OBRA Architects, founded by Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee, won YAP in 2006 with their entry BEATFUSE! The team drew inspiration from the Roman baths and the idea of people gathering for the celebration of WarmUp.
Q&A with OBRA Architects
MoMA PS1: How big was your firm when you started?
Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee, OBRA Architects: We started in late 2000 in my very small apartment on Spring and Mulberry. In 2001 we moved to a different space and had some work doing interior renovations and other kinds of spaces. After 9/11 a lot of work we were counting on disappeared so it was a very difficult time for us. We then spent quite a long time exclusively doing competitions.
MoMA PS1: Did you spend much time working on it?
OBRA Architects: We have a tendency to procrastinate, which I think is very good for the process itself, not to rush into trying to formalize what the initial notions of what the project could be. There is a lot of opportunity to do whatever you want to, but since the competition happens in such a short amount of time with a limited budget, we really had to do a lot of soul searching on what was going to be possible and at the same time worthwhile in the space.
MoMA PS1: How do you identify with the idea of “the young architect?”
OBRA Architects: Our project is somewhat irresponsible. We like the experimental aspect of it that tries to ignore the safe and the known, which perhaps reflects the ethics of the museum; I think that’s part of the idea. You don’t want to do something that is safe because art is never safe. The old man says: “Art is going crazy.” The young man responds: “It has always been crazy.”
MoMA PS1: How much did you look back at the work of previous winners?
OBRA Architects: We tried to studiously consider everything that happened before, but because of the danger of being in the same program and in the same site we thought that if we got too involved in what happened before it would make it more difficult for us to come back with our own thing, so we tried not to look too much into the past.
At some point we started operating as if this was the first YAP that ever happened. Our process is to try and start anew with each project; you want variety but because of this project we did look at our older work a little bit more. We’ve always operated pretty lightly, and tried to have fun with what we’re doing. If you are going to treat a serious subject I don’t think humor is an impediment, I think it can help—we wanted to tie the project in with the history of architecture, and we thought why not the Roman bath? It was a party and we were having a lot of fun.