Past Exhibition


July 14, 2020 – February 14, 2021

The High Museum of Art has been engaging visitors of all ages in participatory art experiences on the Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza since 2014. This year’s site-specific commission Murmuration was designed by the architectural firm SO – IL. Inspired by Atlanta’s reputation as the “city in a forest” and by the High’s proximity to the city’s abundant greenspace Piedmont Park, SO – IL has designed a 2,350-square-foot mesh canopy that evokes the environment of neighboring trees. This sculptural pavilion, complete with feeding stations and perches, also reflects upon the loss of billions of birds in recent decades. Visitors are invited to “perch and nest” alongside the birds in this outdoor mesh canopy.

Header Photo (c) Fredrik Brauer

About SO – IL

SO – IL (Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu) is the Brooklyn-based architectural firm founded by Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu in 2008. With their highly original voice, Idenburg and Liu 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.

Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg of SO – IL.

SO – IL’s architectural practice integrates cultural projects and temporary pavilions, including 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.

Born in the Netherlands, Florian Idenburg studied architecture at the Delft University of Technology before working for the Japanese architectural firm SANAA in Tokyo. Jing Liu was born in China and was educated in China, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, studying architecture at Tulane University’s School of Architecture. In 2008, they formed their award-winning practice; in the work presented here, they collaborated with SO – IL associates Ted Baab, Andy Gibbs, and Ray Rui Wu.

MoMA PS1 Young Architect Program winning design (2010)

In this winning design for the MoMA PS1 Young Architect Program (2010), SO – IL designed a temporary participatory environment in which the structure of nets and poles is directly affected by human interaction and weather conditions. The goal was to create a spatial situation that could move along a continuum between restful and playful, depending on one’s mood.Photo by Iwan Baan

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Dancers interact with the installation at MoMA PS1

The concept of openness—for use and interpretation—is a quality SO – IL explored here, which can also be seen in its more permanent projects such as the Manetti Shrem Museum at the University of California at Davis.Photo by Iwan Baan

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Spiky, Olympic Park, Beijing

Activating public space in Beijing’s Olympic Park, Spiky is an architectural installation composed of a conic metal mesh canopy—produced after material research into a standard industrial product—suspended on steel poles. SO – IL turned metal mesh, which is conventionally understood as a two-dimensional sheet, into a three-dimensional sculptural form.Photo courtesy of SO – IL

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Spiky, Olympic Park, Beijing

The goal for this installation was for the urban user of public space to think about their place in the world through the contrasting perspectives of solidity and porosity experienced within the structure.Photo courtesy of SO – IL

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The Manetti Shrem Museum, University of California at Davis

Responding to the legacy of the creation of avant-garde art at the University of California at Davis, SO – IL designed a model for future museums—a building that is open, permeable, and adaptable to evolving public events.Photo by Iwan Baan

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Canopy of the Manetti Shrem Museum, University of California at Davis

The unique canopy, constructed of an aluminum patchwork, draws visitors into a space that celebrates diversity, transparency, and public activation. SO – IL created a public plaza that plays with light and shadow and links a civic site with an institution.Photo by Iwan Baan

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Concept sketch for Murmuration

In this concept sketch for the project, the contours of Renzo Piano’s architecture are visible as the backdrop for SO – IL’s ideation of the idea of Murmuration. The flocking behavior of the birds in flight is suggested above the colorful canopy.Photo courtesy of SO – IL

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Canopy concept sketch

This sketch explores canopies of different shapes and scales alongside a pool below, which recalls earlier SO – IL projects but also expands upon them within this new context.Photo courtesy of SO – IL

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SO – IL’s canopy design

The innovative structure consists of a series of interconnected steel frames suspended from six poles and covered by an agricultural net.Photo courtesy of SO – IL

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Canopy structure construction

The structure was fabricated and fully erected in Mexico before being shipped to Atlanta. As such, the installation can be deinstalled and reinstalled in future locations—and hopefully create its own migratory path.Fabrication by Factor Eficiencia; Photo by Jaime Navarro

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Atlanta’s Urbanism and Global Ecology

As the “city in a forest,” Atlanta’s urban fabric is composed of parks and nature, and SO – IL’s installation directly references the city’s trees. Atlanta’s tree coverage is currently at 47%, and there is a movement to preserve the city’s canopy against the destructive effects of urban sprawl. The city’s tree canopy provides shade, cleans the air, and helps reduce stormwater runoff. Creating a sustainable future for Atlanta includes maintaining or increasing the city’s trees.
In its title and concept, Murmuration also directly advocates for bird conservation efforts, questioning their loss and the terms for our future environment. According to scientists, there are nearly 30% 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. This project calls into question the future of our planet as well as humanity’s direct role in preserving it.

Visit the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo website to learn how you can help protect migrating birds.
NB: Due to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, Murmuration opened later than originally expected. Migrating birds fly south through Atlanta in the spring. As such, the potential absence of birds still relates to the intention of the installation and gives visitors much to consider.

Murmuration is organized by the High Museum of Art. Generous support has been provided by the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.
This exhibition is made possible by

Premier Exhibition Series Sponsors

Exhibition Series Sponsor

Premier Exhibition Series Supporters

The Antinori Foundation
Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot

Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporters

Anne Cox Chambers Foundation
Robin and Hilton Howell

Ambassador Exhibition Supporter

Rod and Kelly Westmoreland

Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters

Farideh and Al Azadi
The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust
Lucinda W. Bunnen
Marcia and John Donnell
W. Daniel Ebersole and Sarah Eby-Ebersole
Karen T. & Jeb L. Hughes, Corporate Environments
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
Joel Knox and Joan Marmo
Margot and Danny McCaul

Generous support is also provided by

Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, and the RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund.