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Hy-Fi by The Living wins MoMA’s annual Young Architects Program


June 27, 2014
by Canadian Architect

The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 have announced The Living (David Benjamin) as the winner of the annual Young Architects Program (YAP) in New York. Now in its 15th edition, the Young Architects Program at MoMA and MoMA PS1 has been committed to offering emerging architectural talent the opportunity to design and present innovative projects, challenging each year’s winners to develop creative designs for a temporary outdoor installation at MoMA PS1 that provides shade, seating and water. The architects must also work within guidelines that address environmental issues, including sustainability and recycling. The Living, drawn from among five finalists, will design a temporary urban landscape for the 2014 Warm Up summer music series in MoMA PS1’s outdoor courtyard.

The winning project, Hy-Fi, opened at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City in late June. Using biological technologies combined with cutting-edge computation and engineering to create new building materials, The Living uses a new method of biodesign, resulting in a structure that is 100% organic material. The structure temporarily diverts the natural carbon cycle to produce a building that grows out of nothing but earth and returns to nothing but earth—with almost no waste, no energy needs, and no carbon emissions. This approach offers a new vision for society’s approach to physical objects and the built environment. It also offers a new definition of local materials, and a direct relationship to New York State agriculture and innovation culture, New York City artists and non-profits, and Queens community gardens. 

Hy-Fi is a circular tower of organic and reflective bricks, which were designed to combine the unique properties of two new materials. The organic bricks are produced through an innovative combination of corn stalks (that otherwise have no value) and specially developed living root structures, brought to the project through Ecovative, an innovative company that The Living is collaborating with. The reflective bricks are produced through the custom-forming of a new daylighting mirror film invented by 3M. The reflective bricks are used as growing trays for the organic bricks, and then they are incorporated into the final construction before being shipped back to 3M for use in further research. The organic bricks are arranged at the bottom of the structure and the reflective bricks are arranged at the top to bounce light down on the towers and the ground. The structure inverts the logic of load-bearing brick construction and creates a gravity-defying effect—instead of being thick and dense at the bottom, it is thin and porous at the bottom.

The structure is calibrated to create a cool micro-climate in the summer by drawing in cool air at the bottom and pushing out hot air at the top. Hy-Fi creates mesmerizing light effects on its interior walls through reflected caustic patterns, and offers a familiar—yet completely new—structure in the context of the glass towers of the New York City skyline and the brick construction of the MoMA PS1 building. Overall, the structure offers shade, colour, light, views, and a future-oriented experience that is designed to be refreshing, thought-provoking, and full of wonder and optimism.

“This year’s YAP winning project bears no small feat. It is the first sizable structure to claim near-zero carbon emissions in its construction process and, beyond recycling, it presents itself as being 100% compostable,” said Pedro Gadanho, Curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design. “Recurring to the latest developments in biotech, it reinvents the most basic component of architecture—the brick—as both a material of the future and a classic trigger for open-ended design possibilities. At MoMA PS1, The Living’s project will be showcased as a sensuous primeval background for the Warm-Up sessions; the ideas and research behind it, however, will live on to fulfill ever new uses and purposes.”

Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA PS1 Director and MoMA Chief Curator at Large, adds, “After dedicating the whole building and satellite programs of MoMA PS1 to ecological awareness and climate change last year with EXPO 1: New York, we continue in 2014 with Hy-Fi, a nearly zero carbon footprint construction by The Living.”

The other finalists for this year’s MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program were Collective-LOK (Jon Lott, William O’Brien Jr., and Michael Kubo), LAMAS (Wei-Han Vivian Lee and James Macgillivray), Pita + Bloom (Florencia Pita and Jackilin Hah Bloom), and Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (Cristina Goberna and Urtzi Grau). An exhibition of the five finalists’ proposed projects will be on view at MoMA over the summer.

For more information, please visit http://momaps1.org/yap/view/17.


hy-fi by the living
hy-fi by the living


Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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