Ball-Nogues won YAP in 2007 with Liquid Sky, an installation that combined advanced digital computation with more traditional forms of craft to yield an exhilarating creation of tinted Mylar petals. Based in Los Angeles, Ball-Nogues is known for creating experimental built environments.
Q&A with Ball-Nogues
MoMA PS1: What impact did winning have on your career?
Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues, Ball-Nogues: In terms of our aim to integrate concept, computation, and fabrication, it codified an approach that we have developed in all our previous work: focusing on what we call “designing production” to establish parameters that yield built work. The integration of evolving forms of craft into design methodology has become central in our work as our practice has grown and we’ve taken on permanent projects.
YAP was also a platform to collaborate with a group of designers outside Los Angeles. While we might do this with engineers on a regular basis, the collaborators that supported Liquid Sky were exceptional. These connections have multiplied exponentially since the YAP experience. Part of each project involves creating a building community, which is integral to the development of our practice and for young architects in general. People talk about social networks today as happening remotely through the internet; we foster social networking in meatspace. We create a web of skilled people with whom we work and socialize.
MoMA PS1: What design aspects of your installation did you keep for your future processes and why?
Ball-Nogues: Since Liquid Sky, we continue to think about the nature of temporary, installation architecture. We believe this is very important to consider—YAP projects have short lives. We are skeptical of the view of YAP as a kind of surrogate, or an exercise for young architects who will one day start making “real” buildings.
Provisional architecture, which has lower financial risks, will have to do some of what buildings once did. We continue to develop installations, temporary public art, festival structures, and exhibitions; they compliment our permanent works. We believe that recontextualizing these spatial events reflects both their mediated longevity and their physical impermanence. What keeps them culturally relevant is the rapid dissemination of images into the media by designers. Architects can almost never match this pace because permanent building construction moves at a snail’s pace while discourse via electronic media is nearly instant. The provisional aspect of YAP installations has a different relevance today than when it began ten years ago. We continue to explore temporality in our practice while viewing impermanent environments as potentially rich experiential moments in public space and investigations into the physicality of building.
In terms of our computation and fabrication processes, we continue to investigate “shagging the surface” through developing lightweight structures, a core concept of the MoMA PS1 project. We are currently developing a structural skin of variable petals for a new, permanent wild life observation structure for a client in Woodstock, NY. Rather than Mylar, the skin is made of flexible stainless steel. The project also utilizes the wood utility pole tripod we debuted at MoMA PS1. Because a good deal of our work involves developing then reworking our methods of computation and craft to yield new effects and improvements in structural performance, we build knowledge through the incremental innovations in our processes; Liquid Sky comprised a huge amount of research into some of those processes.
MoMA PS1: Is there anything you would do differently?
Ball-Nogues: We viewed the MoMA PS1 courtyard and WarmUp as a space of public pleasure—we wanted to underscore the populism and spectacle of it. In hindsight, we would have added a dunking tank to the events. Perhaps we could have had a “dunk the curators day,” or something like that.