Cultured Magazine

Spring 2014

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Since 2000, the MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program (YAP) has consistently launched emerging talents into the next stage of their careers. The program, which yields a summertime installation in the MoMA/PS1 courtyard, has also proven to cultivate material fixations: in 2009, the MOS firm blanketed an aluminum frame in a Mr. Snuffleupa- gus–like palm fiber; in 2011, Interboro Partners draped the Long Island City museum in materials chosen precisely for their re-use opportunities; and more recently, HWKN treated its spiky nylon- skinned Wendy with a nanoparticle spray that eats airborne toxins. Whereas past YAP projects have been created with an eye to minimizing artificial materials, waste or pollution, its next installation combines all three concerns in a single structure. Hy-Fi is a cluster of porous, tower-like volumes built mostly from bio- bricks. The bricks, which are completely com- postable, employ the glue-like mycelium found in mushrooms to fuse corn stalks into solid objects. "This process happens with almost no waste, no energy and no carbon emissions—it represents an exciting new paradigm for manufacturing and for architecture." So says Hy-Fi mastermind David Benjamin, who founded the New York design studio The Living in 2006, shortly after earning his mas- ter's from Columbia. Benjamin was not born an architect, let alone one who just moved sustainability one step closer to normative. He never studied the disci- pline before graduate school. "But it turned out that this field captured all the creativity and prob- lem-solving that I had been working on in other ways," he says. The multitasking abilities of Hy-Fi demonstrate just how Benjamin's disparate interests equate to revolutionary thinking. They also culminate The Liv- ing's research in applying living systems to human- ity's woes. Yet don't peg Benjamin as a synthetic biology guy. His 2009 Living Light pavilion in Seoul glows and blinks according to air quality and text- messages citizens about local pollution levels, and the Amphibious Architecture project he co-devel- oped that same year communicates analogous in- formation about the Hudson River. Today, Benjamin teaches at his alma mater, where the Columbia Building Intelligence Project has students collaborating on large-scale designs in an open-source manner, with each new class inheriting their predecessors' work. Computational geometry, Internet of Things, digital fabrication— all are fair play for Benjamin. "The Living has a mission of creating the ar- chitecture of the future, and we love projects that test any idea—high-tech or low-tech, new or an- cient—that might change the way we design and manufacture the built environment for the better," he sums up. And while this wunderkind breaks new paths, he has an immediate future to shape. Working with engineers at Arup and Ecovative Design, Benjamin will be overseeing the brick- making for Hy-Fi, which is slated to open June 5. 78 CULTURED Living Architecture The newest project for MoMA/PS1's YAP installation combines high design, natural materials and sustainability. BY JANELLE ZARA IMAGES COURTESY OF THE LIVING A rendering of Hy-Fi, The Living's entry for MoMA/PS1's Young Architects Program

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