Holding Pattern

An installation at MoMA PS1’s summer Warm Up site, created for MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program competition



Long Island City, NY

Project Team:

Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, Georgeen Theodore, Rebecca Beyer Winik, Kathleen Cahill, Andrew Coslow, Jenessa Frey, Trevor Lamb

Bryson Armstrong, Thomas Asfor, Moulee Basumallik, Douglas Battersby, Derrick Benson, Christine Berdahl, Lorenzo Bertolotto Heidi Bullinga, Julian Bushman-Copp, Kathleen Cahill, Alexander Castro, Terry Chew, Carey Chiaia, Severn Clay, Johane Clermont, Heather Day,Rafael de Carvalho, Vanessa Deflache, Blanca Eleta, Ethan Fischer, Javier Fuentes, Nicole Gabbard, Adrian Garcia, Rana Ghobadian, Aaron Green, Jacquelyn Haas, David Himelman, Lucy Huerta, Kevin Hyun, Mayya Itenbergy, Jenna Kaminsky, Rami Kassis, Nancy Kim, Kaja Kuhl, Tina Lee, Chris Leppert, Matt Lohry, Rachael London, Willy Mann, Richard May, Andrew Michalski, Gina Morrow, Kristin Mueller, Brian Novello, Joel Okpala, David Perez, Amy Peterson, Carsten Rodin, Anne Schmidt, Nancy Seaton, Becky Slogeris, Folarin Soetan, Joe Solfaro, Amelia Szpiech, Chat Travieso, Yifan Wang, Philip Weller, Michael Winik, Tony Zhang


Special Thanks:

Bancker Construction Corporation, Benjamin Ball, Buro Happold, Hillary Sample, NJIT Modelshop, Valerie Moss (Citibank), Takis (Checker Management) Veronica Franklin, William T. Newlin (Jacob Riis Settlement House), Eric Ragan (LIC Ballet), Irina (LICKids), Cedrick Green (YMCA), Chelsea Whittaker (Greenmarket), Meres (5 PointzAerosol Art Center), Paul Finnegan (New York Irish Center), Kryss Shane (Ravenswood NORC)

Holding Pattern is our project for the 2011 Young Architects Program. It is about 1) recycling and 2) strengthening connections between a large, powerful institution (MoMA PS1) and its neighbors.

The Young Architects Program invites architects to create a temporary environment for the celebrated Warm Up music series. To avoid designing and building something we would have to throw away when Warm Up was over, we ensured that all of the project’s components would have a home when the project was deinstalled. We did this by making matches between things institutions in the neighborhood needed and things that would enhance the experience of the MoMA PS1 courtyard. We met with local institutions, asked them what they needed, selected items we thought were a good match, then designed and built them with the understanding that they would be “held” at MoMA PS1 during the summer.

When Holding Pattern was deinstalled this past fall, we delivered 79 objects and 84 trees to more than 50 organizations in Long Island City. 

Because we expanded our client base from one client (MoMA PS1) to over 50, Holding Pattern operated like an urban design project. The environment we created responded to different desires in ways that a fixed piece of architecture couldn’t, and giving the neighborhood a stake in the design made locals more likely to patronize the museum.

During the summer, these objects sat in the MoMA PS1 courtyard under a canopy constructed by stringing ropes from holes in MoMA PS1’s 16-foot tall concrete wall to the parapet across the courtyard. Just as Hugh Ferris revealed the potential of New York City’s 1916 zoning code by drawing the theoretical building envelope, we revealed the very odd, idiosyncratic space of the courtyard and created an inexpensive and column-free space for the activity below. From the ground, the experience was of a soaring, hyperboloid surface.

The Mirror Room in the smallest side yard featured eight mirrors that had been requested by the Long Island School of Ballet.

The Tree Room in one of the courtyard’s side galleries accommodated 60 red oaks, donated by the New York Restoration Project. In the Fall of 2011 the trees were planted on properties around Long Island City.

Tags identified the trees’ future owners.

Tags were also used to identified the objects’ future owners.

To visualize and explain the concept of Holding Pattern, we commissioned the illustrator Lesser Gonzalez to develop a large mural for the museum’s courtyard. Using the graphic language of cartoons, the mural shows the different stages of the project in one synchronized illustration.

Plan of Holding Pattern. The trees and objects were aggregated according to their material properties in a Rec Room, a Tree Room, and a Mirror Room. Each room had very distinct sensory properties.


The project was based on the idea that we could design things that would be needed by businesses in the neighborhood. We asked over 50 local organizations what they needed, designed and built these objects, and held them at MoMA PS1 for the summer.


The Rec Room was furnished with an eclectic collection of benches, picnic tables, a lifeguard chair, rock-climbing wall, Ping-Pong table, pools, foosball table, a sandbox, and other items that had been requested by MoMA PS1’s neighbors.

Example of the cards used to describe the different objects

Inventory of all the Holding Pattern objects and trees

Hyperbolic Roof

The space was shaded by a column-free, lightweight structure of ropes and retractable sails, that— strung from MoMA PS1’s wall across the courtyard to the building’s parapet—for the first time incorporated MoMA PS1’s entire courtyard. Connecting the edges of the courtyard space, the structure revealed and reinforced the courtyard’s very odd, idiosyncratic shape.

(Figure 1)

(Figure 2)

(Figure 3)

The hyperboloid form of the shade structure was a direct result of the eccentric shape of MOMA PS1’s courtyard. Left: The courtyard’s eccentric shape was not explicitly designed, but resulted from a series of urbanistic and architectural decisions over time: The grid; the diagonal course of Jackson Avenue; the U-shaped typology of the 1890s public school building (fig 1); Frederick Fisher’s 1990s design for the museum’s courtyard (fig 2); the intruding parcel of a hold-out neighbor (fig.3). Instead of placing a new iconic object in this setting (as in preceding and projects for warm-up), we decided to visualize and monumentalize the courtyard’s shape by simply connecting its edges. Accordingly the canopy was constructed by stringing ropes from the parapet of the school building to the row of holes that were left for formwork ties when the concrete wall was erected in the 1990s. In order to not cover the holdout neighbor’s backyard, we pulled the roped together at a central “bridge.” The resulting shape was reminiscent of a string instrument.


Holding Pattern’s deinstallation was as much a beginning as it was an end, since the project was based on the idea that we could design things that would be needed by businesses in the neighborhood.

The images to the right show the project coming full-circle: in the Spring, we made matches between things MoMA PS1 needed and things the neighborhood needed; in the Summer, we arranged the furniture and trees we designed and built in a holding pattern; now that it is the Fall, we’re starting to deliver the furniture and trees to their new homes in Long Island City.

The map shows the distribution of all the objects and trees that were held at Holding Pattern during the summer of 2011. While the project was confined to the courtyard of MoMA PS1 during the summer, it spread all over Queens when its components were delivered to groups and institutions throughout the borough.


The newspaper includes information about the project, a fold-out poster of our Long Island City cartoon, stories about local organizations we designed furniture for, a map of where Holding Pattern’s furniture and trees went in the fall, and much much more!

See the full newspaper here.

Urban Design