The Whitney Museum of American Art has had numerous locations over the past century. In 2011, the city of New York broke ground on the museum’s new home in the Meatpacking District, a lively neighborhood teeming with both locals and tourists. Located at 99 Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District between the south end of the High Line and the Hudson River, the museum officially opened its doors again on May 1, 2015. Unable to expand in its previous location, the new Whitney Museum, designed by Renzo Piano, is nine stories and 200,000 square feet, nearly doubling the gallery space of its previous building.
The ground floor of the museum is a multi-purpose space that gets a lot of foot traffic. The striking cantilevered entrance at the street-level features the 8,500-square-foot Pamella and Daniel DeVos Family Largo, a public space within view of the southern entrance to the High Line. Separated by a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, the plaza connects visitors to the 6,200-square-foot lobby, where visitors can buy tickets to the galleries upstairs, enjoy the John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Gallery free of charge, visit the Andrea and James Gordon Restaurant, Untitled, browse the museum’s gift shop, and attend events in Kenneth C. Griffin Hall.
Hundreds of people pass through this dynamic multi-purpose space everyday. While the design is striking, the high ceilings and windowed walls made acoustics and the intelligibility of conversations and other sounds difficult to manage. The museum’s unique design characteristics meant that sound was reflected throughout the space to create a noisy experience. The project team was intent on making sure that the building could acoustically function to accommodate all the gathering it was built for.
We do feel like the ceiling that we have helps in absorbing some of that noise and makes it a better place to be.
To help absorb reverberation caused by acoustics reflecting in the space, BASWA Phon Sound Absorbing Plaster was placed on baffles on the ceilings of the room. Peter Scott, Director of Facilities at the Whitney Museum understands the importance of acoustics in an open-concept layout. “Considering the space in the lobby and the purpose of the lobby, where it’s a multi-purpose space, where we do have a lot of events and activities here. Having this type of ceiling here, you know, it does help in controlling the level of noise, the level of interaction that we can have in this space.”
For the Whitney, it was paramount that the building integrate sustainable design and so they sought a team that would support that commitment. Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the design architect, worked with Cooper Robertson Partners and Turner Construction to incorporate green design, and eventually become the “first purpose-built museum in New York City to pursue LEED Gold status.”
Integrating BASWA Phon Sound Absorbing Plaster in the ceiling allowed the design team to adhere to sustainable design principles, as well as the unique aesthetic of the space. The building’s contemporary design fits with the industrial feel of its surroundings. BASWA Phon’s seamless finish aided in achieving a modern and contemporary look.
The Whitney Museum’s versatile lobby area sees an abundance of daily visitors. From the cacophony of the street outside to the daily foot traffic and large events indoors, controlling the level of noise is vital, especially in order to keep the sound localized and separate from the galleries upstairs so that people can connect with each other and art.