SOW / Pavilion on Governors Island, New York, NY

Competition entry, 2014.
Collaboration with Margaret Zyro and Thomas Heltzel.

Conceived as part of the 2015 City of Dreams Pavilion competition organized by Figment NYC, this design for a temporary pavilion to be erected on Governors Island proposed cultivating the civic realm by providing outwardly-focused architecture, performance Art, and ecology.

Competition Text

Cultivating the Civic Realm: Outwardly-Focused Architecture, Performance Art, and Ecology

With a narrow, self centered, value-for-owner discourse that underlies much of the physical landscape, we propose a different view on architecture and its place in the city and in our lives; architecture that is outwardly focused, that inspires life and energy outside it’s walls. With market forces ensuring a steady stream of new construction, we can task ourselves with leveraging buildings for a greater good, to be enjoyed by all who encounter them.

We believe that architecture, with its sheer presence, can enhance and inspire the public spaces around them, transforming into places of civic gathering. Our pavilion aims to enliven the spaces outside of it. It will provide shelter from sun and rain by its orientation on the lawn and by the positioning of the gathering spaces around it. By orienting the pavilion to block prevailing summer winds, it will in turn provide a ‘dry’ shadow in its leeward side. Furthermore, by ensuring the provision of afternoon shade, we can safely program afternoon activities that are both sheltered and focused on the speaker, not the space.

The singular object acts as a focal point and creates two distinct spaces for gathering. Toward the northeast, a place of gathering, the area for the pavilion’s primary programmatic activities. Small lectures, performances, and events can happen in the shade throughout the summer afternoons. Summer rain, carried by winds from the west and south west, are disrupted by the pavilion, trickle down, and are collected, helping ballast the pavilion against winds. As the summer season winds down, and the days grow shorter, the shadows will grow longer, and visitors to the pavilion will enjoy unique sunsets through the layers of the pavilion; with the back-lit mesh growing more transparent with the change of seasons.

Towards the southwest, we propose spaces for small gatherings and individual refuge – a new landscape is created by placing large moveable ‘sow’ bags on the lawn. These large geo-textile sacks extend the pavilions’ tactile presence to the ground plane, providing seating, activity areas, and focal points. The sacks are filled with dried flowers and seeds that in turn act to enliven the bio-diversity on the island – as the sacks bio-degrade over the summer, the fall-migration of Canada Geese have a chance to rest and replenish en-route to warmer climates.

These two distinct sides are experienced by either circling around the pavilion or by traversing the threshold created by a narrow oblique cut through the structure.

Our pavilion is temporary; our materials are not. We have opted for reusing over recycling; with the imminent challenge of reducing extraction, recycling only goes so far in satisfying it. Thus, we borrow materials, returning them to their primary users, avoiding cycles of waste and downcycling. The structure – scaffolding, robust, durable, and reusable. The skin – a simple mesh, borrowed for the course of the pavilion and given a new life. The mesh acts as a skin, a filter, and a backdrop, participating in every event, while discouraging visitors from climbing the pavilion structure.
SOW Bag Detail
Our manipulations of the ground plane to create a variety of spatial experiences led us to wonder – can a temporary pavilion leave a lasting, positive footprint on Governors Island? While everything we propose are designed to be dismantled, the materials we are suggesting can easily be left in place to slowly become part of Governors Island ecosystem. By introducing seeds and plants, and by working with materials that have a varied duration of biodegradation, we can introduce a slow release process that would transform temporary ‘sow’ bags into permanent land forms, a once noticeable appendage slowly taking root in the land. By working with Figment and the Trust for Governors Island, we can easily curate an experience of the landscape that would outlast the temporary installation, setting the tone for a textured landscape, rich with the history of temporary works of art.

Renderings: Thomas Heltzel, Margaret Zyro