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One on our friends, architects Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg of SO-IL, on the occasion of their first exhibition (Future Archaeology) in Los Angeles a few years ago:

Curatorial Statement: Towards Architecture Anew 

'Future Archaeology' is a paradoxical premise with the bravura and urgency of exploration and discovery. Confident that there will be something worth unearthing Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu (Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu) dialogically position their work in a kinetic present where design methodology and rhetoric benefits at once from a forward-looking impulse and openness towards the potential usefulness of prior ideas and organizational strategies. This cool opportunism speaks more to a set of broad relational concepts like adaptation, continuity and evolution as domains for architectural novelty than it does formal articulation and expressionism. But this is not to preclude form from SO-IL’s agenda. 

On the contrary, their works reflect a clear investment in the development of a strain of current architecture characterized by affects associable with what may be described as a contemporary sublime. And it is this that makes the notion of the exhibition a compelling one, implicitly challenging us to consider an aspect, or two of what might qualify such work as an agent for a progressive present of future promise. No matter its scale of manifestation SO-IL’s version of the contemporary sublime projects an immediately intelligible Gestalt through effects and strategies including: broad sweeps of blankness, chameleonic atmospherics, guerilla-like placement of diminutive tabulae raesae, juxtapositions of straightforward figures with vast landscapes and epic skies, vernacular silhouettes, or seemingly effortless synthetic mergers with nature. 

Clearly this approach is attributable to the principals’ long association with Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, but it bears stating that, unlike their Japanese mentors, their slates are somewhat less blanc, their dispositions a little more noir. Whether in the countryside, or on city rooftops, admixtures of gritty realism and cosmopolitan savoir-faire contaminate high with lo making for an haute primitivist architecture with an air of ‘look no hands’ logic. An intentional compositional naïveté displays what Robert Somol has identified as a strategy of shape rather than one of (capital F) form. The resultant is a visceral beauty redolent with empathy and fragility. Particularly in plan, the subtle awkwardness and gently deformed figures infuse and diffuse abstract wholes with a libertarian, structured informality. 

Leaving behind the stochastic and oft merely representational strategy of ‘Datascape’ as form-giver SO-IL remixes Alison and Peter Smithson’s ideas of ‘active socioplastics’ and ‘conglomerate ordering’ through Venn diagram-like interminglings of raum plan and plan libre. Within the overlaps and thresholds of the transparent and translucent mat-scapes the idea of program is positioned as a province of qualities not quantities. Here and there happenstance permeates the dimensions of quotidian arrangements creating relaxed urbane habitats of rooms, courts and gardens. With a Montessorian civility of co-existence and co-appearance SO-IL’s architectonics set up a sensual sense of ease worthy of Édouard Manet’s picknickers in Le déjeuner sur l’herbe. In all, digging up SO-IL’s tomorrow today provides us with an optimistic forecast of what might yet appear on the horizon anew, and invites us to consider the duration of a moment, the half-life of ideas and the still alluring nature of an incomplete project with unknowable limits. 

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