YI Meets Wendy
Jul 23, 2012

teens sitting in front of an art installation

YI Summer participants gather with architect Matthias Hollwich in the shady embrace of Wendy's arms. Photograph by Correna Cohen

On July 19, Youth Insight teens went on a blind date with Wendy. She showers you unexpectedly, blows you whispering winds, and mist-ifys you. Kindhearted, Wendy is always giving back to her community and offering shade when the weather becomes unbearable. Instead of a Baywatch tan, she’s the deep blues of a New York sky. Quite the seductress.

Her parents? MoMa PS1’s 2012 Young Architects Project winner, architecture firm HWKN. We spoke with HWKN co-founder and architect Matthias Hollwich in the courtyard at PS1 about her creation. During the three-month planning period, HWKN architects focused on creating a structure that was sustainable, interactive, cooling, progressive, fun, and, on some level, human. Wendy is made with titania nanoparticle spray that neutralizes the air pollutants around her. Her protruding triangular spikes act as funnels for her fanned breeze and water to pass through. Her specific blue color was created by averaging the year-round shades of blue from our New York sky.


  • teens look at art installation

    YI teens and architect Matthias Hollwich examine Wendy's blue spikes. Photograph by Ramsey, YI Participant

  • man talking to students in front of concrete wall

    Architect Matthias Hollwich of the firm HWKN talks to YI Summer participants. Photograph by Ramsey, YI Participant

  • sign hanging on wall in front of students

    Wendy's arms are covered in titania nanoparticles, which clean the air when the sun shines on them. Photograph by Ramsey, YI Participant

  • students underneath blue hanging in outdoor setting

    Into the breach: YI teens on an exclusive tour of Wendy's innermost workings. Photograph by Ramsey, YI Participant

  • students looking at pools

    Wendy's features include a series of inviting pools. Photograph by Ramsey, YI Participant

  • students in front of grafittied wall

    After hanging out with Wendy, YI teens headed across the street to the graffiti gallery, 5Pointz. Photograph by Ramsey, YI Participant

  • man spray painting wall as students watch

    Teens watch a 5Pointz artist at work. Photograph by Ramsey, YI Participant

  • students in front of elaborate graffiti

    YI meets the Wild West...graffiti style. Photograph by Ramsey, YI Participant

In addition to discussing the technical aspects of the sculpture, Hollwich also emphasized that Wendy bridges some of the physical separations between people and structural buildings, a push toward a metaphysical experience. The intention was to have visitors see Wendy as more than the beams holding her up—as a presence, and that’s exactly what happened.  We were also given the unique opportunity of going inside Wendy. There were fans larger than us and the shadow of the blue fabric settled over our skin, making me feel as if we were a part of her.

Hollwich ended by describing the possibilities that titania nanoparticle technology presents–if we spray it on our sidewalks and our scaffolding, as some in New York are proposing, industrial growth does not need to undermine our environment.

By Michelle