Ken Griffin Goes Zen and Makes His Mark on Shed at Hudson Yards

(Bloomberg) -- Citadel founder Ken Griffin said the firm’s new offices at 425 Park Ave. will be designed to be a “tranquil” and “zen” environment to help people “be calm and focus and make good decisions.”

In the meantime, he’s helping create an edgy space for art in a newer part of town, with a $25 million gift to the Shed at Hudson Yards, a 500-seat theater that will bear his name. Guests at the Shed’s Founders Dinner learned about the gift Sunday night.

Ken Griffin Goes Zen and Makes His Mark on Shed at Hudson Yards

Griffin stood at the theater’s back wall of glass, looking out on the McCourt, which has a retractable roof and moving parts to change configurations.

“Consider this wall moves," Griffin said of the space designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and the Rockwell Group. “I was up in the actual engine room. The engineering feat here is just beyond comprehension. This hasn’t been done before. This is beyond. And that speaks to what we’re trying to do artistically.”

Ken Griffin Goes Zen and Makes His Mark on Shed at Hudson Yards

Griffin said it was Dan Doctoroff, chairman of the Shed’s board, who sealed the deal over a tour of the site with Liz Diller.

“You knew you had me at the end of that 45 minutes or an hour,” Griffin told Doctoroff.

‘Cutting Edge’

It took about five years of courtship, with conversations kicking off seriously after seeing each other at a University of Chicago board meeting, said Doctoroff, the former CEO of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Ken Griffin Goes Zen and Makes His Mark on Shed at Hudson Yards

While everyone at the Founders Dinner expressed enthusiasm for being part of a shiny new thing, Griffin has also given to building projects of established institutions. Previous gifts have put his name on the lobby at the Renzo Piano-designed Whitney Museum and on Philip Johnson’s East Wing at the Museum of Modern Art, which is undergoing an expansion.

“The Shed is really trying to be at the cutting edge of performance arts and visual arts,” Griffin said, “so this is really exciting to me to see where we’re going to take the boundaries of art over the next decades here.”

Ken Griffin Goes Zen and Makes His Mark on Shed at Hudson Yards

Griffin said he hopes his employees, mostly in their 20s and 30s, will get out and partake in the culture he’s backing, whether facilitated by the firm or on their own.

The hedge fund founder’s goal is to “get them civically and politically engaged,” he said. “It broadens their horizons, it gives them more perspective about the role we play in society.”

Ken Griffin Goes Zen and Makes His Mark on Shed at Hudson Yards

Good Posture

At Griffin’s theater at the Shed, the audience will sit on firm chairs with a slight spring, covered in a steel gray fabric with a velvety touch. The armrests, in a black wood finish, are substantial. The seat backs encourage good posture.

As for his own culture outings, about 95 percent of what he does is through word-of-mouth of friends. “I am Mr. Last Minute, think StubHub,” Griffin said. “I’d love to say I plan way in advance, but it’s just not realistic.”’

Then there are the dates that get made at parties, as when Related Cos. chairman and founder Stephen Ross, hearing Griffin hadn’t yet seen the shops and restaurants at Hudson Yards, told him “I’m going to call you up, let’s have dinner.”

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