28 June 2009

afterparty @ p.s.1

Stopped by the opening of MOS's outdoor installation Afterparty at P.S.1 this afternoon. I must admit my expectations are not typically stratospheric for these things, since the limited budget for the annual Young Architects Program really precludes anything too ambitious. And, frankly, the projects of the last few years have been kind of redundant in the sense that there are only so many ways to skin a cat—or, in the case of P.S.1, provide shade and seating for the throngs of dancing hipsters who show up to the weekly Warm Up parties.

So, with that said, I was content today to enjoy the nice weather and check out a few of the new shows up at the museum. When I arrived at P.S.1, however, I was pleasantly surprised by MOS's towering, furry cones rising above the concrete wall perimeter. The aesthetic of the dark brown thatched structures, which from afar resemble hairy beasts and up close look dirty and unfinished, is a kind of raw ugliness that is refreshing both in the context of the P.S.1 summer pavilions and in the broader contemporary architecture scene. At a time when the architectural ideal always seems to be some combination of uber-smoothness, total transparency, and formal acrobatics, here is a project that, with its gauche, shaggy towers, chews up those qualities and spits them out right back at you. The project's title, Afterparty, is presumably intended to somehow set up a dialog between the design and the post-boom climate that architecture, and the city at large, finds itself in. I'm not sure how exactly this rhetoric pans out, but one way of interpreting the project is as an aesthetic critique of boom era architecture. And in that respect, it's remarkable.

There are plenty of flaws—particularly a weak attempt to tap into some kind of primitive imaginary with the architects' reference to Bedouin tents, as well as the passive cooling effect rhetoric, which this patron did not experience—but overall MOS, led by Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample, can be forgiven for over-reaching here and there. It's a successful project, and even more so for pulling off such a feat in such an off year. I suppose there were unemployed students aplenty, though, available to help build the thing.

A postscript: It was also entertaining to eavesdrop on people's reactions to the piece. Overheard phrases included: "Snuffleupagus," "Planet of the Apes," "Flintstones," "hairy chests."