Spring Forward, Folly Back: IK Studio on Winning the 2015 Folly Competition

Matt Shaw Matt Shaw

Socrates Sculpture Park and the Architectural League of New York have named Cambridge and Philadelphia-based firm IK Studio the winners of the 2015 Folly Program. Their winning design, Torqueing Spheres weaves a series of intertwining, sculpted forms into a meandering curved folly that encourages social interaction.

The design is uniquely suited for its context — a linear site along the East River — with a ribboning set of complex spherical pods. “We were interested in creating and applying curvature made with digital control to wood, metal, and polypropylene — materials that are normally planar,” explains partner Simon Kim. “Our response to the brief of ‘Folly’ was to invert the traditional hierarchy of curved surfaces of a dome on vaults, and their resulting weird pendentives, into a horizontal arrangement where the pendentives become structural.”

By blending folly formalism with innovative material techniques, IK Studio finds a new application of the research they have been involved with in establishing new forms of organization among immersive technologies and their relationships to design. “We got the idea from Gehry’s office, where we would cut and bend paper to create his doubly curved surfaces,” partner Mariana Ibanez continued. “With larger models, we would need to cut holes at the end of the cut, releasing tension and allowing thicker panels to fold.”

“The conceptual project of the office is to bring new media, immersive technologies, and adaptable tectonics into the core discipline of architecture,” Kim said. “Bending materials in the production of structural monocoques allows for a unique band within this research.” The team is working with an artist-in-residency program at RAIR Philadelphia to source the materials from a recycling plant to offset costs and environmental impact.

Socrates and the Architectural League launched the annual Folly Program in 2012 to explore the intersections and divergences between architecture and sculpture. Through an annual juried competition, the program creates an opportunity for one emerging architect or designer to build a project in an urban, public realm. Previous winning proposals include SuralArk, 2014, by Austin+Mergold; tree wood, 2013, by Toshihiro Oki architect p.c.; and Curtain, 2012, by Jerome K. Haferd and Brandt Knapp.

Torqueing Spheres opens at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, on Sunday, May 17th, from 3–6PM.

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