Holding Pattern

Last year’s PS1 Young Architect’s set up was hard to miss. News about dancing poles was popping up everywhere, and as fictitious as they sounded, the poles really did bring a lively sense of movement to museum’s courtyard.

This year, I remember the reveal of the Holding Pattern design, the winning scheme by Interboro Partners, but I realized I hadn’t heard much since then. The project has been relatively quiet. The design was posted on usual websites like ArchDaily and Designboom, and there was a nice piece on the Metropolis Magazine blog by Cheryl Yau—taking us on a tour through the courtyard, past all the various elements of the design.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as enthusiastic as Yau upon visiting. It may have been the fact that I was there this past Saturday, when the courtyard was crowded with people trying to socialize while holding onto a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. But there seemed to be something physical lacking from the final design.

The architects asked local institutions the question: Is there something you need that we could design, use in the courtyard doing the summer, and then donate to you when Holding Pattern is de-installed in the fall? Working to meet everyone’s request (which included such things as a mirror for the Long Island City School of Ballet, a lifeguard chair, and 84 oak and plum trees), Interboro used PS1 as a temporary storage place for these objects, which will be distributed to the community at the end of the summer.

The concept is commendable, and its implications for architecture are perhaps best explained by Alan Ricks, Founding Partner and Creative Director of MASS Design , one of the other YAP nominated teams:

“What is exciting about “Holding Pattern” is the statement it makes in the contemporary debate over the role of social engagement in architecture. Rather than differentiate this as an “Architecture of social engagement”, somehow removed from the avant-garde, Interboro has used “Holding Pattern” to articulate that choosing between the two is unnecessary – or maybe impossible.”

However, sometimes a project that is conceptually strong ends up falling flat when realized. The thought of using this event to give back to the community is an important one, but rather than using the architecture and installation itself to create a sense of community, these objects float as islands in a large courtyard and at the end of the summer, all they will have in common is that they will have been sat on, stood on, jumped off of, and danced on by masses of people. The community is encouraged to already use their objects while at PS1 during the summer, but it’s unfortunate that the majority of visitors will inevitably only damage the objects instead of engaging with the community or contributing to the architects’ noble efforts.

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