Fertile ground

Fertile ground
Photos by Christina Santucci

The P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center's courtyard looked like a whole new world as the winners of this year's Young Architects Program showed off the soaring possibilities of their work.

WORK Architecture Company from New York presented its project, “Public Farm One,” when the courtyard, located at 22-25 Jackson Ave. in Long Island City, opened last Thursday. As WORKac founders Amale Andraos and Dan Wood describe the installation, “P.F.1 is an architectural and urban manifesto to engage play and reinvent our cities, and our world, once again.”

The concept of “Public Farm One” is that of a viable and beautiful urban farm, which in this installation evokes the look of a flying carpet landing in the P.S.1 courtyard. The urban farm is constructed from large cardboard tubes, with the top surface intended to be a working farm, blooming with a variety of vegetables and plants. Underneath is a play space for those attending the summer's annual “Warm Up” music series.

“It is good to be able to build ideas uncompromised,” said WORKac's Dan Wood, of their collaboration with P.S.1 in this project. “We kept saying, 'I can't believe they have left us alone this whole time,' and P.S.1 was saying, 'I can't believe they left us alone this whole time.' “

P.S.1 marks its 11th summer this year hosting the Young Architects Program. The purpose of the program is to provide emerging young talent in architecture with the chance to prepare and present architectural solutions for a specific site. P.S.1 and the Museum of Modern Art invited outside architecture experts to nominate the finalists from a pool of about 40 candidates that includes both recent graduates and established architects experimenting with new styles or techniques.

To keep the projects one jump ahead of the breadline and viable for implementation elsewhere, they allotted a budget of only $70,000. Essential to the design were elements of shade, water, seating and bar areas. WORKac included fans, sound effects, innovative seating drums, a refreshing pool and a chicken coop. Yes, real chickens and a half dozen eggs a day.

This project is vast: 150 individuals contributed to building 51 cylinders of vegetables and fruits, 7,000 bolts were hand-tightened to hold up 20 tons of lightweight soil and an irrigation system introduces 800 gallons of water a day to the individual tubes.

The drip irrigation system is fed by rainwater collection from the P.S.1 rooftop, which drains down to a cistern located near the chicken coop. To run all of the aspects of this urban farm that require electricity, several solar panels and batteries were set up to pump water for the plants and pool, run fans and cell phone chargers for partygoers and provide power for the pole on which you can push a button to hear a farm animal noise.

Just like a real farm — only the disc jockey will be on the main power grid.

All the plantings were done in what is called a “daisy pattern.” Six tubes surround a hole in which a ladder can be climbed for picking plants. For picking duties, the architects made “picking skirts” with pockets all around to house produce and a trowel.

“Our staff was 80 percent women, but only the men wore skirts,” joked Andraos when Wood demonstrated the skirt.

After being picked, the produce goes to a column designed to hold up the structure and have pockets for the herbs and vegetables. A nearby column bears a juicer for public use.

“The average meal in America travels 3,000 miles,” Wood said. “We tried to cut it down to 300 feet.”

To actually have the paper tubes hold up this much soil without falling apart, you have never had a friend like Gaia Soil. Made from non-toxic recycled expanded polystyrene foam coated with an organic pectin and compost and able to bear 200 percent of its weight in water, the soil was crucial in the project's weight requirements, Wood said.

The WORK Architecture Company thanked the Queens County Farm Museum for helping grow the plants that are now planted in the installation and give farming advice along the way. “It was a wonderful experience working with Dan and Amale, we were thrilled to be a part of a collaborative project,” said Amy Fischetti, executive director at the Queens County Farm Museum. “It's the first time we were involved with a contemporary art museum. It was a new experience for us.”

Now that the stage is set, let the Warm Up begin! Marking its 10th anniversary, Warm Up has been a beacon of summer music for Long Island City.

P.S.1 Director of Public Programming and Managing Director of Art Radio WPS1.org David Weinstein said, “This year's Warm Up celebrates its 10th anniversary with the widest and wildest collection of bands, DJs, and musical experimenters. We have legendary artists alongside a new generation of musicians brought from near and far — from France and Finland to Brooklyn's Black Rock Coalition, from punk and funk to electronic and psychedelic. Every day will be a six-hour musical thrill ride.”

Starting July 5 and ending Sept. 6, every Saturday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. will be a lineup of DJs, orchestras, percussion ensembles and anything else under the moon. It has been voted “Best Club” by Time Out New York readers and somehow was ranked No. 10 of the 20 Hottest Beach Parties in the World by the Observer (UK), despite not being held on a beach.

For more information, visit www.ps1.org.

If You GO:

Warm Up — Annual outdoor dance series accompanied by the Young Architects Program winner, “Public Farm One”

When: Saturdays through Sept. 6, 3 p.m.-9 p.m.

Where: P.S.1 courtyard, 22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City

Cost: $10 (includes admission to P.S.1 galleries

For More: www.ps1.org

For the full lineup of performers at Warm Up, visit www.yournabe.com/calendar.

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