Rendering of Lumen (2017) by Jenny Sabin Studio
Courtesy Jenny Sabin Studio Rendering of Lumen (2017) by Jenny Sabin Studio

A photoluminescent knitted installation by Ithaca, N.Y.–based Jenny Sabin Studiovaaztstrffwcduxcycbwauvxxzx has been selected from five finalists for the 18th year of the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1's Young Architects Program. The annual program, which unofficially began two decades ago with Gelatin's "Percutaneous Delights" installation in 1998, commissions an emerging practice to design a structure for MoMA PS1's courtyard that will shelter visitors during the annual Warm Up concert series, and the temporary environment must feature shade, seating, and some use of water. In years past, winners have responded to this brief with ideas such as hammocks sheltered by colored Mylar ("Liquid Sky" by Ball-Nogues Studio in 2007) and a bright blue nylon stucture that cleaned the air ("Wendy" by HWKN in 2012). Following last year's neon canopy, "Weaving the Courtyard," by Escobedo Soliz Studio, Sabin's courtyard takeover, an installation called "Lumen," will cover the open-air space with what she calls "knitted light."

Sabin says the name of her project has two references. "One, obviously, is to light as a metric, and then the other actually comes from biology, which is talking about interior cavities of cellular structures," she says. "I was interested in the name referencing both the actual form of the project but then also the fact that it’s knitted light."

"Lumen" contains a tensioned, knitted canopy supported by the courtyard walls as well as three 20-foot-tall steel towers that hold water that's distributed through cone-shaped misting forms.

Rendering of Lumen (2017) by Jenny Sabin Studio
Courtesy Jenny Sabin Studio Rendering of Lumen (2017) by Jenny Sabin Studio

This knitted, synthetic fabric system—Sabin says she doesn't have a formal name for it—is a material that she has been developing over several projects since she was commissioned in 2012 to participate in a program called the Nike Flyknit Collective. She completed another installation for the company the following year in Berlin, and has used this material in several projects since. Her Young Architects Program installation will be her largest test of this material. As the renderings suggest, the installation is designed to look very different at night than during the day.

"The project incorporates two types of responsive high-tech yarn," Sabin says. "One is a photoluminescent yarn which absorbs light or UV and then slowly emits light over time, or essentially glows, and then the other responsive yarn is a solar active yarn that changes color immediately in the presence of the sun." The photoluminescent yarn will glow for roughly two to four hours before gradually fading, according to Sabin.

Some past Young Architects Program installations have included pools to satisfy the water part of the brief, but Sabin will not be including those this year. Instead, she's devised "misting groves" activated by sensors that are fed via gravity from "bladders" in the steel support towers that contain enough water for roughly five days.

While MoMA PS1 will be the largest installation of Sabin's knitted system, she's already looking ahead. "My long-term goal is to really see how this can not only operate as a temporary installation, but become permanent and very much a part of architecture," she says.