2016 Young Architects Pavilion Now on View at MoMA PS1

Escobedo Soliz Studio stretches a web-like neon canopy over the museum’s courtyard.

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MoMA PS1’s annual summertime party pavilion may be one of the most enviable commissions for young architects, but the museum’s director, Klaus Biesenbach, will remind you that in 1999 Philip Johnson—then 93—kicked the whole program off: “We always say he was the youngest architect who ever designed a Young Architects Pavilion,” Biesenbach told a crowd at this year’s installation unveiling June 8. “[PS1 Founder] Alanna Heiss and I explained this was meant to be a nightclub and an urban beach. And he said ‘I know more about that than you two.’”

Johnson’s design was a standalone mesh structure that combined a dance floor, DJ booth, and seating area. Subsequent pavilions similarly were conceived as single objects in the museum’s concrete-walled courtyard, made from increasingly zany materials ranging from skateboard decks, to corn smut. However, this summer’s winning project, designed by Mexico City-based duo Escobedo Soliz Studio is something of a palate cleanser: a cloud-like canopy woven over the entire space.

“What makes this installation different from other years is that it really deals with the given architectural context in a sensible way by weaving this ethereal roof into the concrete wall,” said Martino Stierli, chief curator of architecture and design at MoMA and Young Architects Program (YAP) juror.

The YAP pavilion—now in its 17th edition—provides shade for party-goers during MoMA PS1’s summer Warm Up dance party series. For their pavilion, called Weaving the Courtyard, Escobedo Soliz Studio used existing holes in the concrete—left by the original formwork ties—to fasten the ropes in a Cat’s Cradle-like array, forming the airy, neon canopy. The designers trucked in tons of sand to create an artificial beach beneath. In other corners of the courtyard—for when the temperatures and the revelry heats up—the architects build a two-foot-deep wading pool and a mist room, cleverly integrating the nozzles into the tie holes. The installation also features a timber dance floor and DJ booth with integrated planters.

Escobedo Soliz Studio is the first Mexican firm to win the YAP pavilion competition and, remarkably, the commission also marks the firm’s first built work. “We can’t believe it,” said co-founder Andres Soliz Paz at the opening. He thanked the institutions for “believing in a young firm from Mexico.” Added firm partner, Lazbent Pavel Escobedo Amaral, “Today is the most important day of our lives, and it is a pleasure to share this with you,”

You can check out Weaving the Courtyard at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens until August 21.