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06.20.2011
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This year's PS1 designers create ties to the community.
Courtesy Interboro Partners

The latest PS1 installation that opened on June 16 as part of MoMA’s Young Architects Program aims at being the 11-year-old program’s most holistic design to date. This year’s winner, Brooklyn-based Interboro Partners, is presenting Holding Pattern. Offering a simple response to the PS1 brief to provide shade, seating, and a water feature inside the parameter of the 16,000-square-foot site in Long Island City, the project also serves a wider social purpose and, unlike its predecessors, makes a direct link between the site and its surrounding neighborhood. “We wanted to make matches between things and people; between the neighborhood and MoMA,” said Dan D’Oca, one of Interboro’s three principles, along with Georgeen Thodore and Tobias Armborst.


 
 

Addressing the project’s primary concern for shelter, Interboro designed a low-cost rope canopy. In response to the awkwardly shaped polygonal space, the canopy is strung between the courtyard walls to form a hyperboloid, which is then covered with white netting. In order to free up as much space as possible to accommodate the annual Warm Up music series—not to mention the sprawling summer bashes—held at the site, the team attached the canopy ropes to existing holes in one wall at Jackson Avenue, then weaved these through hooks attached to platforms atop the opposite parapet. This column-free roof system also reduced the installation’s impact on the courtyard buildings. Even the weight of the platforms, secured by CMU blocks, was calculated according to the parapet’s snow-load capacity.


The most innovative aspect of the design process, however, is Interboro’s community-driven approach. In the run-up to the competition, the designers took to the streets and asked locals what they needed that could be designed and also used in the installation. “When we initially presented the idea we had only spoken to ten people in the neighborhood,” said D’Oca. “Now we have spoken to 200.” The answers were varied and the survey results included trees, benches, and a lifeguard tower (the outcome of a dialogue with a man who runs the local Variety Girl’s and Boy’s Club revealed plans to expand its swimming pool). The site then took on the role of a holding space for the furniture and plants that will be distributed to the local community once the series ends on September 26.


 

Though eclectic, the furniture has been designed to form part of a family of objects using the same marine-grade plywood. In keeping with the project’s explicitly playful notions of temporality, the furniture is a mix of mobile and fixed pieces, which allows users to determine how the courtyard feels and looks. One of the most popular communal demands was for more trees. In response, Interboro is filling an entire outdoor room with 60 oak trees, donated by the New York Restoration Project that will also later be planted around the neighborhood.

By interpreting the notion of recyclable products in terms of demand and reappropriation, Interboro’s simple and sustainable approach to design refocuses the main event to the community. “People knew about it, but had never been here,” said D’Oca of the PS1 site. “Maybe now at the very least they’ll know it’s an inviting place. They’ll come and see all the amazing art.”

Gwen Webber