Family and PlayLab win StreetFest tent competition

Two New York studios bring a colorful, flexible tent concept to the Festival of Ideas for the New City that re-envisions the standard outdoor event space.



On the occasion of announcing finalized plans for the upcoming Festival of Ideas for the New City, Storefront for Art & Architecture, the New Museum, and New York City's Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) have selected designers from New York studios Family and PlayLab to re-envision the outdoor event tent to debut at StreetFest. The winning entry in an open international competition is The Worms, and will be on full view to when StreetFest takes place along the Bowery, between Houston and Spring Streets, in Downtown Manhattan on May 7, 2011.

Eight raspberry and cyan-blue colored "worms" will be on hand for StreetFest in May. The rolled galvanized steel ribs of The Worms, supported by steel forks resting on swivel casters, create bays that can expand, turn, and contract to host a variety of programs, and can easily be reconfigured. To minimize on-site setup time, each worm can be flat packed and delivered to a site fully assembled before being rolled and locked into position. Simultaneously distinct, familiar, and endlessly adaptable, The Worms will physically engage the neighborhood, buildings, and streets to form new spaces for gathering, eating, discovering, and playing.

About The Worms, Family and PlayLab said, "Besides wanting to design something that was buildable and inexpensive, we wanted the tents to interact with their context in ways that we didn't think the typical street fair tent was doing. That the space between the tents and the buildings (or the trees, or the curb, or whatever) was just as important as the space within and could be shaped by the Worms themselves. We like to imagine that each fair could be a completely different spatial experience as the Worms adapt to their surroundings."

"People seem to be excited about it simplicity and probably also has something to do with the fact that they look at the same time unique and familiar. Everybody just really likes worms for some reason."

"The Worms" configurations diagram. Courtesy Family & Playlab. Above: Photo by Dean Kaufman

The Worms take the most functional aspects of the typical street fair tent and advance them, making the product more adaptable, sculptural, and interactive, accommodating a wider and more engaging variety of programs. Built from common and inexpensive materials, these new tent typologies are designed to be as efficient in cost and assembly as the ubiquitous white farmer's market tent, while catalyzing activities and events not typically found in street festivals.

Storefront director Eva Franch i Gilabert describes the Streetfest component of the Festival as "the place of encounter between all the different actors of urban life. StreetFest has been envisioned not as a space of consumption and display but as a space of provocation, interaction, learning and play. Visitors can expect almost everything: from performances to classes, the streetfest aims to be a space of learning and action where citizens, artists and experts exchange desires, curiosities and tools where everyone becomes an active citizen, a participant and contributor to the Festival of Ideas for The New City."

Initially conceived by the New Museum three years ago as a natural outgrowth of its ongoing commitment to public education and civic outreach, the Festival of Ideas for the New City is a major new collaborative initiative involving scores of Downtown organizations, from large universities to arts institutions and community groups. The Festival is a first for New York and will harness the power of the creative community to imagine the future city and explore the ideas destined to shape it. It will take place from May 4-8, 2011, in locations around Downtown Manhattan in an area spanning East to West including the Lower East Side, the East Village, Soho, Nolita, and Chinatown—and will serve as a platform for artists, writers, architects, engineers, designers, urban farmers, planners, and thought leaders to exchange ideas, propose solutions, and invite the public to participate.

Built from common and inexpensive materials, these new tent typologies are designed to be as efficient in cost and assembly as the ubiquitous white farmer's market tent, while catalyzing activities and events not typically found in street festivals.

"The Worms" at Streetfest. Courtesy Family & Playlab.

The Festival of Ideas for the New City is organized around three central programs:
• New Initiative Will Focus On Culture, Community, Education, and Participation. A three-day slate of symposia, lectures, and workshops with visionaries and leaders—including a keynote by Rem Koolhaas, exemplary international mayors, forecasters, architects, artists, economists, and technology experts—who will address the four broad Festival themes: The Heterogeneous City; The Networked City; The Reconfigured City; and The Sustainable City. These events will take place at The Cooper Union, New York University, and the New Museum from Wednesday to Saturday, May 4-7.

• An innovative, minimal-waste, outdoor StreetFest will take place along the Bowery. More than seventy-five local grassroots organizations, small businesses, and non-profits will present model products and practices in a unique outdoor environment. The Festival will premiere a new environmentally inspired tent module commissioned for the Festival, as well as outdoor living rooms and inflatable structures. Visitors can expect cooking demonstrations with urban farmers, rooftop gardening classes, oral history projects, bike tours and valets, and a variety of affordable and healthy, locally grown, sustainable food options. The StreetFest will take place on Saturday, May 7, 11 a.m to 7 p.m.

• Over a hundred independent projects, exhibitions, and performances, which expand on the Festival's themes, will open at multiple festival partner venues Downtown, activating a broad geographic area. Projects include a solar powered mobile art studio; artist-commissioned rolldown, metal storefront gates; projections of poems in endangered languages on Lower East Side buildings; a prototype of an urban campground; a marathon event where architects will present their ideas about reconfiguring public space in a rapid fire format; an exhibit exploring the political, economic and social relevance of preservation and its role in architectural thinking; and a wide range of other activities exploring ideas for the future. These events will open Saturday evening, May 7, and Sunday, May 8.

Spacebuster by Raumlabor. Courtesy Storefront for Art and Architecture

Winning entry: The Worms
The Designers: Family & PlayLab Team includes: Archie Lee Coates IV, Jeffrey Franklin, Keshet Rosenblum, Scott Snelling, P.E., and Dong-Ping Wong.
The Jury includes: Vito Acconci, Principal, Vito Acconci Studio; Jeff Thompson, Associate Principal, Buro Happold Consulting Engineers; Eva Franch i Gilabert, Director, Storefront for Art & Architecture; Tamara Greenfield, Executive Director, Fourth Arts Block; Lisa Phillips, Toby Devan Lewis Director, New Museum; Charles Renfro, Partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro; and Wendy Feuer, Assistant Commissioner Of Urban Design & Art, NYC Department Of Transportation.

Cronocaos at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia. Photo: OMA / Marco Beck Peccoz

Emergency Response Studio. Courtesy Paul Villinski

New York #12: The Dimensions of a New City. Courtesy Pecha Kucha

DIG at Storefront in New York

DIG at Storefront in New York

An exhibition, installation and performance transforms a stock industrial material into an emergent cavern for both work and play.