The word “folly” is derived from the French folie, or “foolishness.” Also known as an “eyecatcher,” a folly was traditionally an extravagant, non-functional building, which was meant to enhance the landscape. Rooted in Romantic ideals of the picturesque, a folly often acted as an ornate small-scale intervention which transformed and visually dramatized the landscape around it. The winners of this year’s Folly Competition sponsored by The Architectural League of New York and Socrates Sculpture Park, competition winners Jerome Haferd and K. Brandt Knapp proposed a new interpretation of the folly, “Curtain.”
Rather than being a whimsical, ornate structure which sits in the landscape, this folly, built from white plastic chain, is more like a small pavilion. The restraint shown by this structure echoes the idea of Shigeru Ban’s “curtain” wall house, something which represents a new vision for a folly. Shown in the landscape as an object, the building is closer to Corbusier’s Villa Savoye than to The Dunmore Pineapple or the follies of Parc de La Vilette. There is no formal exuberance, no faux-ruins, no absurdity, only a white pavilion-like structure. In an idiosyncratic interpretation of “folly”, the architects have chosen spatial effects as the jumping off point for an object in a landscape.
This project is by definition a folly, especially the version that has been used in the United States, which often includes garden pavilions and gazebos. This project alters our perception of the landscape via translucency. It mediates between visually obscuring background trees, operating in the middle ground as a spatial intervention, while simultaneously existing as a voluminous foreground object. It is a non functional building aligned with sculpture, or architectural installation. The white box with the faceted roof also reflects what is apparently the personal fancy of the architects, and thus “Curtain” cannot escape the definition of folly, while also “redefining” the term.