Modeling 'New Publics'

John Hill
17. February 2023
All photographs by John Hill/World-Architects

Located on the museum's third-floor architecture galleries that previously hosted the impressive The Project of Independence: Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947–1985, and before that the pandemic-delayed Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, the twelve projects in Architecture Now: New York, New Publics are given plenty of space: enough for drawings, models, photographs, and other typical displays of architecture, as well as augmented reality, a board game, and other presentations outside the norm. The projects also have their own short videos commissioned by MoMA that “provide glimpses into the daily life of these architectures.” The varied media reflect the diverse types of proposals, which range from large-scale buildings and landscapes that are found in the public realm to self-initiated projects that may be implemented someday and artworks that use digital technology to comment on contemporary social issues.

World-Architects got a peek of the exhibition that opens on Sunday, snapping some photos — of models, mainly, hence this article's title — and posting them here with commentary.

Architecture Now: New York, New Publics is on display at the Museum of Modern Art (11 West 53rd Street) from February 19 to July 29, 2023. The exhibition has been organized by MoMA curators Evangelos Kotsioris and Martino Stierli.

Shades of green hint that the projects within the exhibition embrace landscapes and other street-level projects within the public realm, not the skyline-puncturing skyscrapers that get most of the attention in NYC.
A map near the entrance to the exhibition shows the geographic distribution of the twelve numbered projects, most of them in Brooklyn, where many of the designers live and work. (Note that project #1 has multiple sites, in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.) The photographs/projects are presented in this numbered order.
Although the twelve projects are situated in two large galleries — one, seen here, is next to a glass wall overlooking MoMA's famous courtyard — they are not presented in any order: “Mirroring the experience of moving through
a city,” the wall text explains, “the exhibition is organized as a non-prescriptive sequence of alternating urban scenes that visitors are encouraged to freely wander.”
(1) Kinfolk's “The Monuments Project” appears empty, but the wood pedestals are bases for AR displays of virtual monuments, in this case of abolitionist David Ruggles, who is also depicted in the collage hung in front of the curtain.
The other gallery is larger and therefore displays eight of the twelve projects.
(2) Adjaye Associates designed the Midtown headquarters of 1199SEIU, the largest health-care workers union in the US, with numerous photographs from the union's archive printed on ceramic tiles, such as this full-scale installation in the exhibition featuring MLK alongside civil rights marches.
(3) The Hunter's Point South Waterfront Park in Long Island City, Queens, is indicative of the transformation of many post-industrial sites in NYC this century. The collaborative design is presented via models and drawings by Weiss/Manfredi, with a backdrop of the popular park in use.
(4) In 2020, Peterson Rich Office (PRO) produced a report, “Scalable Design Solutions for NYCHA,” that looks at ways of modernizing the aging stock of public housing in NYC and turning the buildings into healthier places to live. A sectional model shows new private outdoor spaces and rooftop communal spaces in their design proposal for the Cooper Park Houses in Brooklyn.
(5) Amant is an art foundation housed in four small buildings with intimate courtyards in North Brooklyn. The varied brick and concrete surfaces of the buildings designed by SO–IL — it was featured as a US Building of the Week last year — are expressed in a model showing the arts campus in its industrial context.
(6) Although NYC has dozens of public pools, most of them are outdoor and therefore open for less than three months in the summer, so Brooklyn's Only If initiated a project that would allow the pools to stay open all year. The exhibition presents The People's Pool, which shows the Kosciuszko Pool in the Bed-Stuyvesant neighborhood with new features: a retractable roof over the pool and an adjacent recreation center.
(7) CO Adaptive's Timber Adaptive Reuse Theater (also a US Building of the Week last year) is the conversion of a former metal foundry into a performing arts space. The sectional model highlights the existing wood structure that was restored as part of the project as well as the new cross-laminated timber (CLT) elements inserted in the two-story building.
(8) The “New Public Hydrant” is a strategy by the aptly named Agency—Agency to “hack” fire hydrants to take advantage of NYC's clean, unfiltered water and reduce residents' consumption of bottled water.
(9) Artist Olalekan Jeyifous's contribution to exhibition is “Made with Love,” more than two-dozen glass panels installed at the 8 Av station in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood as part of MTA Art & Design. The illustrations, including one suspended in front of the courtyard facade, depict the diverse offerings of foods available in the neighborhood.
(10) Easily the largest project in the exhibition, Freshkills Park also boasts a long timespan: James Corner Field Operations won a competition for the park in 2001, but it will take roughly four decades to reach completion. North Park, shown here in a model mounted on the wall, is set to open this year.
(11) One of the most intriguing ideas in the exhibition is Testbeds, a design research project by New Affiliates and Samuel Stewart-Halevy in which old mockups from construction sites find new uses community gardens around the city; a pilot project was built last year in Edgemere, Queens. The model for Testbeds is a board game about pairing up construction sites with community gardens.
(12) The last numbered project in the exhibition is the Jones Beach Energy and Nature Center by nARCHITECTS, shown here in study models but also at the top of this article: a detailed model of the final design in front of a site photo. Although the exhibition/educational facility sits on a former parking lot in Nassau County, and is therefore technically outside of the five boroughs, Jones Beach has long been a day-trip destination for NYC residents for a century.
Architecture Now: New York, New Publics is on display at the Museum of Modern Art (11 West 53rd Street) from February 19 to July 29, 2023. The exhibition has been organized by MoMA curators Evangelos Kotsioris and Martino Stierli.

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