New York's MoMA PS1 will feature a shelter installation that uses robotically-knitted solar fabrics that absorb and release light. Winner of the art institution's Young Architects Program competition, the canopy from Jenny Sabin Studio is photo-luminescent by night and cooling by day, with a misting system that delivers a cooling spray when someone comes near.

Headed by designer Jenny Sabin, professor of architecture at Cornell University, Lumen, as the project is named, opens in June at MoMAs PS1's courtyard in Long Island City. The installation is set up during the center's annual Warm Up outdoor music series, and thus parameters of the contest included developing "creative designs for a temporary, outdoor installation that provides shade, seating, and water," according to MoMA PS1, which is a part of the Museum of Modern Art dedicated to contemporary art.

The intent is a "socially and environmentally responsive structure" that reacts to heat and sunlight, as well as the bodies of visitors who enter the site. Using the latest textile-based technologies, including solar-active and photo-luminescent yarn, Sabin digitally designs the shapes and objects of the installation. They're wound and woven with a giant robotic arm, an additive type of technology used in digital fabrication and 3D printing. For seating, about 100 recycled and deconstructed spools are woven with the same photo-luminescent yarns.

"The project is informed by my expertise in emerging technologies and computational design, coming from cell biology and cellular networks and how forms operate in biology," says Sabin, who adds that her use of the high-tech, responsive materials started with a project for Nike in 2012.

The installation includes long fabric tubes that hang from the canopy stalactite style, and make up part of the site's multi-sensory environment. During the day, visitors can take relief from the summer heat under the canopy, which allows in dapples of sunlight while occasionally spraying visitors with a misting system incorporated into the openings of those hanging tubes. The misting is activated by sensors that respond to movement.

Three 30-ft (9-m) towers help anchor the tension canopy, and hold large water bladders that feed the network of tubes that connect to the misting system. "It's a simple detection network, so when you come close, the misters will slowly start to mist," Sabin says. With up to 3,000 visitors expected to the festival, a master control allows the misting to be put on pause if a big crowd enters the site, while some areas will be on a regular misting cycle.

At night, visitors to the instillation have a different experience, with the solar active material in the canopy, stalactite tubes and stools giving off a phosphorescent glow that "inspires levity and enjoyment with the space," says Sabin. "The photo-luminescent fabric absorbs UV sunlight, and then they slowly emit light."

These solar active materials have so far been used primarily for clothing, sports equipment, medical uniforms and paints. But as far as Sabin knows, she's the first to incorporate them into an architectural context.

"The idea is not only that the material is changing, but the architecture actually absorbs and delivers light," says Sabin, "which offers untold prospects for materials in architecture, having a degree of responsiveness."

Sabin heads up the Sabin Design Lab at Cornell, which mixes research and computational design, data visualization and digital fabrication. Her work explores the intersection of architecture and science, and incorporates biological and mathematical theories in design.

You can see a preview of the installation in the following video.

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