MOS

06.26.09

Left and right: MOS, Afterparty (work in progress), 2009. Installation view. (Photos: Aaron Orenstein)


MOS is a self-described “collective of designers, architects, thinkers, and state-of-the-art weirdos.” As the 2009 winners of MoMA/P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center’s Young Architects’ Program, they were invited to construct a landscape to adorn P.S. 1’s outdoor courtyard, which will also serve as the environment for the museum’s Warm Up summer music series. Here, Michael Meredith, cofounder of MOS with Hilary Sample, speaks about their winning proposal, Afterparty.

ABJECTION RUNS THROUGHOUT AFTERPARTY, especially in its use of materials. There are two nearly monolithic materials at play: the thatch––a literally rough medium—on the outside, and on the inside, raw aluminum that makes up the netting and a radial scaffolding of arches and domes. The structures are all the same shape, but are distorted and repeated into different heights. Sometimes they’re more like a dome, and sometimes more like a cone. Others will look like chimneys. So, one aspect of the work is the materials, and the other is this formal idea of serial things that change and shift. And then there’s a performance element, of the structure literally producing a cooling effect. The funnels (functional chimneys) will heat up at their highest points and—through induction, and a difference in air pressure—will suck the air up and produce a breeze underneath the space.

Our desire was to produce an enclosed interior and exterior urban presence, which I don’t think has happened much in previous Warm Up projects. Usually, everything is very ephemeral. Afterparty is pretty heavy. The thatch is really weird looking; actually, it has serious bed head right now. It doesn’t look like tiki huts at all—it looks animal. Like Where the Wild Things Are or Chewbacca. The inside is a Bauhaus metal party, and the outside is a crazy, fantastic, furry animal. The other thing we tried to do is to create an impact deriving from its inherent urbanism, so these furry smokestacks and chimneys definitely work toward that. We’re calling it hollowed-out infrastructure.

The title, Afterparty, means many things to us: One is the economic situation. Another has to do with architecture itself, which is in a crisis of dealing with the post-developer-driven world. We’re looking at some other operating mode, searching for new ways to deal with composition, perhaps. We are also thinking about modernism and its relationship—its strong tie—to the primitive. The plan recalls how houses in Africa are developed; the rooms are very cellular, like organisms growing.

It’s easy for the P.S. 1 outdoor projects to involve a level of kitsch, perhaps inevitably because of the programming and the budget. You need to have little suburban swimming pools or some such water event. We won’t have any of that stuff because we didn’t have the budget. Typically, in the past you could go and find sponsors to help you, but this year we begged a couple people to help us out. The economic situation seems very real in terms of how to actually get something built.

The other work we’ve done shows our interest in vernacular and—in architectural terms—low-grade aesthetics. I think we’re skeptical of the idea of design; sometimes I say I’m a self-hating formalist, trying to think of ways not to design too much. Much of our work is based on systems that help us deal with the problems of composition. But compared with our previous projects, Afterparty is nearly grotesque. When I look at it, it makes me somewhat sick. I don’t know what people are going to think.

— As told to Dawn Chan