Architectural Record: Flirting with Disaster
Joann Gonchar, AIA
31 July 2015

The move of the Whitney Museum of American Art from its Marcel Breuer–designed quarters on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to the city’s Meatpacking District presented a host of challenges, flooding among them. The museum knew that the new downtown site—sandwiched between the Hudson River and the increasingly popular High Line—would be at risk in an intense storm. That’s one of the reasons why the building’s architects, Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) and Cooper Robertson, opted to locate the permanent galleries and art storage for the recently opened museum in the upper reaches of the eight-story structure. It is also why they raised the lobby a foot and a half above the 500-year-flood plain.

But when Hurricane Sandy slammed New York in October 2012, while the new museum was under construction, the storm surge brought more than 6 million gallons of river water into the basement. Although the building was already framed to the fifth-floor level (making it impractical to radically rethink the design), the project team insists that the event provided an opportunity in disguise. “We were lucky it happened when it did,” says Tom Wittrock, a Cooper Robertson partner.

Read more at Architectural Record