Lindy Roy won the YAP competition in 2001 with a project that blended her native South African roots with a bit of “pHantasy.”
Q&A with ROY
MoMA PS1: Can you tell us what your projects were back then?
Lindy Roy, ROY: I had done quite a few projects before 2001 but had a pretty rudimentary office set up. A lot of decoys and smoke and mirrors. At the time I was nominated, I was visiting friends in the bush in Botswana. So my first thoughts about the project were in the context of a pretty extreme environment. I began considering the strategies of “setting up camp” in a hostile environment, how one creates a temporary place in the wild—what are the basics that you need when it’s really really hot. By the time I came back the hot concrete and gravel courtyard in Long Island City had merged with those ideas.
It turned out that I had completely misunderstood the theme of the competition. In reality it was “Paradise Island” but somehow in my mind, it had become “Fantasy Island.” At the time there was the Phat Farm fad, so I spelled “fantasy” with a “ph,” as in testing the pH level of something. I built the whole thing up around the more medical side of rest and recovery than the holistic spa side.
The previous year West Nile virus had hit New York, so I thought that if we used water it had better be moving water and that mosquito nets would be a good idea. But that summer ended up being crazy hot so it took a different turn and the big wall of fans is really what turned into the iconic image of the project. We also designed these IV packs filled with Gatorade. I was really thinking about creating an event, a total environment, with props like the hydration packs, and really saw no reason to pull my punches. You know, it’s also a dance space; you want to show your best moves.
MoMA PS1: All in all your project was different from SHoP’s Dunescape…
ROY: After SHoP won, the competition just exploded. There was a ton of press and media attention; nothing like it existed before then. I had only vaguely heard about Philip Johnson’s project but I never really connected the two. SHoP’s Dunescape was fantastic and YAP just became the prize to win in New York. It was just such a hot thing.
I approached the competition more as an environment than as a piece of architecture. I saw this as an opportunity to absolutely and totally do my own thing. It’s also kind of scary having complete freedom. You run the risk of looking like a complete idiot.
MoMA PS1: You seem to have had a very different approach to the project than most of the participants. Is there a trace of this in recent years?
ROY: For me subWave was very programmatically driven and that led to introducing elements of a new ecosystem into the courtyard, and of course making it a fabulous place to party. In terms of past winners, the one that immediately comes to mind is WORKac. They had to shift the program and address the changing nature of it. It was another good fit for the program. YAP demands that reinvention. We can’t keep partying like it’s 1999.
I probably shouldn’t say this publicly but I’m not an architect that LOVES buildings. I don’t walk around and drool over details. Don’t misunderstand, I love great buildings, but I love being an architect because our ideas have the ability to directly engage life.
MoMA PS1: Being so young, was not having any experience an asset at the time?
ROY: Yes of course! It was the only way I would have ever wanted it. The prerequisite or qualification was to not have any qualifications at all. YAP is all about taking it dead seriously and having a blast doing it. Which we did.