on recently completed MOMA/PS1 project by nArchitects. Construction Progress Photos here. Canopy will be open to the public thru Sept 5th. TH,FR,SUN,MON;12 to 6. SAT 12 to 9. $5 donation. For special Sat events -- see www.ps1.org
In Fine Form, Bamboo Shows Off Its Curves
By RAUL A. BARRENECHE
Published: June 24, 2004 NYtimes
ON Monday evening, as the first full day of summer ended with a rosy sunset over Queens, a subdued crowd of architects and curators gathered at the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City for a preview of a bamboo canopy spanning the entry courtyard.
The structure, a delicate grid of arched bamboo poles tied in place with stainless steel wire, cast a filigreed shadow on the gravel-covered ground.
The installation, designed by Mimi Hoang and Eric Bunge of nArchitects, is appropriately titled "Canopy." Their design is the winning entry in the fifth annual MoMA/P.S. 1 Young Architects Program, a competition that turns the P.S. 1 courtyard into an outdoor party space and urban playground for 10 weeks every summer.
If past seasons are any indication, Monday's well-behaved guests, who examined the structure as if it were a delicate museum artifact, will give way to raucous, scantily clad revelers when the courtyard opens to the public at noon on Sunday.
"It's a nearly impossible design problem: a temporary pavilion where 4,000 to 6,000 people can dance safely, even though most of them are drunk," said Alanna Heiss, executive director of P.S. 1.
"Canopy" includes a gentle dune , a knee-deep pool made of bright green foam contoured for half-submerged seating, and a ring of nozzles that spray bystanders with a cool mist. A side courtyard, the "Rain Forest," is shaded by a grove of live bamboo and filled with the sounds of recorded chirps and whistles.
The Museum of Modern Art and P.S. 1 started the competition in 2000 to help young architects showcase their work. Past winners include Tom Wiscombe, William E. Massie and SHoP/Sharples Holden Pasquarelli.
For Ms. Hoang, 32, and Mr. Bunge, 37, the commission was a chance to build their largest project yet. Their previous work has consisted of apartment renovations and gallery installations.
Working with a budget of $60,000, Mr. Bunge and Ms. Hoang set out to create their installation with a single natural material. They chose bamboo because it is lightweight but strong and will change color from green to golden yellow as it dries over the summer.
"It's more about shadows than shade," Mr. Bunge said. "We wanted to create a canopy with a single, but different, material. We thought about the word itself: a forest canopy, a cloud canopy."
But making the bamboo cooperate with their design proved unexpectedly difficult.
"There are no books on how to build with fresh green bamboo at this scale," Mr. Bunge said.
The architects' initial design had much tighter curves than the gentle arcs they eventually built.
"They were expecting the bamboo to bend more than is actually possible," said David B. Flanagan, owner of Bamboo Fencer Inc., a supply company based in Jamaica Plain, Mass., who advised the designers. "The idea that it's a flexible material is a bit misleading, even though they make fishing poles out of it."
Ms. Hoang, Mr. Bunge and a team of 15 architecture students, recent graduates and employees built the structure by trial and error. (A dozen friends volunteered on weekends.) The original 1,100 poles were stripped of leaves and branches and cut in a single week so they would arrive fresh and still easily bendable. The architects had to order an additional 300 poles to replace the ones that cracked without warning, and to expand the canopy and make some sections denser.
Ms. Hoang and Mr. Bunge stored the poles under weatherproof tarps and hosed them down twice a day to keep them pliable. They sprayed the canopy at least once a day until every one of the roughly 1,300 poles was tapped into its final, carefully calculated position.
Maneuvering the poles into the right spot often involved a gentle whack with what Ms. Hoang calls "the world's largest Q-Tip," a bamboo pole with one end wrapped in a wad of cotton cloth.
The combination of high and low technology â€” a complex structure engineered on the computer but built with jury-rigged tools from a simple natural material â€” is part of what impressed the competition jurors.
"Every year I keep thinking we won't find a winning scheme," said Terence Riley, chief architecture and design curator at the Museum of Modern Art and one of five jurors. "Maybe we're being pessimists, but how many different ways can you do this courtyard?"
Ms. Hoang and Mr. Bunge said they had a leg up on the competition because they had been part of the crowd almost every year since the installations started. "We were familiar with the program and had a lot of time to think about how to use the space," Mr. Bunge said.
This summer, they are defining the scene, not just basking in it.