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Competition: Socrates Sculpture Park folly, New York

The Architectural League of New York has announced an open international contest for an $8,000 series of tent structures at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens (Deadline: 9 January)

The latest edition of the park’s annual competition invites architects and designers to draw up concepts for four portable structures to replace off-the-shelf tents which are currently used for events, markets and workshops.

The new structures must provide shelter from the rain and shade from the sun while being stable enough to survive the park’s windy waterfront environment. Proposals must also be capable of being assembled and disassembled easily and quickly by one or two people.

‘Socrates has for 30 years harnessed the power of creative minds to transform the urban landscape,’ says the brief. ‘Recently our annual competition has shifted emphasis, asking entrants to fuse form with utility, creating designs that explore the intersection of art and architecture while addressing and improving the conditions of the park.

‘Continuing this trend, the 2017 competition asks architects and designers to design and fabricate four portable, demountable structures to replace four standard tent structures that are deployed, as needed, throughout the park.’

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 is situated in Long Island City, which was founded as an independent metropolis in 1870 but later absorbed into New York City’s Queens neighbourhood.

New York

New York

Socrates Park

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.

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. Two years ago the nearby mural space, 5Pointz Aerosol Art Centre, was controversially demolished to make way for a new condominium complex.

Proposed structures must cover an area measuring approximately 2.5 x 2.5m with a minimum height of 2.1m to allow for standing. They should be suitable for a variety of uses from workshops to multimedia presentations and installations.

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

Judges include architects Tatiana Bilbao and Eric Bunge, Socrates Sculpture Park director John Hatfield, artistic director Mary Miss and engineering partner Craig Schwitter.

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 an $8,000 budget to cover all delivery costs for the four structures, including design, materials, delivery, labour and initial installation.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is at 11:59pm local time (EST) on 9 January

Contact details

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

Tel: +1 212 753 1722

View the competition website for more information

Tensilation case study: Q&A with Neill McClements

The partner at Grimshaw discusses lessons learned designing a modular demountable shelter for events and exhibitions

How does your Tensilation scheme provide a lightweight, temporary pavilion?

Tensilation is a flexible canopy system which, using a modular family of components, can provide cover to sites of varying shapes and sizes. Square and diamond-shaped canopy units can be combined in an almost infinite number of tessellated configurations in response to site constraints. These patterns can be rectilinear or more organically arranged to fit any space, and can incorporate local features such as trees and landscaping. The system is designed so that each individual canopy unit is light enough to be installed without specialist lifting equipment, and is structurally connected to its neighbours to create a unified form. Tensilation can be quickly folded down at ground level when it is no longer needed or to let direct sunlight into the area it covers.

Tensilation by Grimshaw

Tensilation by Grimshaw

Tensilation by Grimshaw

Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness to ensure the project’s ease of use?

The system uses lightweight structural materials such as aluminium columns (with integrated rainwater drainage) and support arms with ‘node’ connectors that allow the units to quickly and easily connect together and share their structure. The use of tensile fabric and stainless-steel tension cables provides further rigidity and reduces the weight of the support arms, allowing each canopy unit to be lifted into place by two people. In addition to keeping the individual components as light as possible the system uses an innovative lever-arm aluminium top hub at the head of each column, which means the canopies can be opened using a single pull cord from ground level.

Tensilation by Grimshaw

Tensilation by Grimshaw

Tensilation by Grimshaw

What advice do you have for designing a demountable shelter for Socrates Park?

When designing a temporary structure such as this it is easy to get seduced by the creation of eye-catching form at the expense of the full range of functional issues that need to be considered to create a user-friendly demountable shelter. The best solutions are likely to emerge out of a more rounded design process that considers beauty and function in equal measure throughout the evolution of the design.

Tensilation by Grimshaw

Tensilation by Grimshaw

Tensilation by Grimshaw