Ultramoderne: RECESS PS1

By Dongyue Zhang | Apr 14, 2016

Model shade study

Faculty members Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest, founders of award winning architecture office Ultramoderne, were recently selected as one of the finalists of MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program (YAP). As the finalist, they were invited to design a proposal for the designated site at MOMA PS1’s outdoor courtyard. Several faculty members and students in the department were involved in the project including Brett SchneiderElettra Bordonaro, Carl Lostritto, Will Gant, Hua Gao, and Tida Osotsapa.

This is a project about the most fundamental act of architecture: the creation of a boundary. Through separation, boundaries allow difference to flourish. They create the space in which new ideas and organizational forms can take root. The schoolyard is the archetype of this relationship. Inside the school, structured learning takes place. Out in the yard, as-yet-unidentified games emerge. Circumscribed by a light boundary separating it from both the institution and the harsh reality of the city, the school yard is a place of temporary fantasy. The mischievous worlds staged during 20-minute recess breaks then find their ways back into the classroom, and into the city at large.

Students were invited to be part of the design process during their winter break. They were heavily involved in the design process on a day to day basis. The fabric like material and the chain link structure were particularly of interest to Ultramoderne as part of their practice, and this project embodied a rigorous investigation of the material in creating in-between spaces, so-called the “Fat Space”. This has been a great opportunity for the RISD students who were involved in the process to learn how the process of making shapes the design. They experienced the unavoidable debates on design concept, which pushes the projects forward. They were also asked to sketch and model along the way to express their particular input on the design ideas, developing a skillset for their future careers. In the later half of the project, students worked with Brett Schneider, mainly on incorporating the design with a feasible structure system. The team worked on detailed joints against wind load for this 50-foot-tall structure. Will Gant mentioned that “…this project is a lot about how to construct it, it’s temporary so that we can take it down. The entire structure actually weighs less than a school bus.”

“There’s so much to this project! Working with the mesh (chain link) is the most interesting part of my involvement in the design. It’s such a delicate material, and the amount of surprise after you complete the joint surface is extremely rewarding. This is a exploration of the overlap of textile and architecture through making.” – Will Gant

“ the idea, the architectural concept can be one, a very simple and elegant one, but the potential is very rich. You have to deal with the materials, how things go together, to dig deep into the concept.” – Hua Gao

The students’ involvement on this project with Ultramoderne has significantly changed how they see architecture and their continued work at RISD. This opportunity for them was very fruitful in terms of their personal development.

“This project makes me think about design as an object and a place you can go inside… it is a place that has a simple/unified concept, and it is this simple concept which makes it more like a object, because this place is revolving around one elegant concept.” – Will Gant

“They way Ultramoderne works is very subtle, you don’t see all the fancy changes in forms or representations. They are very committed in one elegant concept, and that allows them to dig deep into one idea…I am very inspired to do more research on the construction of soft material and how to apply that to architecture.”  – Hua Gao

Graduate Assistant, Hua Gao, Process Sketches

Graduate Assistant, Hua Gao, Process Sketches


Interior view


Ultramoderne_Shade Study

Shade study drawing

U:Projects1507 - YAP1507 - AutoCAD1507 - Plan + Sections A-1

Regulating Geometry


Rendering: Music event

2016-01-19 Current Model_pp views with new balls.3dm

Rendering: Multidimensional socce


Ultramoderne_Program Diagrams

Program diagrams

Project Team: Will Gant, Hua Gao, Tida Osotsapa
Structural Engineer: Brett Schneider, Guy Nordenson & Associates. Chris Carbone, Bensonwood
Lighting Design: Elettra Bordonaro, Light Follows Behaviour
Pen Plots: Carl Lostritto
Animation Extras: Song Du, Sage Dumont, Yin Fu, Daejeong Kim, Conor Oberlander, Ariel Resnick, Natasha Ruiz, Daniel Stone, Jentz Zirbel
Special Thanks To: Laura Briggs & Jonathan Knowles, RISD Architecture


Spring 2017 Events

  • February 23, 6:30 PM Brett Schneider, Guy Nordenson and Associates & RISD Architecture
  • March 2, 6:30 PM at RISD Auditorium Petra Blaisse, Inside Outside, Hosted with INTAR, Textiles, RISD Museum
  • February 27, 6:30 PM Jeanette Kuo, Karamuk*Kuo
  • March 13, 6:30 PM Allan Wexler, Allan Wexler Studio, Hosted with ID
  • March 16, 6:30 PM Jarrett Walker, Jarrett Walker + Associates
  • April 3, 6:30 PM Kunle Adeyemi, NLÉ, Yoder Lecture
  • April 24, 6:30 PM Nader & Katie Faulkner, NADAAA, Shoemaker Lecture
  • May 11, 6:30 PM Shumi Bose, Central Saint Martins & Architectural Association

Featured on RISD.EDU

  • AIAS presents BEAUX ARTS 2017 – MASKED BALL read more...
  • Designing a School for the Arts The idea of launching an arts high school affiliated with RISD has been in the air for decades, so when Architecture Professor Jim Barnes (BArch 69) was thinking about a theme for his advanced fall studio, he decided to resurrect it. read more...
  • Exploring Sound + Space at the RISD Museum A hush falls over the audience seated in the center of the RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as multimedia performance piece Galapagos in C gets underway. Two Architecture students silently enter as mimes, gaze at a large 18th-century family portrait by Jacques-Luc Barbier-Walbonne and then strike a pose mimicking the subjects in the painting. read more...
  • Design Like a Girl “I hope that this class has encouraged students to be curious – to constantly question the built environment around them,” said Architecture grad student Rebecca McGee MArch 16 on Wednesday. As this year’s grad student faculty leader, she welcomed friends and family to a celebration of an ongoing partnership between RISD and Lincoln School, read more...
  • Ideas Born on Paper Architecture Professor Christopher Bardt BArch 83 has a longstanding personal connection to the work included in Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association, an exhibition on view at the RISD Museum through August 2. Sharing his impressions while walking through the show, he stops at a delicate graphite, ink wash and colored pencil drawing by British architect Michael Webb... read more...