Young Architects Program

Hy-Fi by The Living

June 27, 2014—September 6, 2014

The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 announce The Living (David Benjamin) as the winner of the annual Young Architects Program (YAP) in New York. Now in its 15th edition, the Young Architects Program at MoMA and MoMA PS1 has been committed to offering emerging architectural talent the opportunity to design and present innovative projects, challenging each year’s winners to develop creative designs for a temporary, outdoor installation at MoMA PS1 that provides shade, seating, and water. The architects must also work within guidelines that address environmental issues, including sustainability and recycling. The Living, drawn from among five finalists, will design a temporary urban landscape for the 2014 Warm Up summer music series in MoMA PS1’s outdoor courtyard.

The winning project, Hy-Fi, opens at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City in late June. Using biological technologies combined with cutting-edge computation and engineering to create new building materials, The Living will use a new method of bio-design, resulting in a structure that is 100% organic material. The structure temporarily diverts the natural carbon cycle to produce a building that grows out of nothing but earth and returns to nothing but earth—with almost no waste, no energy needs, and no carbon emissions. This approach offers a new vision for society’s approach to physical objects and the built environment. It also offers a new definition of local materials, and a direct relationship to New York State agriculture and innovation culture, New York City artists and non-profits, and Queens community gardens. 

Hy-Fi is a circular tower of organic and reflective bricks, which were designed to combine the unique properties of two new materials. The organic bricks are produced through an innovative combination of corn stalks (that otherwise have no value) and specially-developed living root structures, brought to the project through Ecovative, an innovative company that The Living is collaborating with. The reflective bricks are produced through the custom-forming of a new daylighting mirror film invented by 3M. The reflective bricks are used as growing trays for the organic bricks, and then they are incorporated into the final construction before being shipped back to 3M for use in further research. The organic bricks are arranged at the bottom of the structure and
the reflective bricks are arranged at the top to bounce light down on the towers and the ground. The structure inverts the logic of load-bearing brick construction and creates a gravity-defying effect—instead of being thick and dense at the bottom, it is thin and porous at the bottom. The structure iscalibrated to create a cool micro-climate in the summer by drawing in cool air at the bottom and pushing out hot air at the top. The structure creates mesmerizing light effects on its interior walls through reflected caustic patterns. Hy-Fi offers a familiar—yet completely new—structure in the context of the glass towers of the New York City skyline and the brick construction of the MoMA PS1 building. And overall, the structure offers shade, color, light, views, and a future-oriented experience that is designed to be refreshing, thought-provoking, and full of wonder and optimism.

“This year’s YAP winning project bears no small feat. It is the first sizable structure to claim near-zero carbon emissions in its construction process and, beyond recycling, it presents itself as being 100% compostable,” said Pedro Gadanho, Curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design. “Recurring to the latest developments in biotech, it reinvents the most basic component of architecture—the brick—as both a material of the future and a classic trigger for open-ended design possibilities. At MoMA PS1, The Living’s project will be showcased as a sensuous, primeval background for the Warm-Up sessions; the ideas and research behind it, however, will live on to
fulfill ever new uses and purposes.”

Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA PS1 Director and MoMA Chief Curator at Large, adds, "After dedicating the whole building and satellite programs of MoMA PS1 to ecological awareness and climate change last year with EXPO 1: New York, we continue in 2014 with Hy-Fi, a nearly zero carbon footprint construction by The Living."

The other finalists for this year’s MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program were Collective-LOK (Jon Lott, William O’Brien Jr., and Michael Kubo), LAMAS (Wei-Han Vivian Lee and James Macgillivray), Pita + Bloom (Florencia Pita and Jackilin Hah Bloom), and Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (Cristina Goberna and Urtzi Grau). An exhibition of the five finalists' proposed projects will be on view at MoMA over the summer, organized by Pedro Gadanho, Curator, with Leah Barreras, Department Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA.


The Young Architects Program has expanded in recent years to include the National Museum of XXI Century Arts (MAXXI) in Rome, Italy; Istanbul Modern in Istanbul, Turkey; and CONSTRUCTO in Santiago, Chile. The winners of 2014 YAP MAXXI and will be announced at on February 28.

The Living was founded with the mission of creating the architecture of the future. Exploring how new technologies come to life in the built environment, they have a passion for the way that targeted constructions can activate urban space. The Living believes cities and buildings are living, breathing organisms. In the context of new technologies and new urban challenges, there is a great opportunity to create corresponding living, breathing design ecosystems. At The Living, they have established a design ecosystem that links complex flows of people, resources, data, and energy. It is based on three primary elements: information, material, and environment. Within this design ecosystem, they work on multiple scales simultaneously. The Living anticipates and welcomes rapid change, and embraces design with uncertainty, design with rules rather than fixed forms, and design with shifting and unknowable forces.

To execute Hy-Fi, The Living worked with collaborators, including Ecovative (the New York start-up that invented their no-waste material), 3M (the company that invented daylighting mirror film), Advanced Metal Coatings Incorporated (the company that is testing their natural materials for durability in New York summer conditions), Shabd Simon-Alexander and Audrey Louisere (the natural-dye artists who are developing custom colors and coatings for their organic bricks), Build It Green Compost (the Queens-based non-profit that will process their building materials after the installation and provide them to local community gardens), Associated Fabrication, Kate Orff and SCAPE Landscape Architecture, Arup, Atelier Ten, Autodesk, Bruce Mau Design, Brooklyn Digital Foundry, and a team of graduate research students at Columbia University who will help construct and deconstruct the structure.

This year marks the 17th summer that MoMA PS1 has hosted a combined architectural installation and music series in its outdoor galleries, though it is only the 15th year of the Young Architects Program, which began in 2000. The inaugural project was an architecturally based installation in 1998 by an Austrian artist collective, Gelatin. In 1999, Philip Johnson’s DJ Pavilion celebrated the historic affiliation of MoMA PS1 and MoMA. The previous winners of the Young Architects Program are SHoP/Sharples Holden Pasquarelli (2000), ROY (2001), William E. Massie (2002), Tom Wiscombe / EMERGENT (2003), nARCHITECTS (2004), Xefirotarch (2005), OBRA (2006), Ball-Nogues (2007), WORKac (2008), MOS (2009), Solid Objectives - Idenburg Liu (2010), Interboro Partners (2011), and HWKN - HollwichKushner (2012).

The 2014 Young Architects Program is sponsored by


Additional funding is provided by the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation, Jeffrey and Michèle Klein, and Agnes Gund. 


A dedicated YAP International website,, features the selected proposals and designs from The Living, winner of YAP in New York, as well as the winners of YAP MAXXI and YAP Chile. The website also includes an archive of past MoMA/MoMA PS1 YAP finalists and winning proposals, interviews with the curators, and installation videos.

For the Young Architects Program 2014 selection process, MoMA and MoMA PS1 invited outside experts in the field of architecture, including architects, curators, scholars, and magazine editors, to nominate the finalists from a pool of approximately 25 candidates that included both recent graduates and established architects experimenting with new styles or techniques. After reviewing the candidates, five finalists were selected to present proposals to a panel composed of Glenn D. Lowry, Director, MoMA; Kathy Halbreich, Associate Director, MoMA; Peter Reed, Senior Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs, MoMA; Barry Bergdoll, Acting Chief Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA; Pedro Gadanho, Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA; Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1 and Chief Curator at Large, MoMA; Peter Eleey, Curator, MoMA PS1; Pippo Ciorra, Senior Curator, MAXXI Architettura; Jeannette Plaut, Director, YAP_Constructo; and Marcelo Sarovic,
Director, YAP_Constructo.