Final work from the class last year, the product of a collaboration between the Parks Department, The Columbus Amsterdam BID, and Lincoln Square. These modular, mobile, interactive wind harps were installed across the street from Lincoln Center and later during the 106th Street Family Days. The colorful wind harps were made from off-the-shelf roofing material and each produced a distinct tone when ambient wind from the street funneled down the Broadway/Amsterdam Junction passed through the apertures and reverberated through the hollow column, plucking the various string widths and producing sound of various, distinct pitch. The concept was adapted from the design of Aeolian Harps – passive wind instrument which many people “find alludes to higher realms”. These also worked as improvisational instruments, that could be played on the street by passersby. The bright colors created a welcoming sight which invited participation and the strings made the foreign-seeming objects instantly recognizable as a harp/guitar like stringed instrument.
Images from the three-day event in Queens, sponsored by the great team at the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning and with Joaquin Reyes.
The Inflato Dumpster is a radical new conception of what constitutes public space in New York City. This site-specific work creates an open, engaging street-level structure that acts as a mobile learning laboratory through creative programming events that reflects the diversity of its location. The project takes advantage of digital design and new lightweight fabrication techniques to create a framework for small group discussion and engagement.
The project includes 165 square feet of enclosed space with maximum dimensions at 17’ height by 12’-6” wide and 24’ long. The main element is an inflatable membrane containing 2000 cubic feet of volume, weighing less than 20 lbs. Made from a combination of lightweight inflatable materials and a modular city dumpster, the Inflato presents a subdued silver, semi-reflective surface from the outside, while the interior creates a gold, brightly gilded interior.
The Flux 2016 exhibition invited 19 artists to study the effects of art in public spaces and provokes conversations regarding art’s role in community, participation, commerce, and urban renewal.
This was a preview exhibition of the Inflato project before its full activation (complete with pre-fab metal base) on the 165th Street Pedestrian Mall.
Presented here is a (losing) competition entry for a re-design of the ubiquitous “urban shed” – the pole and plywood constructions temporarily thrown up to protect pedestrians from falling building debris during facade renovations. They are an interesting typology, both because they are everywhere and are also built using pre-fabricated components in a completely market driven approach, every element has been pared down to cost per protective surface. Every couple of years someone tries and re-thinks these things, but due to the cost and existing, entrenched interests, these re-designs never go anywhere. The argument I was trying to push was twofold: 1) taking advantage of an existing material that already relates to street protection could offset costs, and 2) that the design would be exciting enough that building owners could reap some economical benefit through a boost in traffic flow by putting up something like this. Project text below:
A city manifests itself through its architecture, its built form represents its values and priorities. This ideas competition hosted by the New York Building Foundation is an amazing opportunity to explore how the city and building owners will proceed to treat what is in many ways the most modest and ubiquitous of architectural elements, but one that we all encounter each and every day – the construction shed.
The questions before us are simple, will the form of the shed continue to be dictated by that which presents the perceived lowest cost per sf? This is a notion dictated more by complacency and inertia as opposed to New York ingenuity and data-driven metrics. Or, will the shed evolve into a form as slick and scaleless as the latest glass and steel construction, furthering the ever expanding gulf between New Yorkers and relegating architecture and engineering to the realm of a luxury item. Or, will it pursue a sustainable, iconic, human-scaled solution, which can adapt to changing needs in neighborhoods as diverse as ours?
The proposal included here envisions a future construction shed built from reclaimed NYPD wooden sawhorses. These sawhorses were retired in 2007, but they are still available for donation and hold a prominent place in the collective consciousness of the city. Their familiarity with New Yorkers imbues them with an ingrained acceptance to their position as part of the urban streetscape – like seeing an old friend again, but their novel use here, elevates the basic construction assembly into an uplifting form that makes the shed into something more than pure tectonics.
They also present us with an opportunity to acquire a readily available, highly-durable material for a low-cost. In a practical sense, the sawhorses in their previous life as crowd control devices had to withstand a number of structural requirements. Here, the existing sawhorse connection techniques – slotting, nailing and screwing – are used again, this time to withstand a vertical load through multiple connecting load paths and redundant connections that will meet and exceed Section 3307 of the New York City Building Code. Wood also allows for ease of assembly through cutting of pieces and through the use of inexpensive attachments and fasteners as required.
Lastly, this design represents the transformations inherent in the evolving city over the last 50 years. The NYPD wooden sawhorse material here is no longer one that restricts movement and creates artificial barriers in urban space, but rather it is put to a new purpose, one that enables free and open movement while providing shelter and protection for all.
The Inflato Dumpster was back as part of the 6th Annual Bloomingdale Family Days located in my neighborhood, steps from my apartment in fact. Many thanks to the Columbus-Amsterdam BID and Budget Dumpster for the generous support. It was a great turnout and a really successful event.
Please see this link for more about this ongoing project.
Inspired by Ai Wei Wei and aided by modern journalism’s canny ability to simultaneously photograph the same object from multiple vantage points, I wanted to find a way for everyone to identify and express displeasure at the “98% of everything that’s built and designed today [that] is pure shit.”
This is the fourth in a series of 3D Printed experiments in using reality capture software to generate 3d printable models. Each experiment is printable within 2 hours.
…shitty click bait articles…
…shitty generic glass buildings in historic neighborhoods…
…shitty innocuous luxury condos…
…shitty condos on Cathedral property…
…oh wait, nevermind, actually I guess this one is ok…
.STL MODEL LINK:
In the heady days of 2004, I was a green architecture intern fresh out of school, and the first building project I worked on was this – The Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke Virginia. Having the opportunity to design with and learn from Randall Stout on an exciting, high-profile project like this was basically everything I imagined that being an architect could be. This was to be thrown into the emerging world of digital design and geometrical control (hello Rhino V3), close collaborations with players at the forefront of manufacturing complex, building-scale cnc fabrications, and the promise of architecture as a driver of transformative urban change. School couldn’t touch this. In the intervening decade I’ve learned quite a bit more about the behind the scenes maneuvering that morphed an existing regional art collection’s initial, modest desire for a few extra square feet of exhibition space into an ambitious plan to remake a town through a $90 million dollar building. The reality of the inherent impotence of a singular built object to somehow negate or transcend the complex network of entrenched and competing political, cultural, and institutional factors is something that continues to play out in cities all over the world. But those questions were irrelevant to the families I saw enjoying the “weird, but cool” free museum on a Thursday afternoon, the local artist exhibiting hyper-saturated photos of the building at Thelma’s Chicken and Waffles, or the bins of embroidered fabric decorated with the building’s distinctive profile. Basically, it was breathtaking to finally experience the building in all its divisive glory. I wish Randall were here so I could tell him all about it.
These are a few of the images I captured while in town. Presented here to amplify the building’s binary formal references as I had always imagined them in my mind. While there is no true “back” facade, there are two clearly distinct sides to the building: the angular, more constructivist facade facing the railroad tracks and industrial edge of town, and the softer, billowing blue forms facing the city which frame the Blue Ridge Mountains receding into the background.
A small selection of the amazing work the group produced in class this semester. Click on the images above for more information.
This is an inflatable classroom installed inside of a dumpster. It is the first installation – the beta version – launched over three days in late-September at 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in the Bloomingdale Neighborhood of Manhattan. The project includes 165 square feet of enclosed space with maximum dimensions at 17’ height by 12’-6” wide and 24’ long. Over the three days the project was activated, over 500 people in the neighborhood interacted with the installation through a number of events and workshops including: a musical performance by Amani Fela, documentary screening by filmmaker Simone Varano and a 3D printing and modeling work session. The total project budget was $4,200 (including equipment rental) – the majority of said budget was funded via Kickstarter, a process we are deeply skeptical of in regards to urban projects, but used nonetheless. The intention is for the project to continue to periodically activate and further explore how it fits within this neighborhood. This project was created with friend and design partner Joaquin Reyes, and is part of a Columbia University course I teach titled “Hacking the Urban Experience.”
The main element is an inflatable membrane containing 2000 cubic feet of volume. This inflato is made from a combination of two lightweight materials. The first is a clear polyethylene. This is an inexpensive, common and biodegradable plastic material that will allow views both from and out to the street. The second material is a mylar film used in both emergency hiking blankets and spacecraft. Dual-sided – silver and gold – the inflato presents a subdued silver, semi-reflective surface on the exterior with a gold, brightly gilded interior. The street side is more opaque, while the sidewalk side is more open allowing views and a surface to project images onto. The transparent side also allows light to filter down through the canopy of the sidewalk maple tree from above. There is a strong evocation of being under a shaded tree.
“Go inside a dumpster?!?!” – An understandable response given by roughly a quarter of people when told they were welcome to go inside. I think the dumpster helped because it kept the project in the realm of the recognizable, and fed into the transgressive feeling of being inside of an off-limits space. Connotations of trash aside, there’s a shared awareness of the spatial interior dimensions of a dumpster, unlike, say, “an inflatable classroom” or, even worse, “a new paradigm of public space,” which could be just about anything. Or maybe it just lowered the bar so much, that when people stepped not into a rusted metal box, but rather a glowing vaulted space, they couldn’t help but feel like they had been transported.
So there’s certainly an interest in transforming existing banal street structures, but also being drawn to the idea of turning something typically associated with waste and discarded materials into a space for something exciting and new. This, in turn, led to exploring the invisible lightness of the inflatable in relation to the hard steel of the dumpster and the heavy demolition work of machines and tools. This juxtaposition of heavy/light and new/used became a key hot-air-balloon-like diagram of the solid base paired with the weightless membrane.
Maybe there’s also a metaphor here about “recycling” knowledge. The goal of this thing being a new type of classroom space meant that knowledge was not just passed down to a captive audience, but that what’s taught is something that could resonate out like ripples and eddies in a stream – emanating from the central mixing chamber of the dumpster. Repeatedly cycling back and forth amongst everyone that came through. For example, we avoided anything overtly didactic – an early idea of streaming neighborhood demographic data was rejected on the grounds of being too overt – instead favoring a more subtle approach such as that taken with the films screened by Simone Varano. Not only are the films challenging documentaries that deal with authenticity, music and living in the city, but anyone that sat in a dumpster and watched them took away the notion that a theater is not only the AMC on 84th street, but that this can be a valid means of projection and expression. Seeing a construction dumpster on the street in New York invariably indicates change, whether a new condo going up or a renovation going in. Either way, the endpoint is often exclusionary in nature. In this project, the dumpster still indicates a temporal event, however, we hope that it triggers a ripple of aftereffects that will germinate practical ideas and actions that are more inclusionary and empowering for the neighborhood. This is something that has to be iterated on and pushed further in future installations.
There were also pragmatic reasons for using the dumpster. It gave us a solid structure to anchor the inflatable, to resist any uplifting wind loads barreling down the avenue or traveling up 109th from Columbus, which is at a significantly lower elevation. Parking Day by Rebar is a big influence, but is limited by short time allotments provided by the meter and single parking space limitations. The dumpster allows us to take over a few parking spaces at approximately 160 square feet of New York real estate (bigger than my bedroom) for a fairly significant chunk of time. Which of course leads to questions of….
With the DOT’s generous help, we were able to successfully navigate some of the overlapping permitting requirements and submit a Street Activity Permit to the City. These typically take two weeks to receive for small events that do not require any street closures. The application fee is $25. However, hauling companies of course do not pull Street Activity permits before dropping dumpsters on the streets. The obvious difference being people aren’t expected to be hanging out in them, just throwing their trash in them. There’s some gray area here that we think is interesting and can be explored further.
It was all very friendly and inclusionary. By the third day when I was walking down the street, carrying a large jumbled pile of plastic and mylar to the dumpster, random people would be calling out to me asking when and what was going on inside that day. I’d be remiss not to point out how great it was interacting with people. We were thrown into the neighborhood and had to have a concise explanation for what we were doing. Any pretentiousness or BS descriptions wouldn’t cut it. But that was what was most exciting: Seeing what happens when actual other human beings interact with the thing – kids, moms on the way from the store, students, the elderly, drunks, lifelong and newly-arrived residents, football fans (on Sunday outside the bar), and so on – all with opinions and critiques, but all interested in what was going on. Urban street life in the area moves fast and seems complicated but it’s actually pretty easy to jump into the thick of it.
As an introduction to the neighborhood, afropunk group Amani Fela opened with a music set on the first night, and seemed totally unfazed to be playing inside of a gold dumpster. The percussion had people lining up to check it out. Unfortunately, one thing that was not anticipated – but in hindsight now seem obvious – was that most people assumed that this was one of the following: a private event, an event requiring admission or some type of corporate event. (There were also a few inquiries as to whether this had anything to do with ConEd testing a mobile containment unit, however that one was not as widespread). Peoples’ initial reactions were an unfortunate acknowledgement that, as a society, most of us assume that if something is going on in the street, they must have to pay up somehow to check it out. Overcoming that ingrained skepticism and convincing people this was free became a constant struggle. A large signboard with “FREE TO ALL” was brought out and prominently displayed. By the third day, word had spread and people had heard about the Inflato via friends and neighbors. Without being prompted they would walk right in. It’s a start.
Department of Urban Betterment: John Locke and Joaquin Reyes
Inflatable Fabrication: TW2M Fabrication
Dumpster Supplier: Budget Dumpster
Street Activity Permit Support: NYC Department of Transportation and the City of New York
Photography: Jackie Caradonio
Special Thanks to: Columbus Amsterdam BID, Simone Varano, Amani Fela, Delia Reyes, Mugi Pottery, Ultimaker.
There were 240 individual triangles, which required more than 300 hours to assemble.
Local filmmaker Simone Varano sets up for a screening of her documentary series dealing with music, culture and neighborhood issues.
Workshop attendees learn about modelling and building models using a consumer grade 3D printer.
Amani Fela, unfazed by the surroundings.
Taken from the second night, capturing a diverse mix of neighbors and passersby that were interacting with the installation. People’s responses ran the gamut, but regardless of how skeptical they were of this thing, their curiosity would get the best of them. Once someone peeked in through the porthole, everyone wanted to go inside and check it out. Located at 109th and Amsterdam Ave.
Difficult not to anthropomorphize this thing coming into being, but maybe that’s one of the things that’s cool in working with a dynamic structure – the weightless way it subtly sways in the breeze or will ripple in the backdraft of a speeding car or contracts and expands when someone enters much like a giant lung. People always liked to put their hands on the silvery metallic membrane and push in, feeling the negative pressure resistance from inside. This is in contrast to the hard steel of the dumpster in that the silver of the inflato gently reacts and responds to touch.
Update – Kickstarter goal reached, Inflato lives to pop up soon!
The Atlantic Cities. “New York Could Get a Classroom Inside a Dumpster” Oct 16, 2013
FastCompanyDesign. “Architect Wants To Reclaim Public Space, One Dumpster At A Time” Oct 31, 2013
FastCompanyLabs. “The Future of Pop-Up Hackspaces Is… Dumpsters?” Oct 21, 2013
Architizer. “Can An Inflatable Pop-Up Dumpster Help NYC Residents Transform Their Neighborhoods?” Nov 1, 2013
Treehugger. “Presto, Inflato! Dumpsters to be reclaimed as “pop-up” public spaces in NYC” Nov 5, 2013
DesignBoom. “Inflato Dumpster Gives NYC a Blow-up Mobile Learning Lab.” Oct 18, 2013
Gothamist. “One Day We Will All Live In Dumpsters.” Oct 22, 2013
UntappedCities. ““Inflato Dumpster”: Turning a Dumpster into an Inflatable Classroom in NYC” Oct 16, 2013
I’m really excited to introduce a new project by the Department of Urban Betterment (John Locke and Joaquin Reyes) – The Inflato Dumpster, and the accompanying KICKSTARTER campaign:
A pre-emptive, heartfelt thank you! Also, please email me if you’d like to help out in any way, with any ideas for site, or just to say hi.
As public space in New York becomes increasingly privatized and commodified, The Inflato Dumpster seeks to counter that tendency by serving as an open, engaging street-level structure that acts as a mobile learning laboratory.
For five days this fall, the temporary, dome-like structure will confront the tendency of city space to limit public exchange by serving as a large scale urban intervention in which workshops to create and explore the possibilities for smaller, targeted urban interventions will be produced and deployed from within.
We believe that the architecture of the Inflato Dumpster can act as a networked node of neighborhood information – using screens and sensors to produce constantly updating streams of demographic and subjective information regarding the local site – and then in turn produces a smaller constellation of satellite interventions created by locals and visitors alike. We envision the site as a hub for all, to create a gathering space where programs can be curated to the needs of the community.
Visitors can enter, visualize, learn and explore various urban techniques and strategies before leaving the structure armed with the knowledge to redesign their own total environment.
Initially, we see this space as taking the form of a hacker workshop where simple, off the shelf components can be procured and combined to provide local residents with access to technology and a means for hands-on testing of public space concerns.
The structure’s faceted shape, materials and unexpected location will all combine to make for a fun, dynamic addition to the streetscape with the inflated structure evoking the blow-up castles of street festivals and the long history of big inflatable space from AntFarm to Spacebuster. We’ve been seeing a lot of construction dumpsters on the streets in the neighborhood, they symbolize change but also an opportunity for us to create something new.
As residents of various areas in New York City, we aim to take advantage of the mobile, temporary nature of the Inflato Dumpster to pop-up in areas that we love, neighborhoods where we live and around the people and communities that we know. We’ve identified a number of intersections and areas where the workshops and education laboratory programs would have the greatest impact, so stay tuned as we finalize the exact spot.
The Inflato Dumpster will be built from readily available lightweight materials and combined into a structure that can be inflated and occupied. Consisting of gold and silver mylar, it will reflect the light filtering down from the trees and create a shimmering, inviting structure on the street.The logic behind the materials is as follows: up to a datum level of approximately six and a half feet, the structure will be made of clear polyethylene. This is an inexpensive, common and biodegradable plastic material that will allow views both from the street into the space, and from within back out to the street. The street side will be primarily comprised of gold and silver mylar material with small clear holes throughout to allow light to filter in, evoking the feeling of being under a shaded tree. The highest point on the dome will be approximately 28’ and the space will comprise nearly 2000 cubic feet of overall volume. The sidewalk side will be built from faceted white tyvek building wrap, used both for its lightweight capabilities and also to provide a surface for projections of film and data. The final and most important material is of course the dumpster, a 30 yard refuse container that is 23’ long by 8’ wide and will form the solid base of the intervention.
Looking forward to seeing you in the dumpster!
A link for high resolution images: