By Misty Milioto
Now through Nov. 29, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta is showcasing Murmuration—a soaring outdoor installation by the internationally renowned architecture and design firm SO – IL (Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu) and partners Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg.
Situated on The Woodruff Arts Center’s Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza, Murmuration continues a multiyear initiative to activate the High’s outdoor space with site-specific commissions that engage visitors in participatory art experiences.
The design team took inspiration from Atlanta’s reputation as the “city in a forest” and by the High’s proximity to the city’s abundant green space at Piedmont Park. Atlanta’s tree coverage is currently at 47 percent, and there is a movement to preserve the city’s canopy against the destructive effects of urban sprawl.
The 2,350-square-foot mesh canopy evokes the environment of neighboring trees. In an environmental statement—one that advocates for bird conservation efforts—the installation has feeding stations and perches, reflecting upon the loss of billions of birds in recent decades. According to scientists, there are nearly 30 percent fewer birds in the United States today than there were in 1970. The National Audubon Society has called this “a full-blown crisis,” largely due to increased pesticide use and habitat loss. Visitors are invited to perch and nest alongside the birds in the outdoor mesh canopy, while reflecting on the future of our planet as well as humanity’s direct role in preserving it.
Idenburg and Liu founded the Brooklyn-based architectural firm SO – IL in 2008. Together, they help communities connect to their environments through collaboration and participation. Their experiential architectural projects make use of ambiguity and interpretation, allowing for a study of contrasts to emerge. SO – IL believes that meaningful architecture can develop out of the confluence of universal concepts and local specificities, engendering conversations around issues facing society today.
Some of their additional projects include the winning design Pole Dance for the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program (2010) and Spiky, produced for the 5th China International Architectural Biennial (2013), as well as permanent structures, such as the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California at Davis (2018), all of which inform the canopy structure seen in Murmuration.
Visit the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo website to learn how you can help protect migrating birds.