Folly 2014: SuralArk

Austin + Mergold


Folly is a competition co-sponsored by The Architectural League and Socrates Sculpture Park which 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 in 2011 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. Socrates Executive Director John Hatfield writes:

What is the difference between architecture and sculpture? Plumbing. This oft-cited aphorism, repeated by architects and artists, reveals an antagonism between purpose and value, our need to be comforted by categorization; and the strain of wrestling definitions out of art and architecture. If we were to apply the plumbing distinction seriously, what side of the line would Olafur Eliasson’s from Sam Dunn Plumbing be on? What does the lack of a bathroom say about the Arc de Triomphe or the Serpentine Gallery’s pavilions? You can understand the academic compulsion to make distinctions between art and architecture, but the Folly commission for Socrates Sculpture Park and The Architectural League was initiated to straddle disciplines and definitions. What is the difference between an architectural folly and sculpture? Some, and not much.

Our goal from the outset in establishing this commission was to free architects from the usual constraints of practicality and architectural program to enable unexpected results and exploration. Through our Folly competition, the organizations were curious to know what might come from giving young architects an opportunity to manifest their preoccupations, theories, and unfettered desires.

The 2014 Folly winner is SuralArk, designed by Jason Timberlake Austin and Aleksandr Mergold. The project was selected from over 170 submissions by a jury of architects and artists, including Chris Doyle, artist; John Hatfield, Socrates Sculpture Park; Enrique Norten, TEN Arquitectos; Lisa Switkin, James Corner Field Operations; and Ada Tolla, LOT-EK. SuralArk was on view at the sculpture park from May 11 through August 3, 2014. In addition, Jason Timberlake Austin and Aleksandr Mergold discuss the project, finding beauty in the mundane, and their reconsideration of conventional territorial classifications in a conversation with Socrates Sculpture Park’s Elissa Goldstone, and we look at several notable competition entries and some recurring themes that emerged in this year’s proposals. The interviews, profile, and survey collected here are also now available in a print-on-demand booklet that can also be read online.

Folly is directed jointly by Elissa Goldstone, Exhibition Program Manager, Socrates Sculpture Park, and Anne Rieselbach, Program Director, The Architectural League of New York.

Folly 2014 was made possible by a generous grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.


Winner profile

Notable Entries

The Making of SuralArk

Event and exhibition


Interview: Rael San Fratello

Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello describe the importance of reinvention, experimentation, and creative disruption to their practice.