How Cab Drivers and Senior Day Care Centers helped Interboro win the 2011 YAP

A cartoon rendering of the project

Interboro Partnership is the 12th winner of the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program. What this means is that Interboro has won the competition to add some shade, water and seating to the PS1 courtyard this summer with their project Holding Pattern. As winners, Interboro joins folks who have previously won the title, including MOS, Ball-Nogues Studio, and SO-IL. Oddly enough, a 93-year-old Philip Johnson was selected for the title in 1999, which was almost 70 years after Philip Johnson founded MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design in 1932, but that’s beside the point.

Initially, it’s hard to tell what’s going on with Holding Pattern. I’m a big fan of the “Schoolhouse Rock!” rendering, but along with the other representations of the project, there’s not immediate clarity about how visitors will interact with whatever it is that will be installed in the courtyard this summer. So what else will be installed there besides some big, swoopy shade structure? Answer: a whole host of things; for instance “benches, mirrors, ping-pong tables, and flood lights¬†” chosen by Interboro after interviewing PS1’s neighbors. According to Interboro’s website: “In addition to cab drivers, we met with senior and day care centers, high schools, settlement houses, and the local YMCA, library, and greenmarket (to name just a few). We simply asked each one: is there something you need that we could design, use in the courtyard during the [summer], then donate in the fall?”¬†Connecting with and giving back to the local community is a great idea, who could argue with that?

It turns out that some folks feel left out; namely, persnickety architects. In the comments on architecture blogs announcing the winning design, there’s a range of responses from “Way to go, Interboro” to “Where’s the architecture?” or “How about vegetables donated to the community, or games, or innovative spaces?” In fact, vegetables and games have generated innovative spaces in designs by recent winners of YAP, and I suspect that nay-sayers are underestimating the ability of Interboro to do the same with community-centric odds and ends. You may want this space to look different, or may want the project to represent concerns larger and more abstract, but everyone’s wants don’t necessarily all fit into a small courtyard. And under Interboro’s canopy there is just enough room for what a community needs.


February 23, 2011