Eye-Catching Design—With an Impact

The spiked, sky-blue structure in the courtyard of MoMA PS1 in New York is more than just a striking design.

It’s also an award-winning installation, as well as an environmentally friendly structure designed to combat air pollutants.

Matthias Hollwich, lecturer in architecture in Penn’s School of Design and principal at the New York-based firm Hollwich Kushner (HWKN), won MoMA PS1’s prestigious Young Architects Program award for the spiked structure, “Wendy.” The Young Architects Program is a launching pad for architectural and design firms, and challenges participants to create a temporary outdoor installation in the MoMA PS1 courtyard that provides shade, seating, and water.

Architects must also ensure that installations address environmental issues, including sustainability and recycling. Hollwich’s 56-foot-high structure is covered in fabric treated with titania nanoparticles that neutralize airborne particles. The installation’s air treatment will be equivalent to removing 260 cars from the road.

“[The project] was very challenging because there [were] a few parameters and you as an architect become your own client,” says Hollwich. “Then again, when can you design your own vision so purely? That is very unique.”

The creative project is the backdrop to MoMA PS1’s outdoor summer concert series, and Hollwich’s project features water cannons, an elevated DJ nook, wading pools, and water misting areas.

Hollwich says that nearly half of the volunteers and staff who contributed to the design and construction have been current and past Penn students. “The genesis of ‘Wendy’ began years ago, when we were collectively exploring prototypes in studio at Penn, visually, critically, architecturally, and experientially,” Hollwich says.

The simple common name of the structure helps visitors to connect with the project, he adds. “We believe that lots of architects can design beautiful buildings, but it is not about beauty anymore—it is about character and personality. ‘Wendy’ is exactly about that—[it is] a project people can relate to emotionally, and the name helps.”

The Young Architects Program narrowed the field down to five finalists, which also included Simon Kim, assistant professor in architecture at PennDesign. HWKN’s installation will be in the MoMA PS1 courtyard through Sept. 8.