Showing posts with label Ted Baab. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ted Baab. Show all posts

04 October 2010


This time I walked to PS1. On a scorching New York summer day, I ventured out of my sister's Manhattan apartment on 20th St. and 1st Ave. and made my way north toward the Queensborough Bridge. I was going to see the annual courtyard installation before it closed on September 6th. My friend Ted Baab had helped design it while working for the architecture firm SO-IL, Solid Objectives - Idenburg Liu. Before getting on the bridge, I stepped into The Orchard House Cafe, where the owner raised an eyebrow when I asked if he had iced coffee. It turned out to be an excellent choice, including the complimentary soy milk on a self-serve counter. Sadly, I finished my drink before I had crossed into Queens and suffered the remainder of the walk through the scorching heat, alongside bikers pedaling their way up the bridge ramp, and later on, other pedestrians crossing over sweltering tarmac, under softly screeching rail lines in Long Island City. It was a Monday, and I was thrilled that PS1 was open.

As I turned the corner into the courtyard on the right, I realized that I was walking on sand. Medium-sized green and purple yoga balls, rolling on a barely visible supporting net, hovered above me. For a moment, I thought I could hear the sound of reeds whistling in the breeze. Turning around, I read the explanation on the 20-foot high concrete wall that enclosed the urban courtyard-cum-urban beach. Vertical poles laid out in a grid and anchoring the overarching net generated sound. The sign encouraged me to try shaking one of them, so I did. A loud, windswept sound took flight, disappearing into the blue sky above the net. I made for the hammock in a corner and starting swinging back and forth on it, waiting for the movement to vibrate across the net/sound system. To call it an installation would not be doing it justice. The courtyard at PS1 had been transformed into an immersive environment with remnants of a bar in the corner opposite the hammock: PS1 hosts "Warm Up" Saturday parties during July and August each year with a lineup of bands.

I proceeded into the bigger courtyard, which leads to the museum entrance. In the center was a large bathtub filled with yoga balls. (At this point I had already begun to think of them as beach balls.) The net above this gravel-filled courtyard waned onto the bathtub, meeting it along its perimeter, but with two openings for ball retrieval. I decided to be playful and took a ball from the pool and threw it up onto the net through one of the openings. It rolled back in my direction and into the water with a glide. It took a few tries to get it to roll away over the hills and valleys formed by the net canopy. In select locations, tubes ran through the net and sprinkled water at their endpoints. Just the idea for such a hot day! I am sure the Warm Up partiers felt the same way.

SO-IL: Ted Baab

"The life of the structure is always changing based on its context. The proposal sought to accommodate both the Warm Up parties with 3000 attendees and daily museum goers," noted Ted Baab, a member of the SO-IL Pole Dance design team.

In an interview with Artists Speak, Baab recounted some of SO-IL's guiding concepts and the Brooklyn-based firm's local vision for the design. "You can only go to Zaha Hadid's Guggenheim if you fly to Abu Dhabi. The grid of poles references a modernist grid re-imagined in a populist way," he reported. According to Baab, the foam squiggly benches pictured above are a direct reference to Archizoom's reinterpretation of the modernist grid. The 1960s group constructed a node-based endless grid and imagined organic ways to occupy it.

"Florian started with the idea that it could be an unstable structure," Baab refers to Florian Idenburg, Principal-In-Charge of the SO-IL proposal. The goals of the project were to make something un-monumental, without an inside or outside, un-object-like and not stationary. "What is left over is totally defined by time, place and audience. The project creates a circumstance out of everyday things."

Under the constraints of the requisite $85,000 budget, SO-IL was able to mount the grid of fiberglass poles and wire them into the ground with sound filters attached to control the characteristics of the sound produced. The Arup Acoustics- designed sound room, which looks like a ticket booth at the entrance of the exhibit, automatically computes all the signals that the accelerometers attached to the base of each pole detect with changes in the speed and direction of movement. Constructed with off-the-shelf components, the installation is easily dismantled and recyclable.