Every year, MoMA PS1 gives a young architect $US85,000 to build an experimental party pavilion -- read: a shading device for events -- in the gravely courtyard of its Queens arm. This weekend, the museum unveiled this year's space: a 9m tall wall fabricated out of scraps from an Ithaca skateboard factory.
MoMA's Young Architects Program has been around for 14 years, and it’s incurred equal amounts of praise and derision. On the one hand, the program gives “young” (under 35) architects a chance to build radical things. On the other hand, its curators typically choose proposals that will clearly cost more than the $US85,000 budget -- meaning that applicants who stick within the budget are often passed over for wilder, more expensive schemes.
Partywall, as this year’s installation is called, is a pun on “partiwall”, a term describing the wall shared between two buildings. In this case, there are none; the steel framed wall slices through empty air, terminating at the ground floor in a v-shaped frame, where giant PVC balloons filled with water anchor the whole thing to the ground. The main defining feature is its facade, which is woven from 3000 “bones” and “blanks”, the waste product of skateboard manufacturing. The Ithaca-based architects behind Partywall, Coda, collaborated with local sustainable skateboard company, Comet, to source the scraps.
Of course, trucking 3000 pieces of wood from Ithaca to Queens seems like it would cancel out whatever environmental savings were incurred by using discarded waste material. I got in touch with Caroline O’Donnell, the Ireland-born founding principal of Coda, to find out -- and as she explained, the process of using the discarded wood ended up being incredibly complicated.
“We had to prefabricate the 3000 skateboard bones into 150 panels,” she said. “We had volunteers work at what we called ‘Skateboard Saturdays’, every Saturday since January. Construction on site in five weeks would not have been possible otherwise.” What’s more, it was faster to use leftover scraps from longboards, rather than regular skateboards, and the type they needed are only made in Ithaca and San Francisco. So what began as a way to reuse waste evolved into a much more complicated fabrication process, turning a conceptual flourish into a months-long fabrication marathon. But working through issues like this are the whole point of YAP. It’s a learning process. Building things is a complicated undertaking.
Check out Partywall for yourself during one of this summer's Warm Up series.
Images by Charles Roussel via Designboom.
Pictures: MoMA, Charles Roussel, Zachary Tyler Newton via ArchDaily