The new $422m home of the Whitney Museum includes more than 13,000sq.ft of designated event space
USA - In order to remake itself as a premier destination for all manner of educational, cultural, and artistic activities, the new $422m home of the Whitney Museum includes more than 13,000sq.ft of designated event space including four outdoor terraces, a restaurant, café, public gathering space, educational centre, library reading room, and on the sixth floor, a flexible, multipurpose theatre which will give the Whitney the freedom to host live music, theatrical performances, lectures, movie screenings, social events, and more.

The 2,300sq.ft theatre is a collaboration between Theatre Projects, design architect, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, and executive architect, Cooper, Robertson & Partners. The flexible performance space features a retractable seating system, six catwalks, a variable acoustic ceiling, and an all LED performance lighting system-one of the first all-LED museum-based theatres in America.

Theatre Projects designed the theatre geometry and specified the performance lighting and rigging systems, as well as the theatre's retractable seating risers, which can seat up to 99 people and track into the back wall, allowing the room to transform into a flat floor-ideal for hosting parties, meetings, and all manner of events. With room for an additional 72 loose seats, the theatre can seat a total of 171 people.

The all-LED performance lighting system includes 120 multi-colour LEDs, capable of mixing hundreds of colours, providing a substantially longer life and greater energy-efficiency than traditional incandescent bulbs. Without the burdensome requirements of multiple dimmer racks (even a modestly sized theatre can expect to have three) and the miles of wires that incandescent lights necessitate, the Whitney avoided not only a substantial cost and environmental burden, but managed to gain a versatile, dynamic, and efficient lighting system.

"An equivalent incandescent lighting system would have required more than 250 circuits," Steven Rust, Theatre Projects' project manager and theatre lighting designer, said. "And in New York, one 20-amp circuit runs about $1,000, whereas the current LED system needs only 70 circuits. That's a reduction in infrastructure cost of about 75 percent."

In designing the theatre's variable acoustic ceiling, Theatre Projects' goal was to give the Whitney the ability to adjust the acoustic properties of the room for any event it might host, whether it's acoustic or electrified music, film, performance art, and beyond. The series of ceiling panels-or "fins" as they're called-resemble and operate like Venetian blinds, opening and closing with nothing more than the push of a button.

"The Whitney asked for a performance space that could work for drama, dance, film and, banquets and still change back to a fine arts gallery when required," Rust said. "The new theatre provides that and also gives the Whitney's performing arts series space to grow, thanks to production infrastructure designed for the future."

Theatre Projects also designed and specified the LED performance lighting system in the Whitney's multi-use film and video gallery, which features a 15-foot ceiling, no fixed seating, and bi-fold, accordion-style glass doors that open to an outdoor terrace.

(Jim Evans)

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