Friday, May 28, 2010

Living Pavilion Dispatch #3: Premier Planting

These past two days we've really gotten down to the business of planting milk crates. The process started in New Jersey and exploded once we got to the Island and everyone put their hands in the dirt. Two days of labor yielded an impressive 215 completed modules. We'll be in gardening mode for another day or two, and then it will be construction time.

I'm exhausted and the pictures speak for themselves. Thank you so much everyone who volunteered today and yesterday: Kristen Chin, Rusty Moooooo, Christine O'Heron, Carol Crump, Tes Revera, Khalsa Kaur, Cessi Hessler, Michael Zick Doherty, Linda Leith, Paula Wood, John Toriolo, Vanessa Paulson, Tom Klaber, Breta Bishop, Judy Hugentobler, Karen Chubak, Sarah Bray, and Eve Dilworth.

We still need volunteers for the later part of next week, including the weekend, and also the following week. You can get involved by signing up for a shift at

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Living Pavilion Dispatch #2: The Big Move from NJ to GI

Our crew on site: Moishe Friedman, Rusty Mooooooo, 
MaryBeth Burton, Chris Cummings, co-architect Behrang Behin, and 
Tom Klaber (not shown is Jook Leung who helped us earlier on the NJ leg)
more photos here

Today was a triumph. Up until now, 460 milk crates and 2500 potted loriape plants have been sitting in the backyard of the architect's very patient parents in northern New Jersey. Now they are finally home at the field behind Liggett Hall, where they apparently mark the first building materials to show up on site in the City of Dreams.

It was an adventure and we covered a lot of ground. For half of us, the day started off with trials of truck rental in Brooklyn (as a pedestrian city dweller, somehow I only find myself behind the wheel if a 20+ foot truck is involved), for the other half it was meeting up with strangers at a bus depot in the northern reaches of Manhattan. By the time my group got to NJ, everyone else had already gotten materials organized and ready to be loaded. Despite the fact that there are an enormous amount of pieces, identical cube shaped milk crates are the easiest thing I think any of us have ever had to load onto a truck.

Then off to Governors Island. All the while during the many legs of this trip we were unsure exactly where we'd be able to find water for the plants, as the spiggot we expected turned out to have been turned off without anyone noticing or remembering this past winter. Hence our enormous happiness at being allowed to tap into the fire hydrant, at least temporarily. A long term solution is still in the works. It's made us all think a lot about water scarcity, harvesting, and conservation. You cannot take for granted that your island will have water, and in fact the water that is on Governors Island is non-potable.

I especially want to thank the crew today for accomplishing such a major leg of this trip. We're finally starting to see the community come together in action to build this thing, which is necessary for Figment to flourish. We had representatives from Figment, the Emerging New York Architects, Burning Man, and the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology at RPI, some of whom are friends of mine and some I met for the first time today.

If anyone would like to come help next week, please sign up at

Monday, May 24, 2010

Volunteer Directions to the Pavilion Build Site

This map is no longer accurate. We've moved to the Parade Grounds.

1) Get your ass to the ferry on time, which means a few minutes early. It's right next door to the north of the Staten Island Ferry.

2) After the boat drops you off, turn right. Follow the road as it bends left, veer through a parking lot intoa  big field called Colonel's Row

3) The build site is located on the other side of a giant arch, behind a building called Liggett Hall

4) The Living Pavilion is in construction on a beautiful field where people with big art projects will be building many impressive things in the weeks leading up to Figment

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Living Pavilion Dispatch #1

Early stages of the Living Pavilion
click here for more photos

Work is underway on the Living Pavilion for the City of Dreams on Governors Island and it is truly inspiring. Plants defy gravity, growing down, exposing a lattice of dirt and roots toward the sky. Rather than ground breaking, it is better described as ground lofting. The structure will be an inversion that confuses inside and out through an articulated tunnel of liriope and fresh air.

A group of volunteers got started planting today. It was a great time to spend in the fresh air with some dirt between our fingers. We can't do it alone though, another 200 person-hours are needed for planting, then we also need to construct it before June 11th when the Figment participatory arts festival begins. Please be in touch with me if you can help at any point on the schedule.

This is the first structure of its kind at Figment, selected by jury out of 50 entries. I volunteered for this project originally because architecture is such a critically important marker of our culture and values. Organizing this competition was a chance for us to bring another type of design thinking to a festival that is already making loud statements about creativity in the urban condition. Figment prides our individuality while bringing us together as a society in a non-commodified and democratic act.

Within such we could not have asked for a more relevant winning project. Plant walls and green roofs are becoming more and more popular in a world hungry for sustainable solutions to the pressing issues surrounding energy and air quality. The biological paradigm is gaining momentum as an effective means of harnessing energy flows in the built ecology with a push to reclaim nature through technology. The Living Pavilion itself speaks to these issues while creating a public space for us to build and use together.

Now as foreperson for this project I am tasked with getting all of you as excited as I am, or else it's going to be hard to pull this off. I'd like to give special thanks to our crew today: Misael Rojas, Zal Sayari, and Mr. & Mrs. Behin. And an extra special thanks to our architects Ann Ha and Behrang Behin who are working so hard to realize Figment's grand inspiration to build an infrastructure worthy of a place called the City of Dreams.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pavilion Volunteer Schedule

Sunday 5/23: Organize planting in Closter, New Jersey
Meet for pick up at 10:30am at the GW Bridge bus terminal, on Fort Washington btw 178-179th Sts under the overpass, Or arrange own transportation to Closter. The architect will pick us up, and drop off again at this point afterwards. check!

Wednesday 5/26: Move plants from Closter, New Jersey to Governors Island
Three volunteers requested to meet for pick up at 9:30am at the GW Bridge bus terminal, on Fort Washington btw 178-179th Sts under the overpass, Or arrange own transportation to Closter.

One volunteer needed to meet foreperson (Daniela) to pick up the UHaul and drive together to Closter. Details to come.

Thursday 5/27 - Friday 5/28:
Planting on Governors Island, 9am to 5pm. Come for full or half days. 48 hour advance notice required to get your name on the ferry list.

Tuesday 6/1 - Sunday 6/6
Continue planting as necessary and start assembly of pavilion, 9am to 5pm. Come for full or half days. 48 hour advance notice required to get your name on the ferry list on Tues-Thurs. On Friday and through the weekend island is open to the public.

Monday 6/7 - Thursday 6/10
Finishing everything up, we'll see where we're at.

Various times to be arranged Tuesday 5/25 into week of 5/31
CNC work in Long Island City. The work will be to monitor the CNC router, mount and dismount the plywood, and do some assembly of the parts after they have been cut. We strongly prefer someone with woodshop/CNC experience. 

Figment is Friday 6/11 - Sunday 6/13, Pavilion needs to be done!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Open Call for Figment Pavilion Volunteers


This is Daniela, Foreperson for the City of Dreams Pavilion that is being built for Figment and will remain up on Governors Island all summer. We are looking for crew members to help build this project starting next week. This is a very exciting new part of Figment that scales up the idea of participatory sculpture to the architectural scale. It is a living structure made out of plants and milk crates that was selected by jury out of 50 entries.

We need help planting and assembling. No experience is necessary. It's a big job and time is short, so your help is critical. Construction is happening on the Island during daytime weekday hours. This is a very good opportunity for someone unemployed or otherwise with free time on their hands to be part of a project with a lot of cultural currency that's already gotten tons of press. Plus we can spend some time in the sun together on a quiet island making something cool happen, and that is going to be fun.

Please email me at danisemesterblog(at) if you're interested. For more information on the pavilion itself see: