Kukje Gallery in Seoul embodies SO-IL’s search for a new aesthetic. Here's an exerpt from our latest issue, Mark #39, for which Katya Tylevich visited the studio.

I meet Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu, founders of SO - IL (Solid Objectives - Idenburg Liu) in their Brooklyn office the day before they take off for Seoul. Kukje Art Center, among their latest realized projects, is having its grand opening a few days from now, so Liu and I talk jet lag. Pointing to Idenburg, she says, ‘You can never tell when he’s just crossed time zones.’ Idenburg and Liu do seem to be of the ‘sleep when I’m dead’ school of operation. Idenburg tells me they do as much for their projects as they can by themselves; it’s a way to stay ‘small, flexible, and scrappy’ as a practice.

By the way, the venerable online source, Urban Dictionary, defines ‘scrappy’ as ‘little, but can really kick some ass’, which seems about right. Having come from big backgrounds (Idenburg from SANAA and Liu from KPF, most recently), the architects wanted to approach their own practice, established just four years ago, in a different way. They knew they couldn’t shy away from architecture’s discomforts, both private and public. That the economy would be a ball and chain was a given; that they would occasionally find their intentions misunderstood by the press or the public took  some getting used to.

‘Sometimes, this is what happens when you put yourself out there,’ Idenburg laughs, showing me a piece of anonymous hate mail they once received. I won’t disclose the details, as they plan to publish the letter in a book someday, but it includes the instruction to ‘roll over and die’. On the other hand, the architects don’t show me the many awards they’ve received – most recently, the 2012 AIANY Honors Award in Interiors for  their studio design for production company Logan and, before that, the AIA Young Practices Award, among others. Somehow, they seem more juiced by challenges than by rewards.

Keen to continue reading our interview with SO-IL? Click here to order Mark #39.