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'Living Pavilion' Exhibit in Greenwich Village Shows 'Green Architecture' at Work on Governors Island

By DNAinfo Staff on August 3, 2010 4:01pm  | Updated on August 4, 2010 5:55am

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

GREENWICH VILLAGE — The Center for Architecture hosted a packed opening Monday night for an exhibit that goes behind the scenes of the Living Pavilion — a living, breathing, sustainable structure currently standing on Governors Island.

The structure is an example of what could be called "green architecture" — the walls and sloped ceiling are made entirely of milk crates filled with sod and green grass.

"My father used to [pejoratively] call the city a jungle, but this is giving it a positive spin," said Alan Marlis, 65, a Greenwich Village resident and architectural historian attending the reception at 536 LaGuardia Place.

The design is the brainchild of Behrang Behin, 36, and Ann Ha, 28, both of Jersey City, N.J., who beat out an international field of contestants vying for the commission. Through October 3, their structure will serve as an arts space on the island.

Monday's exhibition — which will run through September 11 — showcased the full design process of Behin's and Ma's creation, from jury day through construction, and celebrated the many volunteers who helped put the project together.

Two common questions among wide-eyed exhibition-goers were "How do you plant plants upside-down?" and "Why haven't they died?" said Ha. 

The solutions, said Ha, answering in order: root grass on the back sides of the milk crates and lots and lots of watering.

The July heat wave, she added, was a major source of stress, causing Ha and Behin to make extra trips to Governors Island to ensure that their creation was sufficiently irrigated.

In addition to celebrating the collaborative efforts of the designers, volunteers, and sponsors (which include FIGMENT and the Structural Engineers Association of New York), the goals of the exhibit are to drive more people to Governors Island and to grow interest in what they hope will be an annual program, said Jessica Sheridan, co-chair of Emerging New York Architects, another sponsor of the project.

"There’s a life beyond October 3," Sheridan said. "I really hope someone who sees this exhibit would go out and participate and be a part of it next year."