Imminently Practical

“NY kinda sucks these days” was the subtext of AIANY’s 2023 Recipe for a Room, a competition to sketch out spaces that could theoretically alleviate contemporary problems—namely, the continuing mental health crisis and housing problems in the wake of the pandemic. The event, which was sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness and hosted at the Center for Architecture, saw twelve architecture students piece together tiny scale models with great care, despite the time limit. Each 8”X 8”X 8” model was a work of art in its own right: a cracked egg, a bird’s nest, a spreading tree, a gender-neutral bathhouse complete with mini hexagonal pool, a cozy nap room with a gossamer cover that could be untied and spread out in the grass. The winner, as selected by a jury of three panelists, was Haochuan (Eric) Feng, a student at Pratt Institute, who was mentored by architect Eric Gering. Eric the younger’s design utilized repurposed cardboard, abandoned fishing nets, and other common waste products to build shelters for the unhoused in the city’s parks. It wasn’t the loveliest of the models, but definitely the most imminently practical, capable of serving New Yorkers most sorely in need of a respite.