Every summer I attend the Young Architects Program installation in the courtyard of P.S. 1. While I have had mixed reviews in the past, some years the projects really impressed me. This year, WORKac’s “P.F. 1 (Public Farm 1)” is one of those years. Instead of resorting to the annual beach theme, the firm produced a work that is both fun and practical.
Cardboard cylinders fill the space with containers of vegetables. A ladder allows visitors to climb inside of the cylinders to get a close-up view of the growing process, and a periscope allows viewers to observe other visitors throughout the installation. Part of the installation produces farm noises when a visitor puts his or her ears against it. Live roosters and chickens roam the courtyard, and visitors can hold and pet baby chicks in a coop. There are layers of discovery throughout, where unexpected sounds or sights appear upon closer inspection. All five senses are engaged — something that is rare in architecture.
My biggest criticism with the program each year is that firms fail to fully incorporate the courtyard’s perimeter walls into their designs. Granted, it is difficult to fill the large space on such a small budget, but the tall concrete walls always seem sparse and stand out as an afterthought. This year is no exception. Although the installation touches the walls in a couple of places, they are left largely untouched, and therefore one’s attention is called to them. Ultimately, P.F. 1 is a fun day on the farm, provides sustenance, and an escape from urbanity… and that is what a summer installation in the city should be.