Pop Up SLAM & FaçadeNew York, NY
“I think that’s interesting in architecture – to generate new situations. So you dislocate and you locate. You remove known obstacles and you introduce new ones. By doing that, you change the movement, and by changing the movement you change the perception of the space.“ – Kjetil Thorsen, one of Snohetta’s founding member from “The Psychology of Space” by David Owen, The New Yorker, January 21, 2013
The STREB Lab for Action Mechanics (SLAM) is using its ArtPlace grant to expand its unique programming offsite, creating “Pop Up” SLAM adaptable action zones which can occupy a myriad of public spaces including parks, vacant lots and parking lots. This project will also incorporate the design by Norwegian architecture firm Snohetta of a new façade for STREB’s Brooklyn studio. Susan Meyers and Cathy Einhorn, co-managing directors of STREB, bring us this update:
MEYERS AND EINHORN: The warehouse building, where SLAM is currently housed, is a brick wrapper around a skeletal steel frame, which was once open to the elements. The skin of the building, made of urban-resistant masonry and steel gates, has protected the enclosed contents and kept away the uninvited. Now, the building wants to change character, interact with its community in a new role. How can we roll out this new identity? The building line, the property line, the dancer’s line on the downstage edge of the stage, sets a boundary between public and private, between us and them. How can we design an entrance that blurs this boundary, inviting a transfer of energy between the activities of the street and the activity of action? The SLAM façade renovation as envisioned by the architecture firm Snohetta supports STREB’s mission to open up the creative process to the public, by breaking down the visual and physical boundaries between artists and audience, between the space and the street.
STREB believes its capital renovation plan will – by extending and enhancing an arena for participation which breaks down barriers of gender, class, education, experience, age and background – help address critical questions regarding the role that art and artists play as catalysts for community, connection and positive change.
STREB began a relationship with Snohetta shortly after acquiring SLAM in 2007 with first informal and then more structured conversations between Elizabeth Streb, Craig Dykers and Andrea Woodner, president of STREB’s Board of Directors and president and founder of The Design Trust. These discussions explored both the conceptual and practical ways that Snohetta’s architectural philosophy intersected with the action concepts of Elizabeth Streb and how action and the making of movement informs and deepens community engagement.
Snøhetta formed as a collaborative in 1989 in Los Angeles, California when its members designed the competition winning entry for the Alexandria Library in Egypt. Since that time Snøhetta formed an office in Oslo, Norway and in 2004 its two founding members formed an office in New York City after winning the commission to design the new pavilion at the World Trade Center site. The collaborative and multi-national character of the office has allowed it to work in a wide range of cultural contexts from Asia to Africa, Europe and the Americas. Recently having completed the new National Opera in Oslo, Snøhetta has gained a number of other prominent cultural buildings including the new King Abdulaziz Center for Knowledge and Culture, the new James B. Hunt Jr. Library in Raleigh, North Carolina, the expansion of the SFMOMA in San Francisco, California, and the redesign of Times Square in New York City. Snøhetta maintains its two studios in New York and Oslo and the staff move freely between the two locations sharing knowledge, design and professional expertise. The open nature of the company is expressed in its workshop atmosphere where an open drawing studio and workshop are seen to be the heart of the design process. Thorsen calls the firm’s ethos “open, direct, accessible, egalitarian – strange value words that don’t mean anything until you see what they do.”