The New York Times today takes a look at Work Architecture Company's Public Farm 1, this year's winner of the Young Architects Program at the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens.
Where sightseers once splashed about in silly algorithmic frotteurism, they will be treated this summer to an $85,000 community garden, whose “rural delights” will probably not go to supplement the nutritional needs of the disenfranchised but rather will go to make bloody marys and beer for architecture students.
Spatially, the scheme submitted by architects Dan Wood and Amale Andraos will involve “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 all sounds a bit too much, but then again, that's a good thing. We like messy public spaces.
Conceptually, the husband-and-wife duo are mining familiar territory. Industrialization/pre-industrialization, globalism/regionalism, fast food/slow food, urban/rural and landscape/architecture have all been well-dichotomized before.
Quoting the architects from their website:
Urban Farm [is] a magical plot of rural delights inserted within the city grid that resonates with our generations' preoccupations and hopes for a better and different future. In our post-industrial age of information, customization and individual expression, the most exciting and promising developments are no longer those of mass production but of local interventions. As cities have finally proven their superiority to their suburban counterparts – in everything from quality of life to environmental impact - they should again become our much needed laboratories of experimentation: opening our minds and senses towards better living with each other and the world.
Channeling the last utopian architectural projects about the City that examined its potential, represented its promises of liberation, and captured its pleasures –from Superstudio's continuous monument to Koolhaas's Exodus– Public Farm 1 (PF1) is an architectural and urban manifesto to engage play and reinvent our cities, and our world, once more.
One wonders here if they are familiar with Wheatfield by Agnes Denes?
In any case, according to the chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, “it’s just so unlike anything that’s been done before. It’s the first one that’s not canopies or party spaces. In some ways it’s almost in counterpoint to the program.”
Indeed, earlier installations were merely xeroxes of fixed images orchestrated beforehand with a computer program, apolitical bores whose range of interactivity were laughably limited. Though the current proposal involves a canopy-like structure, the total program will largely depend on continually shifting, real-time conditions. Rather than to a prescribed set of formulas, the space will be finely attuned to the weather, pollution, the disintegration rate of materials and uncertainty.
Dan Wood nicely summarizes their strategy: “We’re not sure what’s going to grow.”
And if this “rural oasis” becomes a wasteland due to climate change, a Category 5 hurricane or the deficient gardening skills of the architects, the project will not necessarily be a failure.
It'll be an awesome project.
Wheatfield by Agnes Denes