Every summer, Figment NYC selects a team to design and erect a temporary “City of Dreams” pavilion for its annual arts festival on Governors Island, a 172-acre plot of land in New York Harbor, just below Manhattan’s southernmost tip. Co-hosted by the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Structural Engineers Association of New York, the competition is as much a meditation on the future of New York City as it is a call for novel and sustainability-oriented approaches to design. This year’s winning entry, dubbed “Cast & Place,” rehabilitates waste from eyesore to resource. The brainchild of Team Aesop, a group that consists of Josh Draper from PrePost/RPI-CASE, Lisa Ramsburg and Powell Draper from Schlaich Bergermann Partner, Edward M. Segal from Hofstra University, and Max Dowd from Cooper Union, the trellised structure will deploy roughly 300,000 community-sourced aluminum cans, though not in a way most of us would expect.
A defining characteristic of the pavilion is its filigree-like pattern, which Team Aesop plans to create by making clay casts that they’ll allow to dry—and crack—inside a furnace. The cans will then be melted down and drizzled into the channels, creating rivulets of molten aluminum that turn solid as they cool.
The designers originally wanted to use soil dredged from the East River, but scheduling difficulties forced them to look elsewhere. Team Aesop now has its eye on excavated earth from a construction site in Flushing, Queens, which it will frame with reclaimed wood from Big Reuse, an organization that turns demolition debris into building materials.
Light but strong, the resulting pieces can be assembled into structures for both shelter and play.
Flanking the standing structure will be “rain-soaked reflecting pools of dredge” that wear away to reveal the pavilion’s framework. They’re meant to foment contemplation, inducing “meditations on time, materiality, and the sources of our city,” Draper and company said.
But Team Aesop can’t pay for everything alone. To raise funds, the designers have launched a Kickstarter campaign, with rewards that range from a pop-up postcard model of the pavilion to one of the 36 panels they eventually hope to make.
Donors to the project can pride themselves as forward thinkers. Not only will they be helping shepherd a new fabrication method, but they’ll also be “enabling a conversation about the future,” Team Aesop said.
“In a time of climate crisis, we need to rethink how we use energy and resources,” the designers added. “We asked ourselves: What if we used waste to make this pavilion? How could we find value in the valueless? Join our journey and become part of the conversation.”
Photos by Schlaich Bergermann Partner/PrePost/Edward M. Segal/Max Dowd