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Competition: Socrates Sculpture Park folly 2018, New York

The Architectural League of New York has announced an open international contest for a $6,000 public seating installation at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens (Deadline: 8 January)

The latest edition of the park’s annual competition invites architects and designers to draw up concepts for movable seating structures suitable for up to 25 people.

The project aims to deliver an outdoor seating system that is both weather-resistant and capable of lasting at least three exhibition seasons between 2018 and 2020. Proposals must also be capable of being assembled and disassembled easily and quickly by on-site staff.

New York

New York

Socrates Park

According to the brief: ‘Socrates Sculpture Park and The Architectural League invite emerging designers and architects to help shape the physical setting in which the park fulfils its role as a venue for art, creative expression, public programming, and education.

‘The seating should be easily movable by park visitors and staff, but solid enough that visitors are discouraged from removing it from the park. The seating should also have a unique and cohesive identity that distinguishes it from the surrounding art installations or typical New York Parks Department designs.’

The Socrates Sculpture Park was founded in 1986 and occupies the site of a former landfill overlooking the East River. The museum and outdoor exhibition space are situated in Long Island City, which was founded as an independent metropolis in 1870 but later absorbed into New York City’s Queens neighbourhood.

Featuring several bridges and tunnels linking Queens to Manhattan Island, the area was a major centre for heavy industry during the 19th and 20th centuries.

New York

New York

Socrates Park

Today the post-industrial district is home to many art galleries, institutions, and studio spaces, including the Noguchi Museum, MoMA PS1 and the Fisher Landau Centre. Three years ago the nearby mural space, 5Pointz Aerosol Art Centre, was controversially demolished to make way for a new condominium complex.

Seating concepts must also be adaptable for multiple locations throughout the park, including areas near to the entrances and an education area.

Previous winners of the park’s annual commission include Circle Shade by Eva Jensen Design in 2017, Sticks by Nancy Hou and Josh de Sousa in 2016, Torqueing Spheres by Simon Kim of IK Studio in 2016, and SuralArk by Jason Timberlake Austin and Aleksandr Mergold in 2015.

This years’ jury includes artist Allan Wexler, Socrates Sculpture Park director John Hatfield, Chee Pearlman curator and creator at TED Conferences, Claire Weisz of WXY architects, Elaine Molinar of Snøhetta architects and designer Leon Ransmeier.

Applications should include a cover page, 150-word summary, project proposals, budget, 1,000-word description and renderings or sketches of the concept. Team member CVs featuring up to seven images of previous works are also required.

The winning team will receive a $6,000 budget to cover all delivery costs for the four structures, including design, materials, delivery, labour and initial installation.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is at 11:59pm local time (EST) on 8 January

Contact details

The Architectural League of New York
594 Broadway, Suite 607
New York, NY 10012

Email: info@archleague.org
Tel: +1 212 753 1722

View the competition website for more information

Sticks case study: Q&A with Josh de Sousa

The co-founder of Hou de Sousa discusses lessons learned designing a competition-winning learning space for the sculpture park

Josh de Sousa

Josh de Sousa

Josh de Sousa

How did your project deliver a new learning space for the park in response to the contest brief?

The competition’s entrants were tasked with addressing the paradoxical nature of a folly, which is an architectural typology fundamentally at odds with issues of practicality, while simultaneously solving an immediate pragmatic concern hindering the mission of the park. Namely, the replacement of a storm-damaged shed that had housed an array of activities and art courses.

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

We essentially proposed a scaffold that supports the production and display of art. The kit-of-parts composing this functionally saturated exoskeleton serve as structure, storage, shading device and curatorial display system simultaneously. Coalesced into a whole, the project shelters an educational space dedicated to teaching the public the means and methods of producing art. Given the nature of the program, we wanted the transparently express a simple set of tectonics. While designing this project, we found ourselves retracing lessons we hadn’t considered since our undergraduate years, when we first learned about the Bauhaus masters and Metabolists.

While we focused on designing an assembly system that could be easily built, it also had to be capable of adapting to a variety of existing conditions. A storage container filled with tools and art supplies stood immediately adjacent to the buildable site. Our project piggy-backs above the neighbouring container, thereby transferring loads onto an existing structure and reducing the number of foundation piers which would have been required.

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

When we first visited the park and explored around a bit, we found that tucked away near the corner of the site, beyond the public’s reach, stood several large storage racks heaped with scrap material. Their jagged composition of disparate parts embodied the park itself. Standing before us were the scattered remnants of the sculptures and follies of years past, disassembled and fragmented, but also ready and waiting to take part in future work. Dust to dust, and so forth. We wanted to put this scrap on a pedestal and display it as the dynamic archive it was.

The project’s façade features outwardly protruding 2x2 cedar webbing members which support and display this raw material, while allowing it to serve the double purpose of shingling away precipitation. Stored away within the roof trusses, the scrap diffuses natural light, cooling the space beneath it during warmer months.

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing new seating for the park?

The winning proposal will be built, so it must be fiscally and structurally feasible. And given that the focus of this year’s competition is seating, mobility, modularity, and reconfigurability may prove critical.

More broadly speaking, the peculiarities and kinetic character of the site should be carefully considered. Socrates Sculpture Park is an engine of culture that churns out free public art courses, hosts an array of events, both large and small, supports artists in residence with substantial on-site facilities, and showcases new artwork on a rotating seasonal basis. A successful seating design will play an active role in supporting the activities that surround it, while concurrently contributing to the frenetic conversation.

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

Circle Shade case study: Q&A with Eva Jensen

The founder of Eva Jensen Design discusses lessons learned designing a competition-winning pop-up shelter for the sculpture park

Eva Jensen

Eva Jensen

Eva Jensen

How did your project deliver a new shelter for the park in response to the contest brief?

Circle Shade 2πR4 is a minimal and refined portable canopy structure for adaptable use and quick assembly by 1-2 people. The system is designed as a kit of parts based on the tripod structural concept. It consists of three main components and only seven parts: one circular canopy, three poles and three cylindrical counterweights that integrate as furniture. Circle Shade delivered what the brief called for, and more, creating a new concept that synthesises an innovative solution to current shade structures and portable tent systems. It offers an open space beneath the canopy, and the counterweights serve as seat, backrest, tabletop and step stool during set up. The canopy membrane allows an opportunity for branding as shown with the park’s logo. The system is flexible and non-directional and can be set up as a single unit or in series. When set up in series of multiples, Circle Shade creates infinite possible constellations of playful dynamic spaces allowing visitors to enjoy a seat by themselves or engage where counterweights group together.

Circle Shade by Eva Jensen Design

Circle Shade by Eva Jensen Design

Circle Shade by Eva Jensen Design

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

The project presented an opportunity and necessity to design and develop the system with a high level of attention to detail throughout all scales from concept to connections incorporating functional, structural and technical considerations along with material research and fabrication processes. All system components and parts were taken through a focused design process to develop details taking above mentioned considerations including handling requirements into account. The design was tested in 1:1 scale mock-ups, models and 3D models. We strived for the design to be cohesive and to articulate a distilled architectural vocabulary reflecting the fundamental geometries – circle and triangle – and letting these define the design DNA from form through detail. Working to a tight budget, 3D rendering and visualisation in hand with 3D printing offered the opportunity for intricate detailing and individual customisation of connection components at low costs. With a thorough design method and precision in 3D models we were able to issue direct fabrication drawings to production collaborators. Without remake of any parts, and on a tight budget, we build four prototypes joining bespoke handcrafts with customised high-tech.

Circle Shade by Eva Jensen Design

Circle Shade by Eva Jensen Design

Circle Shade by Eva Jensen Design

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing new seating for the park?

Engage in the purpose of good design and architecture. Be open, observe, listen and relish the design process. Embark on material research and understand fabrication methods as cost matters. Analyse and synthesise. Be mindful of context, and the fact that you are designing for the public realm and outdoor elements. Embrace designing for a beautiful, vibrant, innovative and sustainable now and future.

Q&A with John Hatfield

The executive director of Socrates Sculpture Park discusses his ambitions for the contest

John Hatfield

John Hatfield

John Hatfield

Why are your holding a competition for new seating inside the sculpture park?

Socrates Sculpture Park, with our Architectural League of New York partner, has been exploring the intersection between art and architecture through an open call design-build competition with extraordinary results. The multitude of design solutions generated from a competition allow for Socrates Sculpture Park, Architectural League and our esteemed jurors an insight into 21st-century thinking and trends from young professionals in the field. Recently we realised how mutually beneficial it would be for the park and architects to focus on improving the park experience. Architects have an opportunity for their work to be seen (and used) within the context of a highly social programmed space and the park benefits from providing an additional amenity. Based on what visitors in the park desired as an improvement, seating certainly came to the forefront to better enjoy our programs and waterfront view of Manhattan. All architects and designers at some point have delved into seating as a way of exploring their own unique perspectives of aesthetics and function. With seating, the permutations are endless. It’s a singular, concise focused project with an immediate beneficial result.

Circle Shade by Eva Jensen Design

Circle Shade by Eva Jensen Design

Circle Shade by Eva Jensen Design

What is your vision for the new seating?

The park itself is 5 acres – a highly trafficked urban oasis of green space in New York City. The only design constraints for the seating are ones of practicality for use, durability, portability, economy and a desire for innovative aesthetic and material choices. Contextually as a contemporary art organization, a socially engaged community hub and urban park created from landfill, the park supports and encourages the most innovative ideas of design rather than historical models of public seating typically seen and used in NYC Parks. Our goal, like the Serpentine Galleries’ annual pavilion commissions, is to advance the practice of architecture and design but for younger architects that would most benefit from the experience and profile of New York City.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

Over 200,000 people visit the park with visitors ranging from art and architectural professionals to our local community that use the park every day. It has been our experience, the selected architects and featured notable entries, benefit from the review process itself, published reflections on proposed design themes and the press generated from the selected project on view in the park. Social media has also contributed greatly to the vast numbers of people viewing the project. Too often projects languish in the virtual world of CAD, whereas we are elevating an individual’s practice through a project in reality. Uniquely, Socrates Sculpture Park also has fabrication facilities on site and expertise to assist young architects in the physical design-build process. The park was born from volunteers and community involvement, so it only seems fitting to run a completion.

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

Sticks by Hou de Sousa

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Socrates Sculpture Park has many plans in the future to continue our design competition projects which might include green/sustainability interventions, solar powering stations, water catch systems, demountable large stage, canopies – the needs and opportunities here at the park are exciting and build upon the success of previous projects and collaborations.

Are there any other seating projects you have been impressed by?

We would not like to not cite specifics on notable seating since that might prejudge what we expect from the competition or lead architects in a specific direction. There are genres of seating strategies which are notable using recycled tyres, discarded wood pallets reconfigured or mass-produced plastic chairs ‘hacked’ to better design, modularly built seating from CNC cut parts, and common hardware material designs. These are economical strategies and also function in a pedagogical manner about efficiency, technology and/or sustainability.