nARCHITECTS won the 2004 YAP competition with Canopy, a paradise of shaped bamboo with many distinct climactic environments for different modes of lounging.

Q&A with nArchitects

MoMA PS1: What was the process leading up to your presentation to the committee? And what was it like working with the museum after you’d won?

Mimi Hoang and Eric Bunge, nARCHITECTS: We participated in the fifth year of the competition so we talked to the past four winners to figure out what was plausible. From Lindy Roy’s team we learned not to dig because the ground is really hard. From Tom Wiscombe we learned not to paint anything because it would chip and peel. From SHoP we learned to tailor the construction design method to really try to convince the committee that we could build it. The presentation is very much about how the project can be built.

MoMA PS1: What were the parameters of the project? How was your approach to the competition different from the other competitors?

nARCHITECTS: Our year was the first year that landscape architects were invited to submit; the jury was interested in this dialogue as a part of the competition. We took that literally and that was one of the reasons why we chose bamboo as our material. We were trying to think about the site in a new way and didn’t want it to be only about the ground surface but also about wall surfaces. We called our strategy a “deep-landscape” strategy, a way of suturing site conditions together. It was important that we use one material to come up with a tectonic system that would address the ground, shade, seating, and structure. It was interesting to use an organic, low-tech, third-world material but to do it in a very precise and engineered way.

MoMA PS1: You’re talking about the idea of “deep-landscape” but I wonder how you dealt with program, or with the idea of WarmUp?

nARCHITECTS: We tried very hard not to fix an idea of “program,” or take a prescriptive approach. For us, it’s more about the amenities, the conditions, the attributes of environments. We started by saying that we wanted a really large gesture; we wanted it to be the biggest one yet! And also the tallest one! Simple ambition! We wanted it to soar above the crowd so that it would be visible when there’s a crowd of 8,000 people, but also so that it would still feel intimate on a Sunday.