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Hudson Yards

A shape-shifting arts center is under construction in New York

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A feature of the massive Hudson Yards complex under construction along Manhattan's west side will be The Shed, a four-story arts center that moves, slated to open next year.

Enveloped by a giant telescoping shell that can shift into a different space in a matter of minutes, turning its adjacent public open-air plaza into a climate-controlled performance space with 120-foot ceilings, is a one-of-a-kind building that will merge both visual and performing arts, says David Rockwell, one of the building's architects.

Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with the Rockwell Group, the building, still under construction, will have gallery spaces, as well as, theater and performance areas.

At a presentation last week to announce the commissions for its inaugural 2019 season and to give a tour of the building's construction progress, those involved in the building said the design of the structure was about giving the art presented inside as much room as possible to be as ambitious as possible.

For instance, when not being used, the shell will be "nested" over the fixed structure; the side of it closest to the public plaza can be used as a projection screen backdrop.

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When in use, the shell can hold an audience of 1,250 seated or 2,700 standing, which can come up to 3,000 when combined with space from the fixed building. The ceiling of it is being constructed in such a way to allow theatrical rigging.

Made of a steel frame covered by translucent panels, the shell rests on giant wheels that slide along rails to move it out to cover the plaza, which then becomes a space called The McCourt, named in honor of businessman Frank McCourt Jr., who donated $45 million.

The actual moving from one position to the other takes five minutes, at a speed of a quarter-mile per hour.

Among its inaugural offerings next year will be a live production conceived by filmmaker Steve McQueen and music industry giant Quincy Jones that explores the impact and history of African-American music, and an opportunity for New York City-based artists at an early point in their careers to have their work commissioned.

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