Adaptable Architecture

Summer 2013
Culture Shed is a not-for-profit institution whose mission is to provide large-scale, flexible space for cultural activities that don’t currently have a home in New York City. Culture Shed will work with artists and organizations to present work across the spectrum of the creative industries, including visual art, dance, theater, and more. As the building expands and contracts, it will work in many configurations, welcoming multiple events simultaneously, including art exhibitions, concerts, performing arts programs, film screenings, and more. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group.

If cities are in a constant state of flux, shouldn’t the built environment flex along with them? It turns out that adaptable architecture might be more prevalent than we think. Concepts from New York and London illustrate that semipermanent structures present viable options for housing, as well as temporary and ad hoc activities, from art exhibits to sporting events.

The Culture Shed

In New York City, an innovative building concept has been proposed to accommodate cultural activities at Hudson Yards, a transit-oriented mixed-use commercial and residential district now rising on Manhattan’s Far West Side. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and the Rockwell Group, the structure — dubbed the Culture Shed Building — will be straddled by a moveable canopy (the “shed”) designed to protrude from it. The building, which will abut an 800-foot-tall apartment structure, will contain about 180,000 square feet of space on multiple levels; the shed, when rolled out on tracks, will cover a plaza of roughly 18,000 square feet. The shed will provide a protected environment capable of housing art exhibits, concerts, and special events, accommodating overflow from the Culture Shed Building or hosting independent activities.

temporary space concept known as an iceberg

Made of translucent plastic fabric stretched over modular steel frames, the iceberg’s striking luminescence and unique shapes alone transform the sites into public art projects.

Icebergs

In 2008, as construction sites fell dormant during the Great Recession, global design and architecture firm Woods Bagot conceptualized translucent “icebergs” to conceal construction sites mired in mud and debris. Made of translucent plastic fabric stretched over modular steel frames, their striking luminescence and unique shapes alone transform the sites into public art projects. Yet these structures, which are also energy efficient, also can function as temporary spaces for retail and entertainment uses. At night, they can serve as giant screens onto which advertisements or art displays can be projected.

The 2012 London Olympics Basketball Arena

portable basketball arena

When creating the basketball arena, designers were tasked with creating a visually iconic structure, a feat made more challenging by the temporary nature of the venue as well as a limited budget.

The 2012 London Olympics Basketball Arena was one of the largest temporary venues ever erected for an Olympic Games. Designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, the arena provided 12,000 seats for basketball and handball games, under a seven-story steel frame wrapped with 66,000 square feet of lightweight polyvinyl chloride (PVC) cladding. The project, which took just six weeks to erect, was comprised of individual components that could be easily dismantled and reused, resulting in the eventual reuse or recycling of two-thirds of the building materials. Designers also were tasked with creating a visually iconic structure, a feat made more challenging by the temporary nature of the venue as well as a limited budget. The white textured undulating lines of the building stood out both during the day and at night, thanks to a lighting installation by United Visual Artists.