Project Unspecified (2007)

In the tradition of "barn-raising", Project Unspecified saw inflatable structures designed and built by the public to occupy Washington Square in New York City.

Project Unspecified was part of an event in which members of the public designed, constructed and inhabited a temporary inflatable structure, sited for one day (April 30, 2007) in Washington Square Park, New York City.

Project Unspecified build
Project Unspecified build

In the tradition of "barn-raising" where members of a community come together to build a structure to welcome new families, Project Unspecified was a collaborative event for the urban environment, using modular industrial materials (slotted angle metal usually used for shelving) and recycled/repurposed plastic bags. Inflatables have a long history of association with protest and activism, and here we were experimenting with creating them out of discarded plastic bags collected by participants.

Project Unspecified occupying
Project Unspecified repair

Members of the public built structures out of large metal tetrahedra, similar to meccano sets enjoyed by children, though many times bigger. This set of objects provided a solid configurable structure on which to build the flexible and more delicate membranes (assembled like a patchwork quilt from used plastic bags) that inflated towards the end of the day, again as designed by members of the public. (As it happens the wind was so strong that it did more of the inflating than the box fans!).

Project Unspecified model

The aim of the project was to explore how members of the public would take on a design task, specifying the form of the structure, its spaces, how it was occupied and what it was used for. This is contrasted with the opposite approach employed in the highly contested redesign of Washington Square Park. At the end of the event the used plastic membrane was provided to a recycling center for processing.

Project Unspecified diagram