As announced in March, the Museum of Modern Art and PS1 of New York have joined forces with MAXXI in Rome to launch YAP MAXXI, the first Italian edition of the 12-year-old Young Architects Program. On June 23, an exhibition of the five finalists and the winning project opened simultaneously at MoMA and MAXXI, documenting all five MoMA PS1 finalists and the five MAXXI finalists.
In Rome, the winning project, WHATAMI designed by stARTT, a collective of young Roman architects founded in 2008 by Simone Capra and Claudio Castaldo, temporarily transforms the square in front of Zaha Hadid’s museum that opened in 2009. A green public space, it will host summer events devoted to a gamut of contemporary arts while encouraging the public to linger in a space that has yet to be landscaped or designed, according to MAXXI senior curator Pippo Ciorra. The jury for the first Italian edition of the Young Architects Program included, in addition to Ciorra (who also served on the New York jury), Pio Baldi, Margherita Guccione, Anna Mattirolo, Barry Bergdoll, Maristella Casciato, and Mario Nannia.
The awarded project, WHATAMI is based on a 1767 puzzle—considered the first puzzle invented and based on a map of the world—designed by the Englishman John Spilsbury with pieces divided geographically by coasts and mountain ranges. By way of an update, stARTT’s project composes a tectonic puzzle with stray grass islands flowing over MAXXI’s concrete outdoor pavement. The architects declare their intention to blend Hadid’s “hard, hygienic, and monochrome” piazza with their own “softer, racy, and colorful” living space. It is a game paying homage to the geographical maps of Alighiero Boetti, to whom the square is dedicated.
This archipelago of artificial hillocks comprise eight green islands built on hay bales and earth covered by some 7,000 square feet of lawn. The largest island is fixed at the center with seven smaller islands on wheels around it that can be moved by the public as desired. The mobile landscape is illuminated at night by eighteen 5-foot-tall red fiberglass flowers—by day they provide shade. A small pool—a water feature also required at the PS1 installation—completes the installation. Also, as in Queens this year, the key theme is recycling: the hills will be dismantled with the materials, and all light elements, donated to the district for reuse.
As well as emphasizing the public status of the MAXXI space, the objective is to promote an upcoming generation of innovative designers sensitive to environmental issues. The acronym for stARTT is Study of Architecture and Territorial Transformations, and the firm is dedicated to focusing on man-made changes in the environment at different scales of intervention and varying degrees of complexity, whether involving landscape, territory, city, urban design, public works, or private architecture. Their work exemplifies the latest trend among young Italian firms in mingling research and practice, where pieces of landscape easily become objects of furniture and architecture can make a meaningful impact on the urban environment.