Cho Slade Architecture (James Slade and Minsuk Cho) was selected as a YAP finalist in 2003 for Party Pad, a floating construction that reacted to the political and technological climate of that year by concentrating on lightness and minimalism. Today the duo have their own separate firms: Slade Architecture (James Slade) and Mass Studies (Minsuk Cho).
Q&A with Cho Slade Architecture
MoMA PS1: Cho Slade was evolving out of existence and then as a surprise, you were selected as a finalist for the competition. Can you talk about your relationship with your former partner Min Cho?
James Slade, Slade Architecture: Min and I started Cho Slade in 1998 while I was teaching at Pratt. By 2003, things were becoming overwhelming. Min and I had projects going on in both Korea and New York, and we decided it would be best to split up. Party Pad was developed during a time of transition; we had plans to separate at the end of the year. This project was our little goodbye party.
Our design was a different manifestation of something we were already interested in: the idea of continuous landscape and how you define program on an open field. Also, I’ve always been interested in phenomenology—the way objects are perceived at different times and how they perform based on daily cycles and weather changes. I think the jury was overall positive about the project but there were concerns about maintenance. We conceived it as a prefabricated inflatable. This was a no-brainer—the manufacturer in Korea makes it, ships it, and we flip a switch to run the motor. In the end, it was the practical concerns that killed it. You couldn’t bring out a screw driver and fix an inflatable.
MoMA PS1: You come from a similar education background as some of the other competitors yet your methods and philosophies were a bit more minimal.
James Slade: We were conscious of not following the line that had been so persistent up until that point. The projects had all been very formal: a series of repetitive elements that created sculptural shapes. Whether the material was bamboo, wood or plastic rods, they were all following this same line. We were very conscious of not pursuing it. We were also reacting to the computer design trend. To be honest, neither Min nor I were heavily into computers. For us architecture has always been a manual process.
MoMA PS1: I might also say a bit reactionary too.
James Slade: Yes, the political climate of 2003, specifically the Iraq War, was a big influence on our competition design. The concept was partially a reaction to people fighting over demarcated territories on the ground. Party Pad would instead float; it would be lighter and more ephemeral so it wasn’t about physically marking the earth. In our presentation we showed that this could be set up in other, different places. The project critiqued the war but also embraced aspects of it, touching on this idea of deployment and dropping something. We began the presentation with a bomb-like structure falling from the skies into MoMA PS1’s courtyard. In that sense, we were shipping something from another part of the world, in this case Korea, and dropping it into the site. There’s equivalence there.