|The Thirteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2011|
Final Architectural Design Fellowship Report - Joseph Audeh
It’s fitting that a competition centered on the resurrection of community interest around an historic drinking fountain in New York finds a winner at a time (winter) when none of them seem to function. The Department of Parks seasonally disconnects the water supply from these vessels until the weather becomes mild, as a measure to prevent pipes from cracking due to freezing. I’d say it’s fitting because we’re given the perfect opportunity to revise, modify, revamp and hopefully reveal the winners’ temporary built installation for a weekend in July, when the fountain’s neighborhood counterparts re-emerge after a far too lengthy hibernation.
Two teams were selected as finalists out of seventy-nine applicants after an enjoyable deliberation process—over coffee, over brunch, papers and notations scattered everywhere. The first duo, Shima Miabadi and Kieran Martin from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, developed a visually arresting version of the classic game Plinko. With a marble and rushing water as the game tools, the proposal envisioned a steel extrusion system with translucent plant-based concrete as the watercourse. It was commended for its novel reference to the passage of time through its reliance on a powdery grit substance that would alter the transparency of the built intervention over time. The jury agreed: “I’d play it”, and it felt like re-discovering a pastime from our halcyon days of youth.
Susie Pratt and Fran Gallardo, visiting scholars from the University of New South Wales-Sydney and ETS Arquitectura-Seville, respectively, comprise the other team and are currently residents at the Environmental Health Clinic at NYU. The requirement that applicants create an opening in their proposals large enough for a horse’s head almost certainly dictated the scope and trajectory of their submission: the cross-species drinking fountain. Non-human organisms do get thirsty too, so the floating Tensegrity system they created included an entire hierarchy of drinking vessels to enhance biodiversity—from dust mites and fungus, to salamanders and sparrows.
We’d love to see both fountains realized, of course—it’s just that in order to appease various city agencies and the folks at Judson Memorial Church, the project must be technically viable and preserve the delicate nature of the monument as well as the historic façade to which it’s attached. So we’re pleased to announce to Susie and Fran that they are the winners. They will be asked to provide technical drawings and detailed plans for construction, budget, and a connection to a nearby fire hydrant; this will determine how we will convince the community this public art installation will radically engage the community with a former lifeline, as well as the biodiversity inherent in urban ecosystems. I also think it’s how we can convince Greenwich Village that drinking fountains can really be exciting, and how something that’s simultaneously a spectacle and improves health is worth taking seriously.
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