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WORK Plants an Urban Farm in Queens

July 2, 2008

By John Gendall

P.S. 1
P.S. 1
P.S. 1
Photos courtesy Elizabeth Felicella Photography
WORK Architecture Company recently completed its “Public Farm 1” installation at P.S.1, a contemporary art museum in Queens. Herbs and vegetables grown in the cardboard cylinders will be sold at a weekly farmer’s market.
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The cabbage has sprouted. The tomatoes are doing well. The farm in Queens is officially up and running. WORK Architecture Company, a New York-based firm, recently completed its installation at P.S.1, transforming the contemporary art museum’s two adjoining courtyards into a community agricultural project—and an imaginative architectural composition. This Saturday, July 5, the installation will become one of New York City’s hottest summer party venues, as the museum kicks off its “Warm Up” music series, hosted every Saturday in the courtyard through September 6.

WORK was the winner of this year’s Young Architects Program, sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art and its Queens affiliate, P.S.1. For nine years, the invited competition has allowed a young firm to design a temporary installation for the P.S.1 courtyards. With a design brief that stipulates only the provision of seating, shade and water, many of the winning teams have explored form, material or methods of fabrication. Previous installations include a bamboo canopy (nARCHITECTS), a dunescape/urban beach (SHoP), and a carnivalesque mylar tent (Ball-Nogues). The projects have been fairly innovative, but with the program approaching its tenth year, the hushed question has arisen: how many times could emerging architects explore materials and form before the program lost its edge?

WORK, however, has succeeded in keeping it fresh. The firm, a 2006 RECORD Vanguard winner, delivered a clever installation that moves beyond the museum’s wall both in form and spirit. "Public Farm 1," as the project is called, is articulated as a folded plane, made with durable cardboard tubes that are bolted together to create a grid of cylinders filled with soil and plants. The smaller wing of this folded plane forms a canopy over a children’s area. The larger wing, which reaches 35 feet in height, extends beyond the wall of the main courtyard and is visible from the surrounding neighborhood.

In designing and constructing the project, WORK collaborated closely with structural engineer Dan Sesil of LERA, and artist Art Domantay, along with Michael Grady Robertson of the Queens County Farm Museum. Volunteers will harvest Public Farm 1 throughout the summer, selling its herbs and vegetables in a weekly farmer's market at the museum.

The firm beat out Matter Architecture Practice, MONAD, su11 architecture + design, and THEM/Lynch+Crembil for the commission. Andres Lepik, MoMA’s architecture and design curator, is organizing an exhibition presenting the submissions of all five finalists. The exhibition will be on view July 15 through October 20 at MoMA’s main branch in Manhattan. For information, visit http://www.ps1.org/ps1_site/.

 

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