Anyone heading Downtown in early May, watch your step; the streets will be crammed not with tourists, trash, or shoppers—but Ideas. From May 4 to 8, the no-small-plans Festival of Ideas for the New City will take place, involving some 30 Downtown organizations and city agencies, painting poetry on walls, demonstrating urban farms, and a keynote by Rem Koolhaas on May 4 at NYU’s Kimmel Center. The Storefront for Art and Architecture sponsored the StreetFest competition to re-imagine those drab white tents that spring up ubiquitously at outdoor events. The competition called for submissions from firms less than ten years out of school that would be functional, sculptural, adaptable, as well as interactive and also lend themselves to a “more engaging variety of programs” than tube sock sales.
Some 30 architects, artists, and engineers stepped up to the task and the winners are a collaboration of new talent, Family and PlayLab. Their winning idea, selected by a jury including Storefront’s Eva Franch, the New Museum’s Lisa Phillips, Vito Acconci, and Charles Renfro, among others, expands on the loosey-goosey flexibility of the Slinky. Made of rolled galvanized steel ribs swaddled in brightly-colored parachute silks, the so-called Worms are 10 feet tall and can extend 20 feet on steel fork supports plugged into casters. “We wanted something that would stand out but also function,” said Lisa Phillips. “The Worms suggest the idea of these unseen parts of the city that are underground coming up to be seen.”
Dong-Ping Wong of Family is focused on developing ecological responses to building. Founded three years ago, Family has designed a floating swimming pool that filters river water that so impressed engineers at ARUP that they are now working on realizing the project together. PlayLab is also just three years old, a collaboration between artist Archie Lee Coates and designer/architect Jeffrey Franklin. They are working with Family on the floating pool but have also designed an interactive art exhibition in Stockholm and an exploration program for a science and technology university in Saudi Arabia.
The Worms will take up a life of their own on the Bowery between Houston and Spring streets on May 7.