Hy-Fi, by The Living, to Debut at PS1

The 15th pavilion to transform MoMA’s PS1 courtyard in Long Island City will use organic and reflective brick to invert the logic of load-bearing construction.

Instead of being thick and dense at the bottom, the towers of Hy-Fi, created by David Benjamin and The Living, will be thin and porous for a gravity-defying effect.

The bricks are the result of The Living’s collaboration with Ecovative, a company that’s developed a process to make bricks through a combination of cornstalks and specially-developed living root structures.

The Living’s winning entry for PS1 was announced earlier this week. Benjamin is a professor at Columbia University, where he and his partners conduct an experimental laboratory.

“We invited as many firms as possible to think about recycling and sustainability as great themes,” says Barry Bergdoll, MoMA’s acting chief curator of architecture and design. “This claims to be 100 percent zero energy – the only energy used, I think, is electricity and lights, where a fungus is going to transform these corn husks into bricks.”

The reflective bricks, produced through custom-forming a new daylighting mirror film invented by 3M, are to be used as growing trays for the organic bricks. Organic bricks will be arranged at the bottom of the structures and the reflective bricks will be arranged at the top to bounce light down on the towers and the ground.

“They’ll discover a lot when they erect this thing – it gives them the opportunity to build something and test it out,” he says. “It’s a really innovative experiment in a compelling form, and that’s been the intent of the pavilion in architecture for centuries.”

Over the years, PS1 has evolved into a technology and sustainability-driven pavilion, since Philip Johnson inspired a DJ stand in what constituted its first year. But it’s still a celebratory affair for innovative architecture, and PS1’s projects are designed to withstand the inherent wear and tear.

“They’re exposed to thousands of celebrants – there’ll be a lot of eating and drinking going on around these bricks,” he says. “They’ve never had a test like these warm-up parties.”

The new pavilion opens in late June.

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