A ‘natural’ winner

Sian
Monday 10 Feb 2014

The Living’s Hy-Fi scoops courtyard commission at MoMA PS 1

David Benjamin’s The Living has been named the winner of MoMA PS 1‘s 2014 Young Architects Program.  Now in its 15th year, the program gives emerging architects the opportunity to design innovative installations for the Museum’s courtyard to accompany its popular summer music series, Warm Up.   

Benjamin’s proposal uses a new method of bio-design to create a structure that is 100% organic material. It achieves this by temporarily diverting the natural carbon cycle to produce a structure that grows out of nothing but earth and returns to nothing but earth - with no waste, no energy needs, and no carbon emissions.

The proposal consists of a circular tower of organic and reflective bricks. The organic bricks are produced through a combination of corn stalks and specially developed living root structures. The reflective bricks are produced through the custom-forming of a new daylighting mirror film invented by 3M. The reflective bricks, which are located on top of the organic bricks are used as growing trays for the organic bricks below.  Their arrangement allows them to bounce light down on the towers and the ground.  

What’s most unusual about the design is the gravity-defying effect that is achieved through the stacking of two types of bricks. Contrary to the laws of gravity and the logic of load-bearing construction, the bricks on the bottom are thin and porous instead of thick and dense. The structure provides cooling in the summer by creating its own microclimate, using the stack effect to draw in cool air at the bottom and push out hot air at the top. The reflective bricks create a mesmerizing light show on the interior walls.

“This year’s YAP winning project bears no small feat.  It is the first sizable structure to claim near zero carbon emissions in its construction process and, beyond recycling, it presents itself as being 100% compostable,” said Pedro Gadanho, Curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design. 

The Living bested four other finalists in the competition including Collective-LOK, LAMAS, Pita + Bloom, and Fake Industries Architectural Agonism.   All five finalist projects will be on view at MoMA over the summer.  

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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