New York-“Hy-Fi” by The Living for the Young Architects Program at MoMA PS1 Through September 6th, 2014

August 23rd, 2014

The Living, Hy-Fi (2014), all photos by Kelly Lee for Art Observed

The 15th annual The Young Architects Program (YAP) has taken rise at MoMA and MoMA PS1, continuing the program’s reputation for innovative ideas that challenge the presentation and purpose of architectural structures for future environments, while embracing and promoting sustainable construction practices. The 2014 YAP winner is Hy-Fi, a unique, 100% organically biodegradable structure created by New York firm The Living.  The structure emerged as the final winner among five finalists in The Young Architects Program competition, starting from 25 candidates.

The view of above while inside of The Living’s Hy-Fi

Hy-Fi is planted in the center of MoMA PS1’s triangular courtyard, and its appearance is quite striking: a towering, misshapen column of bricks with enormous canopies letting in sunlight from above. The color is a pale, earthy-tan, except for gleams of metal at the circular tops.  While the shape of the overall structure is organic and hilly, the components are actually upright, sturdy and rectangular bricks, composed of farm waste and a living fungus culture.  According to The Living, low-value crops are gathered and ground up, then fused with mycelium, a mushroom-root material. The resulting product can be molded within any shape, and then solidifies within it. The company Ecovative inspired the process of creating this biodegradable material in 2007; and Hy-Fi has been the only large-scaled product to implement it to this date.  The end result is a solid brick material that will slowly break down after the structure has been disassembled, leaving minimal environmental impact from its construction.

Inside view of Hy-Fi 

The steel molds used to grow these bricks build up the top of Hy-Fi, explaining the hints of silver that reflect from the sun. This subtle, but worthy touch also is a metaphor for today’s urban buildings that has overtaken the brick materiality of past New York structures.  As a result, Hy-Fi becomes something of a meeting point for the various architectural traditions of both New York City and the wider international architectural community.  The fluid, organic style of avant-garde contemporary architecture finds a home here amid the recognizable building materials and styles of New York’s recent past, combining to create something equally foreign and familiar.

Hy-Fi under construction 

Close-up of Hy-Fi

Innovative biotechnology aside, Hy-Fi does not forget the YAP winner’s primary functions—to serve as the space around which PS1’s music festival Warm Up series takes place until September 7th. Hy-Fi provides cool shade from the hot sun, further implemented by the efficient air ventilation by the empty spaces among the bricks as well as the obvious open ceiling. In addition, seating is provided by three ringed craters outside of the major sculpture, one which is filled with water.

Hy-Fi will be up on MoMA PS1’s courtyard through September 6th.

Courtyard View of Hy-Fi at MoMA PS1

— K. Lee

Related Links:
Hy-Fi by The Living [Exhibition Page]
Hy-Fi [The Living]
Interview with David Benjamin [Archinect]
 “Hy-Fi, The Organic Mushroom Brick Tower Opens at MoMA PS1’s Courtyard” [Archdaily]