Folly 2015: Torqueing Spheres

May 18, 2015

Torqueing Spheres, IK Studio | photo by Kordae Jatafa Henry

Torqueing Spheres by Mariana Ibañez and Simon Kim

Torqueing Spheres is the sculpturally compelling winning proposal of the 2015 Folly competition, installed for the summer at Socrates Sculpture Park. Designed by Mariana Ibañez and Simon Kim of the Cambridge- and Philadelphia-based firm IK Studio, the installation extends the idea of “folly” to its material exploration by forcing planar pieces of plywood into curved, self-reinforcing domes.

Torqueing Spheres is a series of intertwining, sculpted forms that ribbon across the landscape. The installation is composed of eight distinct shells or domes, each fabricated from cold-bent 5-ply birch plywood. Advanced computation, digital software, and prototyping were used to determine the curvature of each leaf of plywood, with center apertures, fold lines, and bolt holes controlling the final shape and transforming flat surface to volume. Eight leaves of varying sizes, each machine cut before being brought to the site, form each dome; the material edges are bent, overlapped, and fixed in place by simple bolts so that each dome is self-supporting. The pieces alternate between natural birch color and painted white. The eight volumes shift in scale — first growing, with the largest more than eight feet tall, and then diminishing again — as a visitor follows the form toward the East River.

Photo by Kordae Jatafa Henry

The folly is an exploration of formal geometries and material performance, seeking to discover what happens “when stable forms are given unusual rules.” The design draws, in the designers’ words, from the “traditional architectural inventions of vaults, arches, and domes in the production of voluminous surfaces,” employing new material techniques to promote the “experience of sculpted space for the collective and the individual.” Of particular interest is the pendentive, “the strange non-shape that is neither square nor circular but allows a sphere to rest over a rectangle.”

By placing each piece laterally, the folly inverts the typical experience of a dome by inviting visitors to investigate the spherical recesses: “the once-elevated dome is now a space of exploration.” While the form creates a wall or barrier, it is a porous one: the opposite side is constantly visible in glimpses through the aperture in each individual leaf as well as the oculus of each dome.

Torqueing Spheres opens on May 17, 2015 at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City and will be on view through August 30, 2015. For more information about visiting, click here.


Photo by Kordae Jatafa Henry

Photo by Kordae Jatafa Henry

Torqueing Spheres model | courtesy of IK Studio

Conceptual study | courtesy of IK Studio


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, traditionally a fanciful, small-scale building or pavilion sited in a garden or landscape to frame a view or serve as a conversation piece. Folly was established by Socrates, in partnership with the League, to explore the intersections between architecture and sculpture and the increasing overlaps in references, materials, and building techniques between the two disciplines. Now in its fourth year, the Folly competition attracted over 120 submissions in 2015.