In the run-up to the opening of The Shed, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and the Rockwell Group’s new arts center in the Hudson Yards development, a 2-week program called A Prelude to The Shed, featuring free performances, talks and events, took place in a temporary structure designed by Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ Works. A Stroll Through the Fun Palace, British architect Cedric Price’s 1961 project, developed with theater director Joan Littlewood, was presented in dynamic form by architects wheeling models and items from the project archives at the Canadian Centre for Architecture on carts throughout the site, and interacting with curious visitors. A Stroll was originally presented at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale at the Swiss Pavilion, where it was curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, who is also Senior Program Advisor at The Shed. On May 1, the evening panel discussion centered on Price’s Fun Palace and its impact on The Shed. Obrist and Prelude co-programmer Dorothea von Hantelmann set the stage by explaining why they included this work in the roster, and how its presentation explores the exhibition form itself. They correlated the Fun Palace’s interdisciplinary nature—opera, visual art, theater, dance—with Artistic Director Alex Poots’s background at the Manchester International Festival, the Park Avenue Armory and now The Shed. They were followed by Eleanor Bron, Cedric Price’s concubine (her preferred term for life partner), an actor best known for film roles in Help!, Alfie, Two for the Road, Bedazzled, and Women in Love, and Samantha Hardingham, interim director of the AA and author of Cedric Price Works, 1952–2003: A Forward-Minded Retrospective. They described the challenge for the self-described “anti-architect" to create a home for as many forms of fun in one spot as possible, and to open up science and culture to all. The Fun Palace, intended for the Olympics site in East London, was conceived as a permeable, moveable, gravity-defying open space without beginning or end, in contrast to the prevalent earthbound style of the times in Britain, Brutalism. It counted among is trustees Buckminster Fuller and violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and it nearly happened except for a drainage problem on the site. In another connection to The Shed, in 1999, Price submitted a proposal for Phyllis Lambert’s Hudson Yards competition, the current site of The Shed. Titled A Lung for Midtown Manhattan, Price was one of five finalists, who also included Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos, Morphosis, Reiser + Umemoto, and winner Peter Eisenman. The jury consisted of Frank Gehry, Arata Isozaki, Philip Johnson, Rafael Moneo, Joseph Rose (City Planning Commissioner), and Elizabeth Diller. Notably, Diller voted for Price’s entry, which proposed leaving the space open with “wind-blinkers” to encourage breezes from the river to waft over Manhattan. Diller recounted the competition in the next panel, which also included David Rockwell and Kunlé Adeyemi. Diller and Rockwell discussed their approach to the design of The Shed: to be forever contemporary, flexible but not generic, scalable, indoor and outdoor, unbranded and entrepreneurial. They said their key architecture reference was the Fun Palace, which was an architecture of infrastructure. They also questioned why we need one more cultural institution, since New York City already boasts 12,000. Referring to the moveable portion of The Shed, Rockwell pointed out that many theaters are meant to be flexible (think Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall), which are rarely utilized because it’s too difficult or expensive. For him, another lesson was from his TED Theater in Vancouver, an annual pop-up meant to be “live.” Here, the architecture does not dictate what happens inside. The evening was rounded out with Keller Easterling, an architect and Yale professor, who spoke on notions of theater in architectural spaces (in addition to being an architect, she has a background as a performance artist) and Caroline A. Jones, a professor at MIT Architecture, who found parallels in electronic technological modes of production in the art world. They commented that presenters on stage facing the audience was the antithesis of the future Shed.
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The Shed, DS+R and the Rockwell Group's slick ETFE-padded arts building in Hudson Yards is a solid year away from hosting performances. In the meantime, The Shed's curators are teasing the public with Prelude to The Shed—Prelude, for short—a temporary pavilion for dance, theater, and art right across the street from its still-under-construction sibling. Today The Architect's Newspaper got a first look at the structure and its inaugural exhibit on the Fun Palace, the conceptual 1960s theater that inspired The Shed. While the Shed was conceived by two large New York firms, Prelude was designed by Kunlé Adeyemi of Amsterdam- and Lagos-based NLÉ Works in collaboration with Tino Sehgal, an artist from Berlin who's also one of the event's programmers. The building, a reconfigured steel shed crossed with a party limo, is separated from 10th Avenue by an open plaza and a short flight of black stairs. To give performers an abundance of flex space, the front entrance is completely open to the elements, but the approach is staggered by oversized, movable Chesterfield chairs. Ultra-cushy seating wraps the interior and most of Prelude's exterior, a must for a initial 13-day free events program that's sold out its entire run. Its roofline is defined by a simple gable, a humble dwelling amid the towers of Hudson Yards. The structure backs onto a site that feels like an afterthought. A café is connected to Prelude by a standard-issue wheelchair ramp, and from its slightly elevated perch, visitors can gaze across a gravel lot where scattered potted plants suggest an attempt at landscape design. REX's crystalline 5 Manhattan West and Hudson Yards beam reflections onto each other from across the avenue, disorienting the eye a hundred feet above ground level. Blessedly, there are public restrooms. Prelude's seven programmers are engaging the public beyond architecture, and a packed events schedule promises to keep the space brimming with visitors. Today, volunteers stood around hospital carts filled with Hudson Yards ephemera, part of A stroll though the fun palace, an exhibit on Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood's never-built idea for a democratic performance and community gathering space. For the next two weeks, the programmers have tapped artists across media for a series of public performances. Each afternoon into evening, choreographer William Forsythe's Pas de Deux Cent Douze alternates with Sehgal's This variation. Beginning Thursday, Prelude will host evening shows by artists across genres (Atlanta's ABRA kicks off the festivities her signature take on R&B). Prelude's pre-opening program will run through May 13. More information on hours, performances, and events can be found here.
While Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group's The Shed might not open until spring 2019, its creative team will be hosting nearly two weeks of free arts events this May to build anticipation for the ribbon-cutting. A Prelude to The Shed, held on a vacant lot at 10th Avenue and 30th Street in Manhattan, will feature live concerts, dance battles, art-focused political panels, and experimental classes that foreshadow offerings of the under-construction telescoping arts venue in Hudson Yards. From May 1 until May 13, visitors can experience Prelude in and around a reconfigured steel shed designed by architect Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ Works and artist Tino Sehgal. Prelude’s smaller shed will echo its larger counterpart by being fluid and transformable, with elements of the building able to move in response to the dancers within. “Using simple technologies, we made the structure so that it can be moved and transformed by people, enabling its participation in different formats of art, education, events, and public life,” said Adeyemi, in a press release. Each day of Prelude will bring a different program, though everything will be connected through Sehgal’s curation. Every morning, artist Asad Raza will lead experimental classes, based on his ongoing “Schema for a school” work, while panels on art’s role in social connectivity and the politics of ritualized gatherings will be hosted every other evening. Bolstering the series’ connection to The Shed, Prelude will host reproduced ephemera from architect Cedric Price’s Fun Palace, an unrealized moveable and multi-purpose venue that heavily influenced The Shed. Mobile exhibition carts stocked with artifacts from the Fun Palace will move around the temporary space to encourage public interaction. “Like The Fun Palace, Prelude is a hybridization of exhibition and performance, functionally structured to encourage open engagement with audiences and fresh, collaborative approaches from artists,” said Hans Ulrich Obrist, The Shed's artistic advisor. “It is emblematic of our own era in that it lends itself to the choreography of 21st-century time-based exhibitions.” A full schedule of Prelude’s programming can be found here, including a lineup for the concert series.
By 2019, the Hudson Yards on Manhattan's West Side will host The Shed. Half a century ago, chances are most people would have presumed that any mention of a "shed" in the rail yards would be used to house locomotives. Now, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Designed by New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group, The Shed will be home to New York City’s "first newly established 21st-century center for the arts." Rising to six stories and covering 200,000-square-feet, The Shed will comprise a museum, theater/performance space, rehearsal area, and an artists' lab. "We will work with original artists and thinkers from across all art forms and disciplines, to produce and present their new work for the widest range of audiences from NYC and around the world," said The Shed in its mission statement. "We will welcome those artists who take risks, advance their fields, and address the significant issues of our time." "As NYC’s first newly established 21st-century center for the arts, we will benefit from the latest technology, offering powerful opportunities for our artists and our audiences," the mission statement continued. This leads to The Shed's most defining feature: a telescoping shell mounted on rails. Mimicking the great cranes that were once commonplace on the piers stretching into the Hudson River, the shell can support (literally and figuratively) a wide range of activities when it's rolled onto the adjacent plaza. The 20,000 square-foot public plaza can be transformed into an multitude of venues, most notably a 1,250-seat theater (up from its other 500-seater capacity venue). The theater will be created by lifting a screen on one of the main building's upper levels and replacing it with seating. At 120 feet high, the space can be a sound- and temperature-controlled hall that can also cater for an audience of 3,000 members around a performance space. It can also house large-scale artwork. When not covering the plaza, the shell can be used as a canvas for screenings. Watch the telescopic framework in action in the video below: