When David Benjamin's design was selected for the 2014 edition of MoMA PS1's annual summer series, the Young Architects Program, it addressed a problem that was consistently noted but never solved in previous events: the sweltering heat event attendees suffered from while trying to enjoy concerts at the outdoor venue. With that in mind, the co-founder of New York-based firm The Living came up with Hy-Fi, a structure made of three brick towers conjoining at the top, creating both shade and cooling breezes with stack-effect ventilation.
But the most enthralling part of this project was actually the components used to make the towers. The towers were made of two different types of bricks, one being composed of a thermoformed multi-layer optical film to repel sunlight, and the other made of corn stalk and living mycelium roots. MoMA department of architecture and design senior curator Paola Antonelli and curatorial assistant Michelle Millar Fisher deemed the latter of the two a qualifier of contemporary design for the new exhibition, This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments For the Common Good, which will run through Jan. 31, 2016.
The exhibition title is derived from a tweet sent out by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, during the London Olympic Games in 2012 which illuminated the stadium with a light installation reading “This Is For Everyone,” consequently dubbing the summer sport event the first “social media games.” Playing with this idea, Antonelli and Millar Fisher draw a parallel between the assumed intention of the internet and design—that they are for everyone. But there are obvious gaps in this notion, the most obvious being that only about 40 percent of the world has access to the internet.
But the work from Benjamin—who is the director of Living Architecture Lab, a program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP)—anticipates problems for the future with his neutral impact designs that merge architecture and biology. His work doesn't just include building methods, where one could mimic the shape in architecture from biology, but integrating bio-engineered systems, such as a bioplastic seating made out renewable sugar. Although his concentration in architecture is considered some of the most experimental in the field, integrating synthetic biology into realized structures is something he believes isn’t all that different from what we already experience.
“It’s the kind of thing that will seem far away up until the moment that it’s proven, and then will rapidly become widely accepted,” he told ARCHITECT back in May. “It isn’t quite happening yet, but it’s like half a step away.”
Acknowledging this disparity in accessibility, the exhibition opens up with the display of the Berners-Lee's statement, but later converts it to the question, “Is This for Everyone?”—and back again by the end of the exhibition. Attendees will be invited to question the newly acquired pieces of this exhibition (Susan Kare’s graphic designs for Macintosh's original pixel icons and Formafantasma’s Botanica series of cermaics were also added), and whether they anticipate needs, problems, or conditions we face. The answer, according to MoMA, is yes—if not now, then in the not-too-distant future.
This article has been updated since its publication date.