"Following the 20th anniversary of the Young Architects Program (YAP), MoMA and MoMA PS1 have decided to place the program on a one-year hiatus. We remain deeply committed to supporting and recognizing emerging architectural talent. "We’ve already started to use the hiatus to bring together a diverse group of influential scholars and professionals, experimental architects and designers, and previous YAP winners to assess the program’s impact for the past two decades, explore its potential, and strategically chart its future. We look forward to sharing more news as we move along in this process."MoMA could be moving toward a more durable, longer-term commission in its courtyard to serve its outdoor summer Warm Up music series, performance events, and art book fair, but that's only speculation. The Young Architects Program's origins go back to 1998, a year after the Frederick Fisher-designed renovation enclosed the PS1 entrance courtyard in concrete walls. That year, Vienna-based artist group Gelatin installed a scrappy "environment" in conjunction with PS1's first series of Warm Up summer concerts. Percutaneous Delights was composed of rough compositions of stacked refrigerators, discarded furniture, Po-mo inflatables, a graffitied shipping container, and an array of sprinklers to activate the space with what the P.R. at the time described as a welcoming hang-out for hot summer days. The following year, PS1 inaugurated its gradual absorption into the MoMA collective with a project by Philip Johnson, ever a follower of fashions (even if it led him, at times, in the direction of Nazism), who designed a Dance Pavilion DJ booth for the 1999 summer concerts as the first collaboration between the two institutions. It wasn't until 2000 that MoMA architecture curator Terence Riley formally established the Young Architects Program as an annual invited competition to promote innovative practices. The program was simple: provide shade, seating, and water for Warm Up. The first winner—if anyone can still remember the now 190-plus person office as a young startup—was SHoP Architects, which demonstrated the kind of digitally designed, people-friendly, carefully crafted form-making that would make them the go-to firm for urban development projects that need a warmer public face. The program frequently created opportunities for younger architects to demonstrate conceptual ideas percolating in academia on a small but meaningful scale. Early winners of the competition included Lindy Roy (2001), William Massie (2002), Tom Wiscombe (2003), nARCHITECTS (2004), Hernan Diaz Alonso (2005), and OBRA Architects (2006). Sometimes the projects leaned in the direction of conceptual follies that had less of a service component, and early projects at times demonstrated the limits of digital design as often as its potential. The initial budget was $25,000, later increased to $75,000, though it became common knowledge that most firms would spend more out of their own pockets and lean heavily on interns to build out the ideas. It was not an open competition: MoMA curators and advisors pre-selected a handful of designers and frequently favored well-connected circles from Ivy League schools and well-connected academics. The arc of the program traces a mini-curatorial history of MoMA, from Riley to Tina di Carlo and Peter Christensen, Barry Bergdoll, Andres Lepik, Pedro Gadanho, Sean Anderson, and Stierli, whose influences are reflected in the selections, along with changes in the profession. Little by little, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center became PS1 MoMA, then MoMA PS1. Some of the better-regarded highlights over the years included WORKac's 2008 P.F.1 (Public Farm One), which installed a demonstration urban farm that could survive the barren courtyard environment and created an ascending staircase of planter boxes on top of the gravel-covered space. SO-IL's Pole Dance (2010) engaged the playful possibilities of the program with colorful beach balls, overhead netting, hammocks, misters, and flexible PVC pipes, programmed with dance performances. On the most service-oriented end, Interboro Partners (2011) used their project as a demonstration of how PS1 could engage the surrounding neighborhood, building out the courtyard with a kit-of-parts based on the expressed needs of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and others in the community who they interviewed and donated components to at the end of the summer. Later projects by MOS (afterparty, 2009), Hollwich Kushner (Wendy, 2012), The Living (Hy-Fi, 2014), Andrés Jacque/ Office for Political Innovation (COSMO, 2015), and Jenny Sabin Studio (Lumen, 2017) increasingly verged in the direction of critical grotesques, parametric design, and environmental remediation experiments to varying degrees of success. Through it all, the surrounding neighborhood blew up in an astonishing, if predictable manner, in ascending towers of luxury apartments, demolishing the beloved 5 Pointz graffiti space in the process. If SHoP's origins as a young firm are hard to remember, it's even more difficult to retrieve the imperative that once made PS1 so improbable and ingenious a proposition in the first place—and the Young Architects Program an innocent delight—when its enterprising founder Alanna Heiss somehow convinced the Queens borough president to hand over a closed-down public school to a group of misfits from the SoHo/ Tribeca alternative space scene who proceeded to saw through floors as sculptures. Notably, one of the names that appears as a funder in the first decade of YAP, along with Bloomberg, Agnes Gund, and Isaac Liberman, is none other than real-estate-reality-show-specter-turned-president Donald J. Trump. How a contemporary art center can meaningfully respond to the current situation, if at all, could be a starting point for the continuation of the program or its eventual cancellation, but the Young Architects Program unquestionably pioneered a model of temporary urban pavilion imitated worldwide, activating public spaces that without major capital improvements or altering their historic character remained inhospitable and inflexible for contemporary needs.
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Talk of Twitter
Asbestos outrage turns toward AIA on Twitter
Then the Architecture Lobby, a national nonprofit focused on labor and social issues in the field, responded to Sink's tweet, which provoked an outcry of criticism against the AIA's silence:
This raises the question of professional ethics. #architects are part of the construction industry. I’d like my professional organization @AIANational to weigh in on this proposed change. https://t.co/8vIuB5sQkt— Donna Sink, Architect (@DonnaSinkArch) August 7, 2018
This -- the proposed change, and the @AIANational's silence -- is not okay and we need to speak out.Heart or retweet if you agree! https://t.co/LwvYkvZy0f — The Architecture Lobby (@Arch_Lobby) August 7, 2018
@NCARB@AIANational?#architecture #greenbuildinghttps://t.co/BMPDKOm0hJ — ProgressiveArchitect (@PrgrsvArchitect) August 7, 2018Even the firm Brooks + Scarpa weighed in: According to a tweet, 2019 AIA vice-president/2020 president-elect Jane Frederick, FAIA, has spoken with current 2018 President Carl Elefante via email to discuss the organization's involvement with the discussion on asbestos. The Architect's Newspaper received word from the AIA as of 1 p.m. today that they will be releasing a comment soon. Stay tuned. The EPA is taking public comments on the Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos through this Friday, August 10. At the time of publication, 154 comments have been submitted. Let the EPA know your thoughts here.
How the Obama Presidential Center and a plan by wHY are reviving Chicago's Jackson Park
Few non-buildings have an architectural pedigree that can match Chicago’s Jackson Park. The heavily forested park was originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and initially realized by Burnham and Root for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. As the home to the White City, architects from around the world flocked to the park to witness the spectacle. One anecdote states that Frank Lloyd Wright’s obsession with Japan was started upon seeing the Japanese Ho-o-Den (Phoenix Temple) at the exhibition. In the time since then, the park has gone through phases of purposeful neglect and vandalism. It has only been in recent years that a true concerted effort to improve the park has been initiated. The recent announcement that the park would be the home of the Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects–designed Obama Presidential Center shines a light once again on this often maligned stretch of the lakefront.
Well before the Obama Foundation and the Obamas chose Jackson Park, a small yet determined group had begun to transform it. Project 120 is a not-for-profit started in 2013 with the express goal of revitalizing Chicago’s South Parks. These include Jackson Park, the Midway Plaisance, and Washington park, totaling over 1,000 acres of parkland. Guiding much of the transformation’s design of Jackson Park is New York–based wHY. wHY and Project 120 worked extensively with the surrounding communities of Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore to understand the challenges of building in Chicago parks along the lake. On the same day the location for the Presidential Center was announced, open space advocates Friends of the Parks announced that they would not take legal action to oppose the project in the public park. (A lawsuit by Friends of the Parks was responsible for George Lucas’s decision to move his planned Museum of Narrative Art out of Chicago earlier this year.)
“One thing we realized, unlike many museums or large park projects at this scale, is we knew we couldn’t do it from the client top-down master plan perspective,” Mark Thomann, head of wHY’s landscape workshop, Grounds, said. “It had to be ground up. It had to be a long-term collaborative project.”
wHY’s plans integrate much of Olmsted’s original vision while adding new amenities. The most ambitious of these is a sweeping music pavilion and visitors center in the heart of the park. The first major addition to the park, though, will be a new sculpture by Yoko Ono entitled Sky Landing. The sculpture will be unveiled in October near the Garden of the Phoenix on Wooded Island, the original site of the Columbian Exhibition’s Japanese Garden. The Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes Fishery & Ecosystem Restoration (GLFER) program has also been working to remediate the park’s ecology with native plants and wildlife.
As designs have not been released for the Obama Presidential Center, changes to Project 120 and wHY’s framework plans will develop over the coming months. What the addition of the Presidential Center does mean is a guaranteed interest in one of Chicago’s most striking green spaces— by the city and the public.