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February 19, 2020
by AIA New York
The Pneuma by Ying Qi Chen and Ryan Somerville. Image: Ying Qi Chen and Ryan Somerville.
The Pneuma by Ying Qi Chen and Ryan Somerville. Image: Ying Qi Chen and Ryan Somerville.
The Pneuma by Ying Qi Chen and Ryan Somerville. Image: Ying Qi Chen and Ryan Somerville.
Repose Pavilion by Parsa Khalili. Image: Parsa Khalili.
Repose Pavilion by Parsa Khalili. Image: Parsa Khalili.
Repose Pavilion by Parsa Khalili. Image: Parsa Khalili.

The 2020 City of Dreams Pavilion jury has selected two winners in the 10th annual City of Dreams Pavilion Competition:

  • The Pneuma by Ying Qi Chen and Ryan Somerville
  • Repose Pavilion by Parsa Khalili.

This year’s jury selected both designs for creatively engaging with the competition’s prompt to reconsider the architectural profession’s relationship to material waste and sustainability. However, due to time, space, and fundraising constraints, only The Pneuma proposal will be assembled on Roosevelt Island and open to the public for a month over the summer 2020 season, from the FIGMENT NYC event on June 6-7 to early July.

The annual City of Dreams Pavilion Competition, so named for its focus on the future of a world that faces strains on both economic and natural resources, aims to promote sustainability-oriented thinking in the architecture and design professions, inviting designers to consider the environmental impact of their designs and the full life-cycle of their materials. The City of Dreams Competition is hosted by FIGMENT, the Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY), and the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY).

The Pneuma team will work with FIGMENT, ENYA, SEAoNY, and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to select the exact site for installation, refine the design, obtain necessary approvals, and fabricate and install the pavilion on the island. The Pneuma is also accepting tax-deductible donations to support the fabrication, installation, and maintenance of the pavilion on Roosevelt Island for the 2020 summer season. Donations can be made to the project’s Kickstarter campaign.

The Pneuma by Ying Qi Chen and Ryan Somerville acknowledges that efficiency, in the world of construction, hinges on two factors: weight-to-volume ratio and scalability. The Pneuma pivots away from traditional methods of building with rigid and massive materials, opting instead to use air. Although air is frequently explored as a building medium, there has yet to be a standardized mode of construction with it. In response, The Pneuma uses a finite set of mass-produced materials and typical assembly details to create an infinite set of formal expressions. Using recycled exercise balls, cradle-to-cradle, and rented scaffolding, the designers will create a series of amorphous geometries that range from canopies to seating elements. The taut fabric registers nuanced air pressure changes in the inflated balls, generating an unlimited array of forms with a limited set of modules.

Ying Qi Chen is an architectural designer with an interest in creating affordable designs by aestheticizing performative construction elements. Qi has previously collaborated with OMA, DS+R, and Philip Beesley; She is currently working at LOHA. Qi received her Bachelor of Architectural Studies from Waterloo University and her Master of Architecture from Princeton University.

Ryan Somerville is a motion graphics artist based in Los Angeles. His interest in cinematography and animation stems from performing and filming freestyle BMX during his formative years. Sommerville graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in 2010 and has previously collaborated with Blur Studios.

Repose Pavilion by Parsa Khalili explores the angle of repose as both a natural phenomenon determined by the unique properties of a granular material but also as a semiotic device that serves as an important metaphor for the current environmental crisis. Repose Pavilion seeks to operationalize this sensed instability and derive an architectural language that also informs, directs, and challenges architectural notions of tectonics, structure, and construction. The project’s conceptual basis stems from our society’s shift from a stable ecology to an unstable one, from solidity to fragmentation, from stasis to imbalance, from the natural to the manmade. Repose Pavilion represents this shift, instrumentalizes it as a concept, and creates an experience that compels visitors to contemplate where architecture and people will go next. The pyramid, one of civilization’s oldest formal products, is a symbol of balance and power. Through its doubling, inversion, and stacking, it produces an uncanny artifact, an architecture of perceived instability.

Parsa Khalili is a licensed architect and educator based in Brooklyn and a Visiting Adjunct at the Princeton School of Architecture. He is a Partner at Karpf Khalili Architects, but also runs a small, experimental studio, WAZEONE, which develops architectural ideas through teaching, writing, competitions, and speculative proposals. His research and work have been supported and showcased by a broad range of international publications (Log, Project Journal, Nevertheless, Sharestan, Pidgin, SAC Journal) and institutions (Graham Foundation, SOM Foundation, Yale University, UIUC Board of Trustees). His interests revolve around issues of design criticism, non-western forms of Modernism, visual and diagrammatic representations, and new digital media.


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