Pedro y Juana’s pavilion at MoMA PS1 represents urban jungle

The Mexican duo, winner of the YAP 2019 award, brings a structure made of metal scaffolding and wooden planks to the patio of the coolest New York institution.

The pavilion designed by Pedro y Juana at MoMA PS1 in New York for the YAP – Young Architect Program has reopened the debate on the critical capacity of this type of operation promoted by cultural institutions.

The works created for YAP, in the public spaces of some of the most prestigious museums in the world, are small experimental architectures allowing young talents to assert their position by working with great freedom. They are often able to tell something beyond their form, proposing alternative construction techniques, participatory processes or more complex narratives than simple formal interpretation.

In 2015 Spanish architect Andrés Jaque, now director of the Advanced Architectural Design master at Columbia GSAPP, analysed the media potential of his installation at PS1, entitled Cosmo. Since 1998, the Museum has commissioned a pavilion that can host summer activities on the museum’s patio, but since social networks were born, especially those based on images, projects seem to serve only as a backdrop for selfies. It was from Jaque's work that the world of critics began to talk about Instagram Architecture.

The following year at MAXXI in Rome, the Milanese studio Parasite 2.0 created a postmodern setting as an opportunity to criticise the superficiality of the progressive ideals that initiatives like YAP would like to promote. With large green screens, their project The Museum is a School allowed visitors to catapult themselves digitally into naturalistic scenarios, radically interpreting the concept of “urban sustainability”, which, in their opinion, a temporary pavilion can hardly promote.

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In the same direction seems to go the small architecture that the Mexican duo Pedro y Juana has completed this year at MoMA PS1. The Hórama Rama installation is a large cylinder, 12 metres high and with a diameter of about 30 metres, featuring the unfinished, rough and ugly vocabulary typical of construction sites, with metal scaffolding and wooden planks.

The cyclorama that was supposed to immerse visitors in a tropical setting does not completely conceal the rapidly changing urban landscape. The jungle painted by the architects is no substitute for the urban jungle, the wild transformations that are distorting the Queens landscape – and for which MoMA PS1 is in part indirectly responsible.

Pedro y Juana complete the project with furniture inspired by Mexican tradition and a really working waterfall. Their idea maintains the right criticality and ambiguity, bringing a fragment of their history and landscape into a context where cultures, ideologies and themes are rapidly consumed.

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