Rendering to Reality: Florian Idenburg of SO–IL on Architectural Process and Progress

“We create realms, not rooms. Architects are only making skins. We’re concerned with what also happens inside.”

Sydney Franklin Sydney Franklin

For this year’s fourth Rendering to Reality lecture, Architizer invited SO–IL’s Florian Idenburg to engage the audience in discussing his firm’s forward-thinking process of designing architecture. Hundreds gathered to listen to the Brooklyn-based architect and Architizer’s CEO Marc Kushner last Thursday night at our headquarters in Lower Manhattan.

Kushner and Idenburg speak in front of a packed audience at Architizer.

The evening’s conversation focused on SO–IL’s new book, Solid Objectives: Order, Edge, Aura. While the firm has produced an incredible number of highly lauded projects, Idenburg doesn’t consider the book a monograph of their work. Instead, it details the design thinking and inspiration behind some of their most compelling projects and the reasoning behind their use of unique forms and materials. In just eight years, SO–IL has proven itself as an enterprising architectural firm, taking risks and experimenting with methods previously unseen in the industry.

Jan and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art by SO–IL

“We’re living in a time where architecture itself is becoming more nostalgic,” he said, “shying away from this idea of progress. Our practice has always tried to figure out a way to move forward through experimentation and by using challenging materials. We want to develop a new aesthetic in the unpredictable and find out how new forms can produce new experiences.”

Moiré pattern served as inspiration for the Manetti Shrem Museum.

Idenburg’s team believes that order, edge and aura are the three main areas that architecture engages with and around which materials are organized. His firm’s most recent projects — a modular housing installation for MINI and moiré-patterned art museum for the University of California, Davis — break the boundaries of traditional design and encapsulate SO–IL’s emphasis on such innovation.

Diagram for MINI LIVING — Breathe by SO–IL

MINI LIVING — Breathe debuted earlier this spring at Milan’s Salone del Mobile to a frenzy of high-praised media coverage. Composed as a loose stack of porous realms, the ethereal structure features a flexible outer skin supported by a metal framework. SO–IL incorporated sustainable materials into the compact design that can be changed to accompany differing environmental conditions.

MINI LIVING — Breathe by SO–IL

Draped material, like the kind of fabric found on Breathe, is a common theme throughout the firm’s projects. From shrouded chain to overlaying metal, drapery creates a unique optical effect and implied flexibility throughout SO–IL’s projects.

“We create realms, not rooms,” said Idenburg during the lecture. “Architects are only making skins. We’re concerned with what also happens inside.”

Rendering of Pole Dance by SO–IL

SO–IL’s obsession with nontraditional building envelopes can be seen throughout many of their projects built over the years. The stretched elastic façade of New York’s Storefront for Art and Architecture, for example, gives a nondescript shape to the structure similar to the netted roof of Pole Dance at MoMA PS1.

Pole Dance by SO–IL

These projects feature movable and adaptable elements, while permanent buildings, like the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art in California, are implicitly open in program but more structural in shape. The stunning cultural institution includes a massive pavilion set on stilts with a perforated metal roof. According to Idenburg, the gallery entrance was inspired by the internet; it offers multiple options for navigation into the striking space.

Kushner noted that the building seems “tailor-made for the digital age.”

Kushner and Idenburg speak in front of a packed audience at Architizer.

“Icons are often photographed one way and they’re instantly recognizable,” he said. “But your buildings, depending on the angle, change completely.”

“We’re not nostalgic at all,” responded Idenburg. “But we think the digital mind-set should be translated to the physical space. We want people to create their own narratives in that environment. It’s not about the icon. It’s about the reveal.”

Check out the previous re-caps of Architizer’s “Rendering Reality” lecture series:

Leong Leong’s LGBT Center Breaks Ground in Los Angeles

TEN Arquitectos Rethinks the Library in New York

David Belt of Macro Sea Discusses New Lab