Monday, July 05, 2010

Pole Dance

Pole Dance in Long Island City, Queens, New York by Solid Objectives - Idenburg Liu

This holiday weekend saw the first "warm up" for the latest Young Architects Program (YAP) winner at MoMA P.S.1, designed by Solid Objectives - Idenburg Liu (SO-IL), a young practice based out of Brooklyn. Pole Dance is an "exploration of architecture's potential to create sensorially charged environments rather than finite forms." Visiting the P.S.1 courtyard with my wife and daughter the day before its warm up, I can testify that it is one of the most fun, or "sensorially charged" installations in the space so far.

In the previous ten years of YAP winners, designs tended to focus on process, form and construction. The first often explored parametric modeling; the second tended towards overhead structures providing shade and armatures for mist, but little else functionally; and the last often necessitated donations of labor and materials but also inexpensive materials. Pole Dance appears to be the first that elevates experience over all else, changing the conditions that architects previously addressed based on the brief: namely activity replaces respite under coverings.

This is also the first YAP I've experienced where the architecture disappears; the installation is not about how it looks but how it acts. Basically the design is composed of a grid of 30' (9m) high poles connected by bungee cords and netting, some foam seating covered in colored paint, a spash pool, some hammocks, and a couple mist rings and other openings in the field of the open net. A number of colored inflatable balls (yoga balls?) are added to the mix, able to be bounced above by moving the poles or jumping to hit the netting, or to be kicked around after directing them to the openings.

The bendy poles and a few strands of rope hanging from the net invite interaction. One notices sounds coming from speakers mounted to the courtyard's concrete walls when the poles "dance." This realization leads to more interaction and eventually a sort of group concert. The courtyard was fairly empty on Friday, but I can imagine a rolicking good time with balls flying, poles waving and a cacophony of sounds. Thoughts of summer's heat and humidity fade as people are preoccupied with fun, taking breathers under the shade of overhead balls or beside concrete walls. If the installation is meant to be an antidote to our economic malaise, I'm not sure, but it definitely beats the heat.