Location: New York
Year completed: (2018 – unbuilt)
Client: Socrates Sculpture Park, The Architectural League of New York
Architect: Dan Bergsagel
Wider team: Scale Rule

Worms! The Mutants of Hells Gate was a proposal for a series of flexible, adaptable movable outdoor seating as part of Socrates Sculpture Park’s annual Folly/Function competition for their site in Astoria, New York.

In case you missed it the first time around, the story is worth telling again…

“The East River has been officially dead for a century – choked on industrial pollution with dissolved oxygen levels below those which can sustain normal aquatic life. Tidal currents from Long Island Sound, Harlem River Strait and Upper Bay of New York Harbour converged on a shallow rocky portion of the river, leading to treacherous sailing and the loss of many Dutch, British and American sailors who were unfamiliar with the water way and its dangerous nuances. As the pollution in the river rapidly increased in the early 1900s, one species mutated to extract all its necessary nutrients by devouring the bodies of the tragic sailing dead at the bottom of the ocean, and survived as the rest of the ecosystem around them collapsed. It is these enormous mutant worms which have been lurking alone in the deeps of Hell Gate.

However as NYC de-industrialises, the East River is slowly recovering. Aquatic life is starting to redevelop. The worms, destined to live in dead waters, are searching for new places to live. In 2018 the mutant worms of Hell Gate will arrive on land: sixteen will slither on to Socrates Sculpture Park from Hallet Cove attempting to escape the re-oxygenating water in which they cannot survive and searching for new polluted lands. Caught on land the worms suffocate and die, their rubbery mutant carcasses strewn across the park forming a series of opportune seating structures which can be relocated and reshaped, to the will of the Socrates Sculpture Park visitors.”

Each worm would be a flexible 10’ long and 2’ wide tube which can be moved, rearranged and reshaped by people in the park into a  long low bench, a single raised seats, or a reclining double.  A worm is a heavy-duty external grade truck tarpaulin shell. The tarpaulin is laser-cut, filled with flexible foam pieces, and  sealed. Buckles are sewn to the ends to allow the worms to be attached to each other, and sewn to the bottom to allow them to be reshaped.