If you’ve ever dived into the ocean and looked up at the surface to find jellyfish or seaweed dangling on a background of breaking sunlight, you’ve got a notion of what you’ll see at MoMA PS1 when Warm Up starts this weekend.
Experimental architect Jenny Sabin has graced the museum’s courtyard with a vast network of threads that light up in various enigmatic colors in reaction to the sun. “Lumen” is impressive in both size and beauty. Held up by masts and cables like an expansion bridge, hundreds of digitally knitted cells and tubes dangle like old white dresses on a clothes line.
Every year, the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 challenge up-and-coming designers to create a structure that provides shade, shelter and seating for the thousands of visitors to Warm Up, PS1’s courtyard summer series with experimental music. [I moved this around to avoid having ‘every year’ and ‘every summer’ in one sentence]
This year, Sabin and her design studio won the contest with an immersive structure consisting of over a millions yards of thread. “A fundamental question for me in my work is how architecture perhaps can behave more like an organism,” Sabin, an associate professor at Cornell, said in a video series about the project. Through the movement instigated by the wind, the cellular structure of the nets, and the work’s beautiful play of light and shade, “organic” is indeed an adjective that comes to mind, at least if you stay long enough to see the environment evolve throughout the day.
Throughout the day, parts of the piece react colorfully to sunlight. The most dramatic effect, however, is accomplished by the external lighting at night, when the piece has subtle, mysterious glow-in-the-dark moments. The best time to go therefore is at twilight, when you can see the artwork transform. If you stay until the end of Warm Up at 9pm, you can see something similar to the time-lapse video below, which we shot over the course of 10 minutes.
If you’re only able to get out and play in the afternoon, don’t hesitate to do so. The design provides a certain degree of shade, and creates a refreshing micro-climate by misting visitors when they’re near the dangling tubes. Plus you can relax on one of the hundred tear-shaped recycled “spool stools” with photoluminescent thread spun around it.
And that’s what Sabin hopes you’ll do. “Really, ‘Lumen’ is all about interaction,” she said, “It interacts with people, it interacts with the sun. It’s transformative, but it’s also playful and beautiful.”
“Lumen” can be visited during MoMA PS1’s normal hours or during Warm Up, every Saturday from 3 to 9pm.