The P.S.1 Urban Beach, realized in 2003 in the PS1 Contemporary Art Center courtyard, was based on two distinct but interrelated systems: the Cellular Roof and the Leisure Landscape. The landscape integrates various programmatic elements such as long lap pools, furniture for sitting and lounging, and promenade catwalks at different heights. Also, at key points, the landscape begins to adapt into structural supports for the roof. All of these behaviors are integrated into a coherent gradient of use, spilling out rhizomatically into the courtyard, parsing the space into microclimates and passageways.
The design for the Cellular Roof was based on creating a long-span structure through the use of a non-hierarchical structural patterning of distinct but interlaced units, or cells. The location and geometry of each cell was determined by local shading requirements, by its required shear and moment reactions, and also by the behavior of neighbor cells. The interconnected cells operated in alliance, enabling large, clear spans and forming a structural ecology. A crenellated second skin wraps these elements into a singular multiplicity, a unified shade structure. At night, however, this provisional body transforms back into an atmospheric light-emitting swarm characterized by its cellularity.
One of the driving goals of this project was to integrate issues of fabrication and erection into the design process. As a temporary event roof which had to be designed, manufactured, and installed in just two months, the project team was forced to jump directly from conceptual design to shop drawings--a feat which was made possible by digital fabrication techniques. The key was to avoid designing a fixed shape and concentrate on creating a controlled geometrical logic which could adapt easily to changes in structural stresses, scope, program, and other conditions.
The expanded aluminum skin cladding was generated using minimal surface geometry, primarily conoidal and parabolic surfaces. These surfaces were generated by lofting straight line segments with parabolas or rotated line segments, creating a slight warpage to each panel. This warpage and the associated vaulting stiffened the panels to avoid sagging. The warpage was taken up in the meshwork of the material itself, and therefore the panels could still be unfolded flat and water-jet cut for economical manufacture.