Person of interest Jing Liu

VESPA Magazine (online)
September 2013

Born in China and now founder of one of the most interesting New York based young practices, Jing Liu (1980) is one of the architects of SO-IL (Solid Objective-Idenburg Liu) with Florian Idenburg. The young practice became famous in 2001 with their installation Pole Dance, which won the YAP competition organized by MoMA PS1. She studied around the world until she concluded her master in University School of Architecture in New Orleans. We talk to her about the role of contemporary architecture in our society and how she developed such a great career in just a few years.

The “SO” in your firm’s name, SO – IL, stands for “solid objectives.” What do you mean by solid objectives?

Solid refers to something tactile and tangible. Objectives refers to something that has a clear set of goals, and the attitude is resolute. We are committed in realizing our ideas in the world. Ideas that are contextual, tangible and take physical form.

Who are the masters that most inspire your work?

Toyo Ito, constantly reinventing himself throughout the career and has fostered successions of great younger generations. IM Pei, Louis Kahn, true masters of space, form and materials. You walk into one of their buildings, you feel that you are walking into their brains. Every detail, every proportion, every surface is in utter control, but with such ease. How could you describe the evolution in your work, from your first projects until today? Never stop trying to go beyond the comfortable, the reasonable, and rational.

If you had to select two projects from your portfolio, which would you select and why?

The exhibition space Frieze Art Fair in New York because it’s an architecture that makes a place, where people come together and Light and Air a concept design for the renovation of the façade of Queen’s Bristol Royal Infirmary because it’s an architecture that deals with the past, the present and the future.

How can architecture influence our society?

Architecture is a form of language. It communicates through the way of experiencing space and form, across time and location. Without it, we miss an important part of our culture.

What is the role of women in architecture?

Architecture is a cultural form. Like any other cultural form, it takes shape by the hands and voices involved. Presently, there are not enough women participating, so we miss the opportunity in shaping it and being shaped by it. We need to actively try to participate more.

What is the key to good architecture in this moment of economic recession?

Recession keeps it real. Focusing on the ideas rather the scales. Good architecture and architecture that is important in defining the pivotal moments in history often come out of recession.

From an urban point of view is New York still the breeding ground of architecture and planning innovation?

Urbanistically more so than architecturally. New York City is a very difficult environment for innovation in building scale because of the strict zoning regulations, construction culture and expensive real-estate value. That’s also the reason why it is more interesting for us. All these challenges are there because of what New York City is, a creatively vibrant, economically healthy, structurally complex and culturally diverse city. Innovation is contextual. We think many of the experiments happening in New York might not be radical formally as in some other places, but are extremely important for the discipline and the City at large.

Photo credit: Iwan Baan