For eight summers in New York, emerging architects have transformed a courtyard at the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, the Long Island City–based affiliate of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), into a refuge for mu seumgoers. This year, WORK Architecture has won the Young Architects Program commission by promising to turn the site into a biodegradable victory garden for the green generation. “We were looking for a symbol for our generation,” says Amale Andraos, principal with husband and partner Dan Wood of the Manhattan firm.
Their whimsical but functional proposal —called PF1, for Public Farm One—shifts the summer design paradigm from idyllic urban beach to aerial farmer's market. The architects plan to construct a giant honeycombed plane of cardboard construction tubes and plant them with a market basket of tomatoes, basil, peas, and beans. The bolted structure will ascend from an azure wading pool like a giant V. While visitors cavort beneath twining watermelon vines, solar panels set among the herbs will provide energy for lighting. Supporting columns will contain a cell phone charging station, a juice bar, an herb dispenser, and sound pods—one to experience nighttime noises, the other for farmyard sounds.
Renderings reveal a grid of hexagons worthy of Buckminster Fuller, with red for strawberries and orange for nasturtiums. Empty tubes in the center of each pod cast shadows while giving farmers access to each garden pod. Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of architecture at MoMA, admits the competition hasn't seen anything as imaginative as this proposal before. He calls the project, scheduled to open on June 26, “a timely comment on issues from postindustrialization to sustainability. Here, the productive garden meets the art gallery.”
The architects attribute their inspiration to Superstudio and May 1968, the Paris cultural revolution 40 years ago for which the mantra “Under the paving stones, a better life” (“Sous les pavés, la plage”) has been tweaked into “Above the stones, the farm.” They are trying to channel the energy of a generation more attuned to sustainability than to suburbia. “We always try to approach things in a big way, with bigger ideas than the project itself,” says Andraos. “It's not just about architecture, but about culture in general.”