Holding Pattern

Interboro Partners have been commissioned to do this wonderful installation at MoMA PS1. But this is more than just a standard architectural installation; Interboro went to the trouble of involving the community and asking what they wanted, creating something that will be an asset to the community even after it is decommissioned.


PS1, as its name indicates, was the first public school in Long Island City. It operated until 1960, when it was closed due to low attendance. It sat empty until 1976, when Alanna Heiss and the Institute for Art and Urban Resources took it over, converting it into artist studio and exhibition space. Starting in 1998, they created the Young Architects Program, a competition where contestants submitted designs for what had been the playground of the old school. PS1 became associated with MoMA in 2000.

The Installation

What I find most interesting about the installation is the process. Instead of thinking about what they wanted for the space, Interboro asked the local community what they wanted. They went to local schools, senior and daycare centers, and a cabbie unit and asked, “Is there something you need that we could design, use in the courtyard during the summer, and then donate to you when Holding Pattern is deinstalled in the fall?”

The result is a variety of furniture, sports equipment, and plants. Items include “a foosball table for the Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House, a ping-pong table for the local cabbie corporation, Checker Management, even a stage that emits a cool mist for the nearby 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center.” Each one is marked to indicate who it will go to when the installation is taken down, and the documentation for the exhibit is posted along its walls. Some local organizations will even host events there.

The installation has a great sense of enclosure because it was already an enclosed playground. The coldness and fortress-like nature of the walls is mitigated to a degree by the documentation on them, and is contrasted by the softness of the trees and light-colored wood furniture. Finally, the streamers create a sense of having a roof, completing the enclosure, while still allowing openness to the sky, as well as a dynamic experience with the wind. This is a beautiful space, and while it won’t be here for long, it will be providing benefits to Long Island City for years.


About Dave Munson
This blog is about architecture, cities, and myself.

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