We don't post too often about the work we do on this blog (we post about it on our main website), but we would like to take some time to tell you about a project we did for MoMA PS1 this past summer called Holding Pattern. We like to think of it as a project about inclusion.
First, some background: every year, MoMA PS1 commissions an architecture firm to design and build a setting for big, Saturday afternoon parties called “Warm Ups” that are held in MoMA PS1’s courtyard. The program is: provide seating and shade for the roughly 6,000 visitors who visit the Warm Up every Saturday between June and September. The budget is small, and you have to build everything yourself in 4 months.
When we first started to think about what to design, we thought about two things: First: what happens to the stuff from a project after the project is over? Does it get thrown out? Could we design and build something that could be put it to a different use once the party is over? Second: PS1 is located in the borough of Queens, the most diverse, vibrant, and exciting part of New York City. And while MoMA PS1 is a great, community-friendly institution, in some ways, it can seem a little insulated from the great stuff on the other side of the 16-foot tall concrete walls that surround its courtyard. Look at the view from Checker Management, a taxi stand across the street:
Might there be a way to undermine this wall?
We spent a lot of time in the neighborhood, talking to people. The first person we talked to was the owner of Checker Taxi Management, Mike. To make the wait between taxi shifts a little nicer, Mike built a small, impromptu plaza with plastic chairs and tables, a shade awning, and a few planters. Here drivers sit, talk, play board games and drink coffee. We thought this was an interesting space and it suggested to us that the Warm Up’s PS1s programmatic requirements—seating, shade, and a water feature—sometimes overlap with the needs of the Warm Up’s neighbors.
This gave us an idea for a kind of radical recycling that tries to strengthen MoMA PS1’s ties to the neighborhood by matching Warm Up’s programmatic needs with the needs of its neighbors. We went around the neighborhood, and asked every business we found the following question: is there something you need that we could design, use in the courtyard during the Warm Up, then donate in the fall, once the Warm Up is over?
Now that the Fall has come and gone, we can look back at the process:
With this approach, we radically expanded our client group, from one client (the museum) to fifty clients, from the LIC School of Ballet to 5pointz Aerosol Art Center, to the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens. Holding Pattern operates like an urban design project, developing an environment that responds to multiple, very different and sometimes changing desires (something that a fixed piece of architecture could never do).
The project then became something effectively designed by people in the neighborhood. We hoped that by doing this, we could help strengthen the ties between MoMA PS1 and Long Island City. Towards this goal, we also also invited neighborhood institutions to make use of MoMA PS1’s courtyard for programs of their own making. These included B-Boy Workshops with 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Ballet Workshops with LIC School of Ballet, Readings with the Queens Library, Qulit-making Workshops with New York Irish Center, Bike Maintenance Workshops with Recycle-A-Bicycle and more. It was great to see people in the neighborhood take ownership of MoMA PS1 in this way:
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