Book review: Going Public - Public Architecture, Urbanism and Interventions

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Bring me home, please

Going Public - Public Architecture, Urbanism and Interventions, edited by Robert Klanten, Sven Ehmann, Sofia Borges and Lukas Feireiss.

Available on amazon USA and UK.

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Publisher Gestalten writes: Going Public showcases the creative revival of public space in our urban and rural landscapes. The book's compelling selection of formal and informal interventions, reclamations, and architecture illustrates the current scope and interest in refashioning and repurposing our built environment for public use. The objectives of the featured examples are as diverse as the projects themselves and range from inspiring communication and community experience to devising new means of gathering in and connecting to nature.

Ranging from bold to subtle and from temporary to permanent, the architecture and urban design featured in Going Public offers inspiring and surprising interpretations of our public surroundings and natural landscapes.

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Joost Goudriaan, Chesterfield Park Bench, 2010

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Gaëlle Villedary, Tapis Rouge (Red Carpet), 2011 (Jaujac, France)

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Kurt Perschke, RedBall Project, ongoing

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Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth, Tiger and Turtle - Magic Mountain, 2011

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Kielder Art and Architecture, Freya and Robin, 2009 (Northumberland, UK). Photograph © Peter Sharpe

I might think (probably foolishly) that i get the contemporary art world pretty well covered but each time i open one of Gestalent's book dedicated to graphic design, architecture, street art or illustration, it feels like i've spent too many years lying torpid in my shack at the back of the tundra. So many jaw-dropping ideas, images, projects and initiatives i had no idea existed multiply in quick succession as i flip through the pages of the books.

Going Public - Public Architecture, Urbanism and Interventions didn't disappoint in that respect. In pure Gestalten style, word is as scarce as it is efficient, the layout and typeface are faultless and the selection of works is constantly engaging. At least for people like me who have been hibernating for so long.

The book also offers a breath of fresh air to someone living in a country where newspapers regularly denounce a privatization of public spaces that favours business over community.

Most of the projects presented in Going Public are small interventions aimed at opening up urban or rural space to the broad public and acting as catalysts for social, cultural and political exchanges. Because many of them are lightweight and temporary, they give young talents a space for expression and investigation. And i'm always happy when a publisher, curator or institution looks beyond the usual suspects.

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Fattinger, Orso, Rieper, BELLEVUE. Das gelbe Haus, Linz (Austria), 2009

The book is divided into 6 areas of investigation. Chapter one, Gimme Shelter, is about providing an umbrella for public programs and activities. Chapter 2, Constant Gardener, has a self-explanatory title. Then comes Walk With Me, a series of projects which takes you on a stroll around a city or scenery. Benchmarks introduced me to urban furniture with a sense of humour. Chapter 5 Between a Rock and a Hard Place shows how non-places are rehabilitated. The book closes on Why Don't We Do it on the Road? tat explores how overlooked places can be revamped and used for activities that range from organizing carpentry workshops to hosting a temporary open-air museum.

Many of the projects, however, would fit well in several categories. Here are some of my favourite:

Florentijn Hofman (he of the giant yellow duck)'s 13 meter high rabbit invites the inhabitants and visitors of Orebro (Sweden) to examine the space both with the bunny, and then again after its removal.

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Florentijn Hofman, Big Yellow Rabbit, 2011. Image © Lasse Person

A bunker sliced in two, opening a walking path for sightseers to admire the mass of the building and the lake. Bunker 599 is a pilot project that attempts to make The Netherlands' military landscape publicly accessible .

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Rietveld Landscape + Atelier de Lyon, Bunker 599


Bunker 599 [the making of]

Noun 1. Unavailability - The Quality of not Being Available When Needed is a mobile fisherman's shelter made with a foldable wooden frame and walls that, when filled with water, solidify into ice that protects the fisherman from the weather.

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Gartnerfuglen, Noun 1. Unavailability - The Quality of not Being Available When Needed, 2012 (Telemark, Norway)

The ever-brilliant EXYZT collaborated with Ewa Rudnicka to install an UFO (Unexpected Fountain Occupation) on a disused fountain in Warsaw city centre. The space performed as a bar, hostel, film venue, flea market, concert hall for 2 months.

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EXYZT with Ewa Rudnicka, UFO (Unexpected Fountain Occupation), 2011 (Warsaw, Poland)

Using only blackboards, chalk and an abandoned building, Candy Chang gave passersby in New Orleans --and soon other cities across the world-- the opportunity to share their personal dreams and aspirations in public space.

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Candy Chang and the Civic Center, Before i Die, New Orleans, 2011

Three swings for up to twenty passengers are suspended from Mmabatho Stadium's outer frame. Facing each other, and dangling from a height of twelve meters, the swings require the passengers to negotiate with one another about how to achieve optimum path and speed.

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REFUNC, Gravity Passengers, Mafikeng, South Africa, 201o

Gravalosdimonte Arquitectos's estonoesunsolar" ('this-is-not-a-plot) cleaned up abandoned plots around the historical area of Zaragoza, Spain and turned the spaces into temporary open squares for the public to meet and play.

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Gravalosdimonte Arquitectos (Patrizia Di Monte & Ignacio Gravalos), estonoesunsolar, 2009 (Zaragoza, Spain)

Views inside the book:

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