The Pleasure Garden
THEM (Lynch + Crembil)
Designers: Peter Lynch, Gustavo Grembil
THEM (Lynch + Crembil) competed in 2008 with an entry that focused on globalization and development. Architects Peter Lynch and Gustavo Grembil looked to Crembil's native country of Argentina to help put together a project that required extensive weaving.
Q&A with THEM (Lynch + Crembil)
MoMA PS1: We were wondering how you understood the project's brief. Most people say it's very simple. What was your approach?
Peter Lynch and Gustavo Crembil, THEM (Lynch + Crembil): What we ended up doing was what we always do and to be honest, that's sort of a gamble. You just let the cards fall. In the end we did a very material, very logistical, and very process-intensive proposal.
Like most firms, we didn't merely look at the words in brief but really tried to understand what was behind those words. It's not very complex: it's a dance space; you need shade, you need water, a place for bars. But we thought that there was an end-game aspect to what the competition is doing. They've been doing this gig so long that we figured they needed some way to transform their own brief, even if it was unspoken. Sure enough, that is what happened with the team that won our year, WORKac!
MoMA PS1: But you've been involved in YAP twice! How did your proposal differ the second time?
THEM (Lynch + Crembil): When we put together the second project for MoMA PS1, we decided to go backwards instead of forwards, reinventing things we had explored before. A "let's see what we already have" approach. Besides the design, we offered a network that we’d built—we were a big team.
We worked with a community of weavers in Argentina. Starting from their basic skill set, we went towards changing the way they were working by introducing new techniques and connecting them with other producers. The weavers had never worked on a common project and for YAP, they needed to work together, weaving side-by-side. We were stumbling together.
The group wasn't exclusively weavers. We worked with cartoneros, people who collect recycled materials, on developing what was almost a leadership, managerial cadre within these communities. They stripped the bottles and the weavers did tests on weaving them.
Working with people from Argentina, you gamble with more than just time; you wager good will. You can't make promises or give hedged representations to people who need work without expecting repercussions. Even though we tried to be clear that this was a competition and that it wasn't a sure thing, it was a bummer for them.
MoMA PS1: How were you able to present this global network? Was there more to it?
THEM (Lynch + Crembil): There was also something of the history of architecture in our presentation. The idea of the pleasure dome—after all, the first man-made landscape was a pleasure garden—is the idea that within the city you can go somewhere to forget about the city, to imagine paradise. That was the spirit we were trying to evoke. There are still beer gardens in Queens; you see this in Berlin and Munich. It's the idea that in summer you hang out at twilight, under the trees with your beer. We had these lightweight interlocking soil-cement blocks that people could use to build whatever they wanted: you're hanging out for a couple of hours—build yourself a house! That was the idea.
MoMA PS1: Where'd you get that idea?
THEM (Lynch + Crembil): Many years ago, on the West Side, there was an abandoned pier that was paved in asphalt bricks. I went there one Sunday morning and a community of homeless people was building houses out of these little bricks. They had built themselves a city within a city: it was phenomenal! The police have destroyed it all now but it was this idea, this spontaneous thing. The root of our MoMA PS1 entry was the myth of the origin of architecture: where do buildings come from?