MoMA PS1 “Colonists” Explore Rebuilding the Rockaways

Min Keun Park (center, in blue shirt) presents his work to classmates, critics, and museum visitors during final review at PS1

Min Keun Park (center, in blue shirt) presents his work to classmates, critics, and museum visitors during final review at PS1. photo / provided

October 22, 2013

This past August, six AAP students joined students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design for a two-week residency at MoMA PS1, in Queens. Their task was to design a plan to rebuild or protect the Rockaway peninsula that was decimated by Hurricane Sandy. What made this project unusual were the students’ living conditions: They resided in an actual exhibit, the Colony, located in one of the PS1 courtyards.

“We worked where we lived, ate where we lived, and worked where we ate. It was a residential experiment as well as an architectural design experiment,” says participant Catherine Joseph (M.Arch. ’15).

Comprised of a series of four metal-sided trailers, the Colony, designed by Argentinian firm a77 and orchestrated by Museum of Modern Art curator Pedro Gadanho, was part of a larger initiative titled Expo 1: New York, a series of exhibitions and events examining ecological concerns, politics, and social organization in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

“As students, we are not often afforded the opportunity to live and work is such close proximity to the design challenge we are working to address. As residents of the Colony, we had this chance,” says Joseph. “We were living and working with people who had firsthand experience, knowledge, and often strong opinions of post-Hurricane Sandy reconstruction efforts on the Rockaways.

Working under the guidance of practicing architects and architecture critics Frank Barkow, Arno Brandlhuber, Sam Chermayeff, Niklas Maak, and Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge, the students each began their analysis of the Rockaways from a unique context. They were asked to bring an artifact to the session that related to their ideas and design process in some way. The characteristics of this object became the foundation for the analysis and design development.

The final proposals were mostly macro-scale, urban and environmental strategies rather than fully developed building interventions. “Our purpose was not to generate buildable design concepts, but rather to generate ideas that could be integrated into future designs and plans,” says Joseph. The final exhibition review took place in full view of visitors to the PS1 courtyard, which led to an active discussion between the students, instructors, visiting critics and interested guests.

Says Joseph, “We and our work were as much an exhibition of the museum as the art within PS1.”

Cornell AAP participants included Hyemin Jang (B.Arch. ’16), Joseph, Yoonjee Koh (B.Arch. ’13), Min Keun Park (B.Arch. ’17), Karl Pops (B.Arch. ’16), and Kristen Williams (B.Arch. ’17).

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