Notable Entries I: Material Exploration and Experimentation

Folly is a competition co-sponsored by The Architectural League and Socrates Sculpture Park that invites emerging architects and designers to propose contemporary interpretations of the architectural folly. This fifth iteration of the competition asked entrants to address a compelling and much needed utilitarian project to improve the park’s appearance and use of its outdoor education area. The inversion from Folly to Function coincides with the 30th year anniversary of the park. Folly attracted over 200 submissions in 2016.

Below, the League’s Matt Ragazzo identifies themes that emerged among this year’s Folly submissions and highlights a number of proposals deemed noteworthy by the jury. Read more about this year’s Folly here.


Material Exploration and Experimentation

Three notable entries experimented with unusual or traditional materials in exploratory and compelling ways to address the challenge of designing a functional folly.


MYKA Pulp Urchin Image 1 copy_web

Click for slideshow | Pulp Urchin | MYKA Works | Image courtesy of Katie Donahue

Nearly 600 pounds of discarded and repurposed paper forms a seemingly dense, yet deceptively light canopy of repetitive, conical shaped masses above the user in Myka Works’ Pulp Urchin. This project investigates “the material paper that is generally considered highly-disposable with a short life from desk to trash bin,” and repurposes it “to take on, instead, an indeterminate life span and to expose latent characteristics of cellulose not often leveraged beyond sheet material goods.” In doing so, the resulting stalactite-like cones embolden viewers to rethink their own ways in which they contribute to waste.


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MYKA Pulp Urchin Image 3_web

James Khamsi FIRM solid primitive hut 1_web
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Click for slideshow | The Birds and the Bees | Harrison Atelier | Image courtesy of Ariane Lourie Harrison

The Birds and The Bees, a proposal by Harrison Atelier (a 2015 Folly notable entrant), uses a traditional material, cement, to create a rippled and perforated façade that acts as a co-habitable space for human and non-human users alike (the firm developed this form in partnership with Cornell Ornithology Lab). This eco-pavilion contains a rooftop rainwater catchment and a wall system, for which “one face is tiled in 2’x 2’ hand-cast cement panels, designed to accommodate both small local cavity-nesting birds… and cavity-dwelling solitary bees.”


James Khamsi FIRM solid primitive hut 2_web

Click for slideshow | Solid Primitive Hut | FIRM a.d. | Image courtesy of James Khamsi

James Khamsi of FIRM a.d.’s proposal, the Solid Primitive Hut is “a reflection on architectural origins in the era of digital production,” and uses a Solid Primitive (a native shape in AutoCAD) constructed of PVC pipe as the modular building block for the structure. The repetitive modules create a visually dynamic experience—when viewed perpendicular to the form, one can see straight through the structure, and when viewed from angles, the building appears as a solid. Described in Khamsi’s words,  “the contemporary, almost generically so, plastic nature of the material has a playful friction with the primordial themes of the work.”

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