develop and present new work at The Shed.

In addition, 10% of tickets for all events will be available to low-income families at just USD$10 each.

By minimising social and economic barriers to entry, The Shed provides a welcoming space for innovation and artistic expression. Driven by the belief that access to art is a right, and not a privilege, The Shed aims to present exciting, engaging experiences for our communities and our time.

How the work was done

The Shed is really two separate projects – the base building and the shell – that must interact seamlessly. Coordinating the two components and balancing so many variables within tight structural tolerances increased the number of engineering challenges exponentially.

Functional and aesthetic goals drove every aspect of The Shed’s form. The need for dozens of different configurations to accommodate all forms of cultural expression dictated the inclusion of several operable façade and roof elements, and the shell is a sculptural object in itself.

The Shed’s design involved myriad decisions, each demanding consideration of several options and trade-offs among competing priorities. In particular, two features of the movable shell’s design, the propulsion mechanism and the exterior steel framing, illustrate the advantages of creative people collaborating in service of a common goal.

The shell’s frame design was critical to the project in many ways: it had to be light enough to meet the constraints of the site (atop a platform); it had to integrate with the rail-and-bogey propulsion system; it had to accommodate all the mechanical systems required to fully condition the interior space when deployed; and above all, it had to be beautiful. The Shed’s form would be an artistic statement supporting its overall mission.

The multidisciplinary team – of structural and façade engineers, kinetic specialists and construction engineering experts – used cutting-edge tools to evaluate and coordinate options. Without parametric design technology, the team may not have found the optimal solution. The architecture was not the result of computer analysis, but of human judgment and artistic instinct.

As The Shed’s design team refined the most promising option, an elegant, sloping diagrid of delicate-looking steel, they did something unusual. They set out to identify particular elements – a slope or curve here, a dimension or connection there – as most important to the overall effect. Then they built physical models, including a nearly full-scale mock-up of part of the exterior, to convey these details to everyone involved in the project.

The physical mock-ups, along with digital models, clearly articulated the details that were essential to the design, keeping them intact throughout the processes of simplification and standardisation that occur during fabrication and construction.

People who made it happen

  • Architect: Diller Scofidio +Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group
  • General Contractor: Sciame
  • Structural Engineer / Façade Consultant: Thornton Tomasetti
  • MEP Engineer: Jaros Baum & Bolles
  • Kinetics Engineer: Hardesty & Hanover
  • Lighting Designer: Tillotson Design Associates
  • Theatre Planning & Design: Fisher Dachs Associates
  • Life Safety: Code Consultants, Inc
  • Energy Model/ LEED: Viridian
  • Acoustic/ Audio-Visual: Akustiks
  • Vertical Transportation: Van Duesen & Associates
  • Specifications: Construction Specifications Inc.
  • Security: Ducibella Venter & Santore
  • Waterproofing: James R Gainfort Consulting Architects
  • Façade Maintenance: Entek Engineering
  • Branding/Graphics: 2x4 Global Design Consultancy

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