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OFICINAA [Silvia Benedito + Alexander Häusler] one of five finalists in MoMA’s 2018 Young Architects Program

The Harvard Graduate School of Design's Silvia Benedito, Alexander Häusler, and their firm OFICINAA were named among the five finalists in the Museum of Modern Art's (MoMA) 2018 Young Architects Program. From now until September 3, Benedito's shortlisted project, “The Beastie,” will be on view at MoMA PS1 alongside the other three finalists and the winning project, Dream the Combine's “Hide & Seek.”

Benedito (MAUD '04) and Häusler (MArch '04) designed “The Beastie” as a synthesis of forces and inspirations. Benedito and Häusler note how iconic “beasts” in culture and literature—Count Dracula, Jack the Ripper, Frankenstein, Godzilla—emerged during moments of atmospheric anomalies like air pollution, diurnal darkness, steady temperature decline, and radioactive fallout. Embodying fear or awe, these “beasts” are mirrors of one’s relation with the disrupted atmosphere, the designers explain.

Accordingly, “The Beastie” is a climatic offspring: it transforms solar heat into ice. A thermally interactive pavilion with its own energy input and self-regulating mechanisms, the project is in constant interaction with outdoor temperatures and the heat from visitors’ bodies and breath. The structure collects solar heat through photovoltaic panels, which power a compression chiller. This process separates cold from heat. Chilled fluids run through a forest of radiant pipes; the chilled pipes accumulate a covering of ice, creating a series of thermal thresholds and grottoes conditioned by insulating curtains and iridescent PVC strips on movable tracks.

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With its gradients of cold and its cooling, soothing spaces, “The Beastie” delights while offering relief to visitors during hot summer days. As its interior spaces fill with visitors, the temperatures rise and fall—the ice melts in thermal interaction with the visitors' bodies, reminding us that we impact the world we live within; and, like the ice, of our bodies’ vulnerabilities, pleasures and constraints.

“The Beastie” was designed in collaboration with Transsolar (climate engineering), Kipp Bradford (thermal systems), and Knippers Helbig (structural engineering).

At the GSD, Benedito is Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, as well as Area Head of the Master in Design Studies program's Art, Design, and the Public Domain concentration. She teaches graduate core design studios in landscape architecture and urbanism, as well as advanced research seminars. She also serves as co-chair of the Sensory Media Platform at the GSD.

Benedito's research and practice are focused on the role of atmosphere—the meteorological envelope and space for sensory acquisition—in the built environment. Interested in the production and reception of atmosphere, Benedito’s research simultaneously examines the making of micro-climates for human comfort, and the representation of atmosphere through time-based media such as film and video. In her methods for landscape architecture and urbanism the concept and space of atmosphere claim the body in multiple scopes and scales—from large ecological networks to smaller open space interventions, from large urban plans to immersive installations. Claiming that landscape is as much about air and atmosphere as it is about land and water offers a stimulating dimension to these disciplines, reconciling ecological imperatives with human delight and well-being.

According to MoMA, the Young Architects Program, founded by MoMA and MoMA PS1, is committed to offering emerging architectural talent the opportunity to design and present innovative projects, challenging each year’s winners to develop original designs for a temporary, outdoor installation at MoMA PS1 that provides respite with shade, seating, and water.

To choose an architectural firm for the Young Architects Program, a list of esteemed scholars professionals and previous winners nominate around 50 firms consisting of recent architectural school graduates, junior faculty, and architects experimenting with new styles or techniques. The group is asked to submit portfolios of their work for review by a panel including Glenn D. Lowry, Director of The Museum of Modern Art; Kathy Halbreich, Associate Director at MoMA; Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1; Peter Reed, Senior Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs; Martino Stierli, Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture & Design at MoMA; and Sean Anderson, Associate Curator of Architecture at MoMA. The panel selects five finalists who are invited to make preliminary proposals; the chosen winner is announced in February of each year.

Read more about “The Beastie” and this year's other winning MoMA Young Architects Program projects at the Architect's Newspaper.