Young Architects Program 2014: Hy-Fi by The Living

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Hy-Fi, the winning project of The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1’s 2014 Young Architects Program, opened on June 27 in the MoMA PS1 courtyard. A circular tower of organic and reflective bricks that uses biological technologies combined with cutting-edge computation and engineering, the structure is made of biodegradable material and was created through a new method of bio-design conceived by its designer, David Benjamin of the New York-based architects The Living.

Now in its 15th edition, the Young Architects Program (YAP) at MoMA and MoMA PS1 has been committed to offering emerging architectural talent the opportunity to design and present innovative projects, challenging each year’s winners to develop creative designs for a temporary, outdoor installation at MoMA PS1 that provides shade, seating, and water. The architects must also work within guidelines that address environmental issues, including sustainability and recycling. Hy-Fi, drawn from among five finalists, will provide a temporary urban structure for the 2014 Warm Up summer music series, which begins on June 28, and for MoMA PS1 visitors throughout the summer.

Hy-Fi combines cutting-edge engineering with innovative biotechnology to create a new building material that is grown rather than manufactured, and with it a structure that is almost entirely compostable. Its bricks are made entirely of organic matter, a combination of discarded cornstalks and living root-like structures from mushrooms. After a few days in a mold, this mixture hardens into a sturdy, lightweight solid. The natural cycle of carbon through the ground, air, water, and living matter is temporarily diverted to produce a building that grows out of and returns to nothing but earth—with almost no waste, no energy input, and no carbon emissions.

The shiny blocks near the top of the structure are the molds in which the organic bricks are grown. They are coated in a special light-refracting film invented by 3M, which helps direct light down into the towers. Once the structure is taken down, these molds will be sent back to 3M for further research. The tower is designed to create a pleasant microclimate in the summer by drawing in cool air at the bottom and pushing out hot air at the top. Hy-Fi offers shade, color, light, views, and a futuristic experience that is refreshing, thought-provoking, and full of wonder and optimism.

The 2014 Young Architects Program is sponsored by Bloomberg.

Additional funding is provided by Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation, Jeffrey and Michèle Klein, and Agnes Gund.