For more than a decade, the annual MoMA/P.S.1 Young Architects Program has challenged emerging architecture firms to temporarily remake the P.S.1 courtyard within strict limits of time and budget, serving as a kind of stress-test of the state of contemporary architectural practice. The issues of our time call for a renewed excitement about the joys of lightness, precision and efficiency. PSi: Summer Blow Up transforms the environment of the existing courtyard using an absolute economy of physical material: less material deployed means less mass transported to the site, less material discarded at the end of the summer, and a minimum of resources consumed in the processes of manufacturing, fabrication and removal.
Beginning with the ideal of a cloud, the lightest and most economical source of summer shade, PSi uses air as a structural medium to inflate and suspend diaphanous volumes of ultra-lightweight fabric over the concrete and gravel courtyard. The geometric form of the torus, a perfectly efficient pneumatic shape, provides the basic unit that is repeated, interlinked and modulated to form a hovering cloud.
As with a true cloud, microclimates of shade and sun; humidity and dryness are created. Patterns of overlapping shadows animate the hard surfaces of the courtyard, providing respite from the sun on a hot day while apertures in the centers of the translucent toruses, like gaps in passing clouds, frame views of the sky above. Widely varying in size and height, the toruses are subtly deformed by internal pressure in response to the various activities of the shady space below: reclining, splashing, sunbathing, chatting. Concealed strips of clear material sewn into the fabric activate the glowing volumes of the inflatable with slowly moving arcs of sunlight. As the afternoon stretches into evening, and the sun lowers over the city, the cloud glows, bathing partygoers in a soft light.
The torus clouds touch down with seven inflated legs which modulate and subdivide the space and experience of the courtyard. As one walks through, views alternately open and close; the space is impossible to fully understand from any single position. PSi can be prefabricated offsite and installed in a matter of hours. In its entirety, the material and equipment necessary for the installation will weigh less than one ton and amount to a single load on a pickup truck. For the duration of the installation the small amount of energy necessary to power the fans will be offset by electricity generated by air, in the form of wind, at a site in upstate New York. Finally, in a departure from past installations, the project is designed to be easily redeployable, and will have a life beyond its first summer at P.S.1.
Finalist, 2009 MoMA/P.S.1 Young Architects Program Competition
PROJECT TEAM: Timothy Bade, Jane Stageberg, Martin Cox, Andrew Skey, Caoimhín Conway, Eleni Petaloti, Leonidas Trampoukis, Laura Messier, Erin Bartling
Inflate, Inflatable Engineering
Renfro Design Group, Lighting Consultant
Steven Winter Associates, Sustainability Consultant
Dan Euser Water Architecture, Water Feature