Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg are the founders of the award-winning architecture studio called Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu (SO-IL ). Since its inception, SO – IL has worked on an array of projects ranging in scale from a series of prints for the Guggenheim Museum to the master plan of a cultural campus in Seoul. In 2010, the studio was awarded a project in the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program as well as the AIA New York Young Practices Award. Here they share their own live/work project called Common Ground, a rethinking of what it means to live and work in the city, creating a communal oasis with an extended family of friends.
Above: Jing and Forian’s house in Brooklyn from Common Ground film, 2011, image by Iwan Baan
We started our office somewhere between Amalia and Francis, our two daughters. In hindsight, it might have been because we did not differentiate very much between work and family, and that we were just ready to explore the possibilities of our own ideas in the real world and to take on the responsibilities. So we did. We got married, had children, moved out of our mouse heaven, east-village studio and opened shop as SO-IL, all at the same time, and all intuitively.
We never got to have the time to think about what kind of parents we wanted to be, nor what kind of architect. We fought the sleepiness through the night feedings by thinking about the window details. We brought the kids along to the numerous site visits on weekends. They were always happy guests at our office dinners and holiday parties, knew the name of every one of our staff members, and proudly invited their friends to the openings of our projects.
Above: Pole Dance for MOMA/PS1. Winner Young Architect’s Prize, 2010
There are many ways one can learn to become a parent, or to start an architectural office. Our way took its own course rather than being set out by us. The conflicts between the two did not result in compromises, but help us in making wise decisions. We rarely feel the split between the two roles, but one always makes the other more interesting. Sometimes we are impatient waiting for the next step, other times we feel chased by the growth of a child or the office. In time, we learn how to wait for the current and ride it when it comes.
Above: Design for nursery school, Prato, Italy, 2008
Now our older daughter is 4 years old and the office 3, there came a natural convergent point where we sought to rethink the model of the living spaces, as we increasingly find the over-priced housing market in New York structurally ignores the relational spaces in a residential environment. We wanted to test the viability of an architecture that facilitated a communal oasis in a hyper-urban setting.
Over dinners and tea times, we spoke of this desire and our dream with our “extended families”, our diasporic friends who sought out each other in this metropolitan New York. Once planted, how powerful it is, the way in which a seed bursts out of its shell and pierces though the dirt to reach for the light, of possibilities! Quickly, the dream grew in an infectious way. Now it has a name, Common Ground. It is a place to work and to live; to support and to depend; to be and to become.
Above: Conceptual model for Common Ground, currently exhibited at BROODWORK: It’s About Time.