A Movable Enclosure of Air and Plastic

John Hill
16. June 2019
Photo: Timothy Schenck

The Shed, the cultural venue on Manhattan' West Side that features an attention-getting movable shell, opened to the public in April. The sliding enclosure is enabled by Vector Foiltec's lightweight ETFE foil cushions.

Project: The Shed, 2019
Client: The Shed
Location: Hudson Yards, New York, NY, USA
Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group
Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
Manufacturer: Vector Foiltec
Product: Texlon ® ETFE
The Shed occupies a prominent spot where the High Line meets the elevated plaza of the Hudson Yards development. (Photo: Timothy Schenck)

The Shed is a key component of Hudson Yards, the massive, $25 development built over the active rail yards west of Penn Station and at the northern tip of the High Line. It is the only public and cultural piece in Hudson Yards, which opened in March with a mix of office and residential towers, a large mall, and public gardens anchored by the climbable Vessel sculpture. One of these towers, 15 Hudson Yards, abuts The Shed, which "docks" into the base of residential tower when closed. Architects for both the tower and The Shed are Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group.

The ETFE foil cushions were designed so their seams run in continuous lines; they double as rails for cleaning and maintenance. (Photo: Timothy Schenck)

The eight-story, 200,000-square-foot (18,580-sm) building — named the Bloomberg Building after the famous donor/former mayor — features two levels of galleries, a theater, and rehearsal spaces on the fixed floors. East of those floors is McCourt, a 20,000-square-foot (1,860-sm) plaza that is home to an artwork by Lawrence Weiner when the shell is closed, but is transformed into an eight-story-tall performance venue when the shell is open.

The center layer of the ETFE shell is translucent so no shadows are cast on the interior during performances. (Photo: Timothy Schenck)

The Shed's movable enclosure is covered by 44,240 square feet (4,110 sm) of Vector Foiltec's Texlon ® ETFE system, specifically 146 three-layer and two four-layer foil cushions. The two four-layer cushions are located on the north side of the building overlooking the plaza, where extreme wind loads were anticipated; having visited Hudson Yards a few times and experienced the strong winds blowing off the Hudson River and between the towers, I can corroborate the correctness of their judgment. 

The ETFE foil cushions being installed. The air supply units required for filling the cushions are placed on the roof, where the motors for moving the shell are also located. (Photo: Timothy Schenck)

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