Betting a Farm Would Work in Queens
leido en NYTIMES
One can only imagine how the judges reacted when the architects walked in lugging the kind of hulking concrete-pouring cardboard tubes used at construction sites filled with flowering heads of cabbage.
The proposal by Dan Wood and Amale Andraos, the husband-and-wife duo behind Work Architecture, was clearly a departure from previous design proposals to transform the courtyard of the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, Queens for a summer. But the urban farm concept — including an abundance of fresh produce and a genuine harvesting plan — was apparently just too darn offbeat to pass up.
“It’s just so unlike anything that’s been done before,” said Barry Bergdoll, the chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, which jointly sponsors the annual Young Architects Program with P.S. 1. “It’s the first one that’s not canopies or party spaces. In some ways it’s almost in counterpoint to the program.”
The seven-year-old competition calls for creating an outdoor social space for dancing and drinking in the summer months. Ms. Andraos and Mr. Wood were chosen over four other finalists, all of them based in New York: Matter Architecture Practice; su11 architecture & design; Them; and Monad Architects, which also has an office in Miami.
The Work team’s presentation — which included Mr. Wood’s donning of a pouffy green gardening skirt with specially designed pockets for his trowel and gardening gloves — made an impression.
“The two of them looked like stock actors from the background of a Mozart troupe where they needed some rustic peasants,” Mr. Bergdoll said.
On Tuesday at Work’s East Village offices, Ms. Andraos, 34, and Mr. Wood, 40, and their staff raised a glass of Champagne to celebrate their winning design for a rural oasis in Queens. Mr. Wood described the project as “kind of a folded farm with a pool carved out of the middle.”
“We’re interested in the surrealistic object,” he explained.
Yet the architects’ creative process started with the more traditional P.S. 1 courtyard concept of an urban beach, focusing on themes like the striped bathing costumes of a 1928 photograph called “La Plage.” They moved from there to contemplating “Sous les pavés, la plage” (roughly, “under the paving stones, a better life”), a slogan dating from the 1968 student riots in Paris. Finally they arrived at the notion of “Sur les paves la ferme,” meaning, “Over the pavement, the farm.”
“We wanted to find what our generation’s symbol would be,” Ms. Andraos said, “embodying our preoccupations, our hopes for the world.”
In working out their design, the architects also kept in mind the movement from industrialization to postindustrialization, from global to local, from the free market to the farmer’s market, and from sand to hay.
“This is one of those designs that is both a homage to and a critique of the architecture of the ’60s and ’70s,” said Glenn D. Lowry, director of MoMA. “But it also has a playful and whimsical dimension.”
To organize the space they chose the heavy cardboard tubes — the largest is a yard in height, and in diameter — in part because of the shadows they would cast and because of their resilience. Columns will be bolted together to form a span that rises on either side of a pool like a large V.
Each tube will play its own role. Some will contain plantings on dirt shelves equipped with liner bags to prevent leakage.
There is a fabric tube that people can enter through a curtain “where you can hide from the party, if you’ve had enough,” Ms. Andraos said.
There will be two sound columns — one that plays farm sounds when you sit down, another in which you can look upward, see stars and hear crickets. There is a phone-charging column, a children’s grotto of columns with swings, an herb-growing column with circulating fans dispersing scents like basil or lavender, and a juicer column where fresh juice will be made and sold.
“It kind of hits a tenor of the times,” Mr. Bergdoll said. “It’s both a real and humorous response to sustainability.”
The architects also threw in a stand-alone bundle of spiraling columns that they refer to as “a mini Tatlin’s Tower,” a tribute to a Constructivist building envisioned by the Russian architect Vladimir Tatlin for Petrograd that was conceived after the 1917 Revolution but was never built.
“For us it’s an opportunity to create an exciting structure,” Ms. Andraos said of the project, “but also to talk about issues and ideas — to be engaged with the world.”
The couple met in 1998, when Mr. Wood was working at the Rotterdam headquarters of the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas; Ms. Andraos took a job there a year later. They started their firm in 2002, and their projects include the recently completed new headquarters for Diane von Furstenberg in Manhattan’s meatpacking district. The architects are also working on the master plan for the BAM Cultural District in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
As is typically the case with such projects, the architects will have to scale back their vision. They have imagined growing everything from mint to peas, fennel and pumpkins. Mr. Wood said he hoped to grow fresh tomatoes for bloody marys “and barley and hops, so we can make P.S. 1 beer by October.”
The ultimate result, of course, is likely to be more modest. The project budget is $85,000, although the architects said they hope to raise $60,000 more in funds and in-kind donations of materials to cover additional costs.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the plant palate changes a bit,” Mr. Bergdoll said. “But its conceptual infrastructure is so strong — it’s such a radical and on some level outlandish idea — that these modifications don’t fundamentally change it.”
The architects said they had consulted with the Horticultural Society of New York and with the Queens Botanical Garden and were open to adjusting their plans. “We’re talking about combining it with a real farmer’s market,” Mr. Wood said. “We’re not sure what’s going to grow.”
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