Commuters taking the 7 train home to Long Island City will notice something unusual in the courtyard of the MoMA PS1 gallery this week. Straddling an interior courtyard wall is a giant, blue, spiky and altogether improbable structure unlike any seen in this part of New York, or anywhere else for that matter.
Called Wendy, the pavilion is the 13th instalment of MoMA’s Young Architects Program, which erects temporary architecture in the PS1 courtyard each summer. Wendy is the brainchild of HWKN, the New York firm headed by Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner.
Wendy’s main function is to provide shade, seating and water for the people attending the Warm Up summer music series in the gallery’s sun-drenched courtyard. Hidden in Wendy’s spiky arms are programmatic spaces that inject blasts of cool air using Big Ass Fans, water jets and mists, and music, creating unique micro-environments for concert-goers to enjoy.
An unusual shape like Wendy’s requires a unique approach. HWKN started with Safway’s off-the-shelf scaffolding system to create a grid-based series of boxes within boxes. At ground level, this creates a 291-square-metre area of spaces for visitors to explore. Structural engineers Knippers Helbig devised an elaborate secondary structure of cross bracing to align with Wendy’s cones.
But the real attraction is Wendy’s arms and the shaded spaces they provide. Using the scaffold grid, HWKN stretched cones made of PVC mesh fabric supplied by Dazian. Ordinarily, the goal is to maximize the volume to surface area ratio, for the most efficient insulation possible. But HWKN’s goal with Wendy was actually to maximize surface area; building out the structure’s spikes allowed them to use 2,600 square metres of fabric – enough material to cover PS1’s entire courtyard two times over.
This might seem at odds with the Young Architects Program’s mandate for recycling and sustainability, but Wendy’s material was pre-treated with a titania nanoparticle spray from Cristal Global, applied using a technique developed by PURETi. When exposed to sunlight, this material breaks down smog into water and carbon dioxide, eliminating pollution equivalent to taking 260 cars off the road during the period of Wendy’s visit.
After Wendy is dismantled in September, the scaffold will be disassembled and reused, and the PVC will live on in one form or another. Wendy’s creators have envisioned turning the material into umbrellas, car covers, and other items, but there’s also hope that the pavilion will be rebuilt in another location, to continue cleaning the air and keeping people cool indefinitely.