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P.S.1 Goes Organic with WORK's Public Farm 1

February 13, 2008

By John Gendall

If ever a head of cabbage could be heroic, it may just have that opportunity this summer, in Queens, New York. The Museum of Modern Art and its affiliate, P.S.1, have announced the winner of their ninth annual Young Architects Program. The honor went to the New York City-based WORK Architecture Company for its scheme “Public Farm 1,” which proposes planting a garden of cabbage and a range of other vegetables, fruits, and herbs in the outdoor courtyards at P.S.1.

P.S.1
P.S.1
P.S.1

Images courtesy Museum of Modern Art

For its summertime Young Architects Program installation, P.S. 1 has selected “Public Farm 1,” a scheme by WORK Architecture Company that calls for creating a raised garden in the museum’s courtyards (top). Durable cardboard cylinders, bolted together, will form the garden’s structure and contain the plants (middle). A juicing station, cell phone charging area, and children’s play spot will be located underneath the garden (above).

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Although the design calls for a productive food garden, this will not be your standard back-yard set-up: Public Farm 1 will soar to 30 feet above the ground. The contemporary art museum has two adjacent courtyards, each enclosed by 20-foot high concrete walls. Dropped into the larger courtyard, the garden’s folded plane will form a V-shape whose two raised wings shade the spaces below. The larger wing will perch itself on the concrete wall and reach over the adjacent courtyard, providing a roof for what the architects dub the “Funderneath” side, adding an unexpected flying garden to the skyline. Columns supporting the overhead garden will delineate different programs, among them a juicing station and cell phone charging area. A “Kid’s Grotto” will be located under the smaller wing and a small wading pool is planned for the point where garden and ground converge.

The architects will create the installation’s structure by bolting together sections of durable cardboard cylinders. Collectively, like a honeycomb platter, these cylinders will form a massive folded plane. Each cylinder will hold a certain plant. WORK hopes to create a pattern whereby six tubes of the same plant will encircle one empty cylinder. This pattern will heighten the visual impact and allow crews to ascend into the garden to tend it through the open spaces. Custom-designed aprons will help gardeners gather the harvest, which will be sold at a farmer’s market accompanying the installation.

Previous Young Architect projects have explored materials and methods of fabrication, but this one carries the potential to engage the community in a conversation beyond architecture. “Already, there has been a lot of response from the community—from the New York Horticultural Society, the Queens Botanical Garden, an agricultural high school, and the Mayor’s Office—about ways of getting involved with the farm,” says WORK principal Dan Wood.

WORK, a 2006 RECORD Vanguard firm, will unveil its installation on June 28, and will pack it up once the harvest is finished, sometime in the fall. The P.S.1 program provides architects with a $70,000 budget and asks them to include three elements in their designs: seating, water, and shade. Previous winners include SHoP, ROY, and nARCHITECTS. This year, other finalists included Matter Architecture Practice, MONAD, su11 architecture + design, and THEM/Lynch+Crembil.

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