The Shed: Bringing the Arts to Midtown in a Big Way

The Shed, a 200,000 square foot experimental arts space with a movable glass shell, has finally been completed after nearly a decade of construction. The space is located on 30th St. between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues, and was conceived in the mid-1990’s as part of New York City’s bid for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

The rezoning for The Shed was originally to accommodate a stadium, which would become the new home field for the New York Jets after the Olympics. The Olympic bid eventually collapsed due to a lack of statewide approval—leading Daniel Doctoroff, a deputy mayor in the Bloomberg administration, to take advantage of the redevelopment plans in order to create a new cultural center. Doctoroff then hired designers Elizabeth Diller and David Rockwell to create The Shed, an 8-level building with a retractable glass shell on rails.

The Shed boasts two entire levels of gallery space, a theater, a rehearsal space, an artist’s lab, and event space large enough to hold 3,000 people. It was purposefully designed to have larger and more flexible performance spaces than its competitors, the MOMA and the Whitney Museums—allowing for more immersive displays than we’ve ever seen in modern museums.

Alex Poots, an Edinburgh-born musician and famous art director, will serve as Creative Director of The Shed. Poots has organized both mixed-media and singular exhibitions including theatre productions, poetry readings, ballets, debates, and many more. He’s best known in New York City for both his work on the National Opera and for the Seventh Regiment Armory, a massive gothic-style space on the Upper East Side.

At the Armory, Poots smashed audience and critics’ expectations with the “Tree of Codes,” a ballet by Wayne McGregor set to music by Jamie xx, combined with visuals by Olafur Eliasson. It serves as a standing example for his daring synthesis of art media, something that The Shed has been built to accommodate.

The Shed is set to open in 2019, and Poots has begun to develop the program for April-December of its first year, including two productions that celebrate the evolution of art in American culture. The first is entitled Age of Starlight, a computer-generated 3D experience that charts the history of the universe.

The second highlights a dance group that performs a specific offshoot of Jamaican dancehall known as “Flex.” The troupe is called “FlexNYC” and Poots first saw them perform in East New York. To Poots, musical innovation is the most important reflection of who we are and where we are going as a culture, which is why it is an integral part of so many of his projects.

The Shed was recently granted $75 million by Michael Bloomberg, and will hopefully continue to develop into a New York landmark and the museum of the future.

Word by: Liz Desio