MoMA/P.S.1 Canopy
Queens, NY

Canopy was a temporary structure in the MoMA/P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center’s courtyard, built out of freshly cut green bamboo poles that turned from green to tan throughout the summer. The project relies on a singular tectonic system to bind together provisions for overhead shade, seating and varying atmospheres, resulting in what the architects envisage as a ‘deep landscape’ that affects the entire depth of the courtyard.

Pinches in the bamboo lattice produce a range of shadow densities and patterns across the courtyard and throughout the day. Dips in the canopy define rooms open to the sky, each with a distinct climatic environment for different modes and scales of lounging: Pool Pad, the largest outdoor room, incorporates a wading pool; Fog Pad consists of fog nozzles that spread a cool halo of mist; Rock Pad is a dry elevated region of gravel, Meeting Pad provides an intimate seat for five, Rainforest features a sound environment and water misters that provide intermittent rain showers; and Sand Hump’s half open ellipse orients itself to maximize exposure to sun and shade.

Process: 3D to 2D to construction

nARCHITECTS’ challenge resided in the physical translation of a geometrically precise structure, using a natural material with inherently variable characteristics. Every arc in Canopy was digitally modeled in 3D, then exported as a 2D elevation drawing, with its exact length and intersection points indicated. The type, general shape, and critical radius of the arc dictated the pole selection, orientation, and splicing method.  nARCHITECTS and their team of architecture students and recent graduates then spent six weeks on site testing each arc type to determine the maximum span, minimum bending radii, and overlap dimensions, before building the structure itself over a period of seven weeks.  The project utilized 9,400 meters of flexible, freshly cut green Philostachys Aurea bamboo from Georgia, spliced and bound together with 11,300 meters of stainless-steel wire.

Since Canopy was designed as a three-dimensional structural network, the arcs were subjected to more stress during erection than in the final stage. The architects devised a phasing sequence that optimized the structural capabilities of bamboo and minimized breakages. Starting with small areas of the canopy, the team erected structural spanning arcs first and non-supporting arcs second, repeating the sequence until the overall shape had developed.  Each arc was assembled on the ground by splicing together 7-meter bamboo poles with stainless-steel wire and marking off each intersection point.  Their tips wrapped in neoprene, structural spanning arcs were inserted into the steel pipes welded to either ring beams or wall straps.  Once lifted into place, they were temporarily held at their intersections with other arcs with plastic zip ties.  Matching the exact length of the drawn profile from the digital model naturally produced a close approximation in shape and height for each erected arc.  However, the precise geometry was achieved by stretching surveying strings across critical gridlines, adjusting heights with temporary posts and nudging each arc into place before finally binding each intersection with wire.  The wire made for a rigid lattice, and the final canopy acted as a multi-directional structural network of more than 300 individual arcs, whose shape was precisely translated from the digital model.

At the end of the summer, nARCHITECTS sold the bamboo as raw material to the artist Matthew Barney’s studio, for the construction of scaffolding in a film set.  Everyone assumed that the bamboo would have lost its elasticity after being effectively molded into shape for so long, so it was a surprise when the bamboo immediately sprang back straight as soon as it was cut down.

MoMA/P.S.1 Canopy
Client : MoMA/P.S.1
Project Location : Queens, NY
Status : 2004
Area : 30,000sf Courtyard
Program : Young Architects Program summer installation.
Sustainability : Groundbreaking first time use green bamboo at architectural scale. Largest bamboo structure in USA at time of completion.
Awards : AIA NYC Design Honor Award
nARCHITECTS Team : Competition team: Eric Bunge, Mimi Hoang (Principals), Jorge Pereira (Project Architect), Samuel Dufaux, with Kayt Brumder, Phu Hoang, Claudia Martinho, Marica McKeel, Christopher Rountos, Dayoung Shin, Nik Vekic; nARCHITECTS fabrication + installation team: Eric Bunge, Nick Gelpi, Mimi Hoang, Matt Hutchinson, Ian Keough, Jonathan Kurtz, Jeannie Lee, Marica McKeel, Jorge Pereira, Aaron Tweedie, with Anthony Acciavatti, Jenny Chou, Samuel Dufaux, Jennifer Fetner, Toru Hasegawa, Mark Hash, Hikaru Iwasaka, Sebastian Potz, Christopher Rountos, Kevin Sipe, Peter Thon, Nik Vekic.
Collaborators : Bamboo Consultant: Dave Flanagan, President, Northeast Chapter, American Bamboo Society; Bamboo Supplier: Big Bamboo, GASteel Fabrication: Amuneal Manufacturing Corp., PA, and nARCHITECTS; Structural Consultant: Markus Schulte, Ove Arup & Partners; NYGarden Consultant: Marie Viljoen; NYSound Environment: José Ignacio Hinestrosa
Fabrication: nARCHITECTS, Amuneal Manufacturing Corp., PA (steel)