P.S.1 YAP 2011 entry: “Bag Pile” by FormlessFinder

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As we reported last week, Interboro Partners’ “Holding Pattern” was selected as the winner of the 2011 YAP organized by the MoMA and the MoMA P.S.1. As usual, and in order to extend the debate, we are presenting you the running entries.

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We present you “Bag Pile” by NY-based firm FormlessFinder. The proposal is based on a series of arches constructed by filling geo textile tubes with gravel and sand at the botton, and recycled foam piles at the top. The heavy elements at the bottom secure the arches, while providing thermal mass to cool down the yard. FormlessFinder’s approach is very different from past installations, on which “temporary” is translated into lightweight elements.

More about Bag Pile after the break:

© FormlessFinder
© FormlessFinder

PS1 pavilions are usually light. This is because they are temporary, and until now temporary architecture has been equated with lightweight construction. But lightweight structures often miss opportunities – they are limited primarily to canopy types, lacking a meaningful connection to the ground or a real sense of interiority and enclosure. Worst of all, canopies provide only one type of space: an undifferentiated field. Being under one part of a canopy is rarely significantly different from being under any other part. formlessfinder instead seeks to provide a much richer – and more architectural – variety of experience through an intervention that is both temporary and massive.

© FormlessFinder
© FormlessFinder
© FormlessFinder

This combination becomes possible only when matter is left unfixed. Nothing is wasted when material is understood as part of a continuous cycle rather than as a raw resource to be fixed into architectural form. Bag Pile uses a palette of geotextile containers, products developed to control erosion and shifting material at a vast scale, in combination with heavy (gravel, sand) and light (recycled foam) fills to pack the PS1 courtyard with a tangle of columns, arches, and vaults. These elements are formed by combining heavy and light according to a simple structural principle – lightweight fill is used in overhead spans and tall vertical elements, which are always anchored to the ground and secured against wind loads through a ballast of heavy fill. Shipping and material costs are kept to a minimum not only by using industrial materials typically deployed at a much larger scale than that of the courtyard, but by sourcing materials locally – the heaviest material comes from less than a mile and a half from the site. Demolition costs are more or less eliminated by finding destinations in advance for all materials to be recycled and repurposed. In this way, secondary materials – typically hidden from view in infrastructure and landscape projects – become primary.

There are a number of performative benefits of bringing so much mass to the site. The first is a significant thermal mass cooling effect. The gravel-filled columns and footings cool down each night, following diurnal temperature swings. Their large mass, combined with carefully arranged self-shading, causes them to heat slowly during the day, keeping the interior spaces of Bag Pile significantly cooler than ambient daytime temperatures. The mass also provides an acoustic benefit. In contrast to a lightweight structure, which typically allows sound to travel through unaffected, Bag Pile’s large elements have been carefully arranged to maximize reflection, absorption, and dispersal of sound, creating varied pockets of sound and an array of listening experiences. These inherent acoustic properties are augmented by an acoustic installation incorporated into the structure. At key moments, Bag Pile’s elements are miked and amplified, creating a kind of soundtrack that highlights the fluid, formless nature of the project: foam creaks as it shifts in the wind, gravel settles into or spills out of its geotextile containers, water drips at the pool’s ragged edge. The acoustic installation also underscores the project’s tactile dimensions. It has been designed to engage visitors’ bodies as much as their eyes, and many of the miked elements are moments that particularly encourage bodily interaction, from movable furniture to sponge bag water features to tangles of foam-filled columns so dense that visitors must force their way through.

© FormlessFinder
© FormlessFinder

The result is not only a transformation of the courtyard but a true differentiation of space. Bag pile provides an opportunity for visitors to lose the courtyard and immerse themselves in a new world, exploring spaces that range from large collective interiors designed specifically for the Warm Up events to small, intimate spaces perfect for individual occupation on a summer day. And because these spaces are crated with lose materials, the project remains dynamic, never fixed into a final form. Bag Pile thus offers not only a depth and variety of experience not yet seen in the PS1 YAP but a radically new understanding of the relationship between architectural space, material, and form.

© FormlessFinder
© FormlessFinder
© FormlessFinder

formlessfinder team:
Garrett Ricciardi (principal), Julian Rose (principal), Laura Britton, Tei Carpenter, Justin Doro, Nathan de Graff, Leo Henke, John Houser, Woo Hyun Lee, Eduardo Marques, Andrew Ostrowitz, Lindsay Ross, and Philip Tidwell

Consultants:
Nat Oppenheimer / Robert Silman Assoc. (Structural Engineer), Raj Patel / ARUP Acoustics (Acoustic Engineer), Mahadev Raman and David Jones / ARUP Mechanical (Mechanical Engineer)

Product Specialists:
John at ACF Environmental, Steve and Mike at at Allocco Recycling Company, Tracey at B.A.G. Corporation, Jeff at Build it Green! NYC, Greg and Keey at EPS Foam Control, Mitch at Foam Pack Industries, Tom at New York Sand and Stone, and Rand,Lauris and Mark at Propex.

Cite: Basulto, David. "P.S.1 YAP 2011 entry: “Bag Pile” by FormlessFinder" 25 Feb 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 Oct 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=115475>
  • Rembo

    It’s an interesting proposal – at least conceptually. Trying to resist the canopy typology that the YAP seems to have latched onto in recent years is a refreshing gesture. Incidentally that gesture seems to have backfired, as the winner’s scheme is the most canopy of them all. Perhaps the problem with this scheme, and the reason why it didn’t succeed, is that aside from the canopy argument it is far too safe. Here we still have the predictable elements – local resourcing, lightweight materials, energy conservation & micro-climates. These have become the requisite benchmarks of almost every YAP scheme. It would be interesting to see how a scheme would fare if it was truly more daring, abandoning the predictable trends (or at least backgrounding them) and replacing them with new concepts for the development of new proposals. The best of these would not only push the YAP to work with different typologies (not just canopies) but also to revise the program of the Warm-Up event itself, which seems to have bled the YAP dry of its architectural, programmatic & typological potentials.

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