An open international contest has been launched for a pop-up pavilion on Governors Island in New York City
Open to individuals and teams of architects and non-architects – the two-stage competition seeks net-zero proposals for a new temporary gathering space on the prominent 70 hectare island overlooking Manhattan which opened to the public in 2004 after centuries as a military base.
The call for submissions is the seventh to be held for the annual commission which aims to create a focus for the island’s summer art programme. Proposals must carefully consider materials, construction efficiency and environmental impact.
According to the brief: ‘The City of Dreams Pavilion will be a gathering place for people to meet, learn about the arts programs on the island, enjoy a performance or lecture, and experience the interaction of art and the historic context of Governors Island.
‘In the end, the goal is to create a pavilion that has a net zero impact and that serves as a prototype for a new, truly sustainable, way of thinking about design and construction.’
Located less than 1km from the southern tip of Manhattan, Governors Island was originally home to the city’s royal governors during the British colonial era but later became a military base.
Since 2004, the landmark island – which features 52 historic buildings, a public park and a national monument – has been open to the public every year between May and September. This year’s pavilion is planned to be constructed on the South Parade Grounds close to the island’s oldest structure, Fort Jay.
Previous winners include London-based Izaskun Chinchilla Architects – whose 2015 installation featured flower structures constructed from broken umbrellas and bicycle wheels (pictured) – and Team Aesop from New York which delivered last year’s pavilion.
Governors Island, New York
Source: Image by Ted Quackenbush
Proposals for the latest installation should provide shelter from the sun and rain and a gathering space for 50 or more people with a small stage or performance area. Submissions should carefully consider the past and future life cycle of all materials which may need to be transported to site by ferry.
Schemes must be freestanding with minimal foundations and will need approval from local agencies. The winning team will construct their scheme between March and June next year. A public opening will be held on 8 June and the pavilion will be taken down at the end of August.
The project is supported by FIGMENT in partnership with the Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) of the American Institute of Architects NY Chapter (AIANY) and the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY).
Judges include Diller Scofidio + Renfro partner Benjamin Gilmartin, the artist Risa Puno and Jorge Otero-Pailos, director and professor of historic preservation at Columbia University.
Several finalists – due to be announced mid-October – will be invited to further develop their ideas in response to feedback from the jury ahead of the announcement of a winner on 30 November.
The deadline for applications is 11:59pm local time (ET) on 30 September.
How to apply
Visit the competition website for more information
Q&A with David Koren and Jessica Sheridan
The executive director of FIGMENT and member of ENYA discuss their ambitions for the compeition
Why are your holding a contest for a pop-up pavilion on Governors Island?
FIGMENT is an experiment in creative community development, organization, and expression that we began in 2007, and that has spread over the past decade to 18 cities in 5 countries. We have held nearly 60 free participatory arts festivals, all created by volunteers, with a view to the idea that everyone is an artist, that everyone can contribute creatively to the experience, in whatever way they choose.
In 2009, we decided to team up with the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter emerging professional committee (ENYA) and the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY) to invite architects and others interested in creating a pavilion to submit a design for the City of Dreams pavilion, a structure that would be on Governors Island (where we first started FIGMENT in 2007) for the entire summer, along with other summer-long installations such as an artist-designed minigolf course, a treehouse that functions as a pop-up gallery, and a collection of interactive summer-long sculptures. All of these programs are created through open calls for participation.
From FIGMENT’s perspective, we are very interested in inspiring people who may not identify as “professional” artists or architects or creatives to make art, as we believe that we are all creative and that it is through our individual creativity that we can create truly engaging public experiences and build creative communities. Contests, open public calls for participation, are the best way we’ve found to do this. For ENYA and SEAoNY, design competitions also provide a means for emerging practices to explore new construction methods and strategies.
Now that FIGMENT is active in several countries around the world, we recognize that much of our growth will be fueled by going to new locations and engaging with artists and designers from far away. We are very excited by the diversity of entries we receive each year for the City of Dreams Pavilion Competition, in terms of where they come from and the perspective they bring to public architecture. When judges choose from a broad range of diverse projects, their own understanding of and perspective on what is possible in the public realm is expanded.
The 2015 winning pavilion by Izaskun Chinchilla Architects
What is your vision for the new structure?
The City of Dreams Pavilion is intended to be a public gathering place on Governors Island, a central node for all of the amazing arts and creative activity that happens on the island over the summer. We have always imagined that the pavilion could be a place for public performances, and a place to learn about the arts activities happening on the island.
We have so far built seven pavilions on Governors Island over the years, and each has expressed this vision in different ways. In addition, each of the pavilions has been sited in a different location on the island, in response to its own unique character and the requirements of the island and other installations and activities that have been planned. The most important constraint is that, as a former military base, there is a limited understanding of what may be under the soil, including potentially unexploded ordinance, so temporary structures and artworks like the pavilion are not permitted to go into the soil by more than six inches (15 cm). Other than that, anything is really possible as long as it is safe, buildable, and able to be funded collaboratively by the design team and through the broad support of our community.
Each year, we assemble a jury of impressive architects, architectural journalists, engineers, and artists to review all of the pavilion submissions, select finalists, and then eventually, after a second round of submissions, select a winner. In each year, this jury has been primarily concerned with architectural quality and innovation, and has often tended to select a very innovative and experimental project which they also have confidence can be built. This year, for example, our jury selected the Cast & Place pavilion by Team Aesop, an incredibly innovative structure cast in aluminium using clay as a casting mould.
Sustainability is a key component in our competition brief. When we were first conceiving of the City of Dreams pavilion competition in 2009, we were concerned with the idea that so many temporary structures, pavilions, and follies use new materials in their construction and do not seem to have a plan for reuse or recycling after the installation is over. So we made it clear in our original competition brief that designers should consider carefully where their materials come from, and where they go after the pavilion installation is over. Many of our pavilions have been built primarily by sourcing materials in the waste stream, then taking them out of the stream before they end up in a landfill, and then, after the installation, recycling them in one way or another. For example, our 2017 pavilion is made primarily from melted down aluminium cans. After the installation is over, the pavilion is designed to be taken apart and recycled in a variety of ways.
Fort Jay, Governors Island
Source: Image by Chris Ruvolo
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
The City of Dreams Pavilion Design Competition is open to everyone to submit. We hope to receive submissions from experienced and inexperienced architects, designers, artists, engineers, and builders of all kinds. Many of our previous winners have been small emerging practices, or collaborative interdisciplinary groups. For many of the architects involved in creating previous pavilions, the pavilion is a watershed project in their portfolio, and the installation has led to future professional success, media attention, speaking opportunities, and other accolades.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
Governors Island, where our pavilion is located, is working on a development program and will begin to issue development RFPs later this year for several undeveloped sites. It is our hope that architects and designers who have been involved in smaller temporary projects in the past will utilize this experience to get involved in the island’s upcoming development plan.
Are there any other pop-up pavilion projects you have been impressed by?
When we were originally conceiving the City of Dreams Pavilion Design Competition, we were very impressed by Young Architects Program at P.S. 1 in New York City, and the Serpentine Gallery temporary pavilions in London. While we do not have the prestige or budgets of either institution, we had been hoping to create a more public and inclusive design competition that could be open to architects, designers, and artists with any level of experience. There aren’t specific pavilions that we would like to call out as particularly successful, though all of the temporary pavilions created for of the P.S. 1 Young Architects Program and the Serpentine Gallery are impressive, and we regard them as highly successful.
2016 winner: Cast & Place by Team Aesop