The Ludwig Forum is hosting until the end of the month West Arch - a new generation in architecture, an exhibition which introduces to the broad public the work of 25 architecture studios from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
The studios singled out by the curators are characterized by the witty, experimental, and often unconventional strategies they adopt to respond to contemporary demands and issues. Moreover, many of the architects represented in this exhibition are embracing collaborations with other disciplines such as visual art, design or graphic design.
From the curatorial statement: We assume that a pragmatic, partly ironic approach is predominant: acceptance of the factual leads to a new realism. Putting existing structures to a new use is a strategy that is not only helpful from an ecological and economical point of view but also creates new aesthetics. Theory and practice are not conceptually separated. In times of economical crisis the production of ideas is redeployed to what is possible.
Impeccable selection of architecture studios, perfect distribution of the works within the space, clear description of the works on show, a catalog that contains the right balance of illustration and information, engrossing documentation made of models, films, photos, books, drawings and plans. I wish i'd see shows like this one every week.
A few projects i (re)discovered in the exhibition:
LAb[au] collaborated with Frederik De Wilde to create EOD 02, an installation starring fish that perceive their environment and communicate with each other by emitting electric signals, either in pulses or waves. Each of the four aquariums contain an electric fish that discharge different electric signals. The electric communication between the fish is captured by antennas and transformed into sound. Under each aquarium a matrix of LEDs pulses according to the intensity and rhythm of the signals.
Using only recycled pieces of washing machines, Rotterdam-based architects 2012architecten built the Miele Space Station, an experimental structure compounded out of five separate modules, each of which can be carried by two people. Once on site, the segments can be placed in various configurations so that the object can be used to host a bar, office, music shop or serve as an information kiosk.
Teaming up with with Jeanne van Heeswijks, 2012Architecten carried on experimenting with domestic appliances and built the Recycloop, a pavilion made out of kitchen sinks.
In order to meet local zoning regulations of this nature preservation area, half of the program of Villa 1 by The Powerhouse Company lies below the ground. Above the ground, the Y-shaped building looks like a glass box while the space below feels as if it has been carved out of the earth.
With A-Cross, Brussels-based Anorak questions the application of art, architecture, design and graphism within the use of public space through a common language: a 558 cm-wide white cross erected in various archetypal situations.
To recreate a traditional Inuit collective dinner with seal meat Mediamatic in Amsterdam, DUS Architects designed a huge table that almost completely filled the room and surrounded by one continuous sofa. Only members of the Proviant-Klub-Room (named after environmentalist Brigitte Bardot) were invited to the celebration.
Another of DUS architects' project, the Gecekondu Summerhouse Hotel aimed to import Istanbul's illegal urban setup (one third of all housing) into the increasingly regulated Dutch urban space. Gecekundu, the Turkish name for shanty building, literally means 'built over night'. Because these buildings are built in one night, the founder of the building receives ownership rights. The building bricks of the Gecekondu Summer Hotel that DUS made at Almere Beach are the typical nomadic bags, the so-called china bags (or 'turkentassen'), filled with sand from the beach.
Rationator is a detached house for a family with 3 children in Overath, a small town at the outskirts of Cologne. Located along the bank of the Agger River, the house is threatened by floods up to 2,5 m above ground level. BEL's design anticipates possible flooding with flood resistant materials and construction techniques.
Views from the exhibition:
My images from the exhibition.
Also on view at Ludwig Forum: Eros und Stasi.
Another update from Artissima, the contemporary art fair taking place this weekend in Turin. There's vodka in the press bag, the art girls wear Melissa shoes, they still rock those pointy shoulder jackets, the men are strongly encouraged to make sartorial efforts, and photography seems to have fallen out of favour.
Meanwhile half of the public is either walking up and down the scaffoldings of raumlabor's life-size maquette of an experimental museum or relaxing with friends on the huge heap of smelly discarded clothes that the Berlin-based collective has 'erected' by the bar. When i saw the mountain of clothes from afar i actually thought it was a scaled-down version Christian Boltanski's Personnes at the Grand Palais in Paris.
raumlabor's construction -which you can find at the back of the exhibition space- was designed to host the fair's cultural offer, a program mixing dance performances, literature, film screenings and architecture. The idea is brilliant and the structure certainly attracts more passersby than the white rooms where the conferences usually take place.
The House of Contamination forms a parallel architecture in clashing contrast both with the sleek volumes of the Oval building where the fair is hosted and with the squeaky clean walls of the gallery booths.
The walls of this experimental museum are built with compressed stacks of plastic, paper, metal, fabric and wood. All the material is recycled. The books of the library are kept inside disused fridges, tables are installed on top of upside-down washing machines. A huge fan intermittently blows wind that moves the fabric walls of the corridor. Up there, a rudimentary skywalk allows visitors to get a better idea of the architecture of the museum.
As the description of the House of Contamination states, all rooms are intercommunicating, the only dividing wall can move merging cinema and theatre, simultaneously sealing the literary salon.
Let's see if this experimental museum gets a life beyond the 4 days art fair.
By bringing the focus of their exhibition on the thousands of buildings that remain unoccupied in The Netherlands, the Dutch Pavilion puts an ironic twist on "People meet in architecture", the theme of the ongoing Architecture Biennial in Venice.
Even the building where the exhibition takes place has been empty for over 39 years since its inauguration in 1954. The Dutch Pavilion -just like any of the pavilions of the giardini- is indeed open for just a few months per year.
Rietveld Landscape, the office appointed by the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI) as curators, has emphasized the vacancy of the pavilion by leaving the ground floor of the pavilion completely empty. Only by walking the stairs up to the mezzanine can the visitor discover that what looked like a foam blue ceiling is in fact a suspended landscape made of the models of vacant lighthouses, schools, water towers, factories, hangars, offices, etc.
A 'placebook' on the wall shows the connections that could between vacant buildings and creative professionals:
The exhibition Vacant NL is a call for the intelligent reuse of temporarily vacant buildings around the world in promoting creative enterprise.
Vacant NL, where architecture meets ideas is not only an appeal to creative talents to exploit the value hidden in society but also unsolicited advice to countries who want to advance up the table of global knowledge economies but don't know where they can find the hidden strengths. The transition to a creative knowledge economy demands specific spatial conditions. Offering young talents from the creative, technology and science sectors an affordable place where they can share their knowledge, creativity and networks is a way of promoting mutual influences, enterprise and innovation. Vacant NL, where architecture meets ideas shows how architecture can contribute to tackling major social problems.
Project Team for the pavilion: Curator Rietveld Landscape worked with Jurgen Bey (designer), Joost Grootens (graphic designer), Ronald Rietveld (landscape architect), Erik Rietveld (philosopher/economist), Saskia van Stein (NAI curator), Barbara Visser (visual artist).
The Venice Biennale of Architecture runs until 21st November, 2010.
Sorry i've been a bit lame and vague in keeping up with my reports from the Venice Architecture Biennale. I'm going to post a couple more stories about the event then we'll move on with our life.
Just like two years ago, the Belgian pavilion was the one i liked the most. This has very little to do with my nationality. I entered having no idea of what i'd find there and was almost immediately struck by the simplicity and charm of the exhibition.
This year's Director of the Biennale Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA invited participants to explore the relationship between architecture and human occupation. No one has taken the theme as literally as Rotor at the Belgian Pavilion. By focusing on the mundane and the overlooked details of architecture, the collective brought poetry, history and emotion to the biennale.
Called Usus/Usures, the exhibition investigates a specific phase in the life of construction materials: the time when they are subjected to use and are gradually re-shaped by human beings passing through them, walking on them, touching, pressing, stroking, scratching or holding them.
The Rotor collective spent years touring public buildings in Belgium to document and collect sections of walls, banisters with chipped paint, wooden floors, stained carpets, tired stairs, elevator cabins, plastic chairs, door handles, windows, and other worn out fragments of buildings. A selection of them hang on the white walls of the pavilion. Taken out of their original context, the objects looks like minimalist sculptures.
Rotor's interest in fatigued bits and pieces of architecture started as a study to evaluate the viability of a resale network for construction and demolition waste. Their concern, however, was not entirely ecological:
Like any product, they also elicit an aesthetic evaluation and, indeed, an emotional one. Traces of wear play a crucial role in this. They frequently evoke a sense of repulsion from potential buyers, but occasionally evoke attraction and even fascination.
With wear and tear, the material gains a new dimension that is both physical and situational.
A few pictures i took. Image on the homepage by Eric Mairiaux.
Usus/Usures is a project by Lionel Devlieger, Michaël Ghyoot, Maarten Gielen, Benjamin Lasserre, Tristan Boniver, and Melanie Tamm, in collaboration with Benedikte Zitouni and Ariane d'Hoop.
The Venice Biennale of Architecture runs until 21st November, 2010.
Just back from the press view of Pasajes. Viajes por el híper-espacio [Passages. Travels in Hyperspace], an exhibition at Laboral Art and Industrial Creation Centre that showcases some 20 pieces from the collection of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary. Big names, big guns, and bigger egos that i've been used to.
To discover M10, you have to open a very mundane door. Then another one on your right. And another one in front of you. There are ten of them, each leading to a plain, beige room so claustrophobic you quickly look for more doors that will take you out of there as the art critics mayhem pictured below demonstrates:
While M10 might look at first like an abstract installation, it was actually inspired by low-income housing during socialist Poland, where Monika Sosnowska grew up. At the time, Polish administration was setting strict guidelines regarding the size and building of family dwellings. The first dimension of the living space were fairly decent but as living space grew scarce in the 1960s, the authorities repartitioned existing apartments to accommodate more inhabitants. A classification system based on the number of rooms rather than on size meant that an M2 (two rooms) could easily become an M4. M10 pushes the system ad absurdum with a ten-room unit fitting the size of a typical M1.
Pasajes. Viajes por el híper-espacio [Passages. Travels in Hyperspace] is open at Laboral Art and Industrial Creation Centre until February 21, 2011. You can already download the handbook of the exhibition.
Keeping up with the visit to the exhibition of the Venice Architecture Bienniale at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni:
A nail house is a Chinese neologism for homes belonging to people who refuse to move out and make room for estate development. The most famous case is the one of Wu Ping and Yang Wu who declined during two years to sell their house to the developers of a shopping mall under construction in Chongqing. The developers cut their power and water, and excavated a 10-meter deep pit around their home. The family turned down an offer of 3.5 million yuan (US$453,000), but eventually settled with the developers in 2007.
Architect Caruso St John and artist Thomas Demand are paying homage to the Chongqing nail house with a project currently exhibited inside the Palazzo delle Esposizioni during the Venice Biennale of Architecture.
The Nagelhaus (nail house in german) is the winning project of a competition to redesign the Escher Weiss Platz, a former industrial area in Zurich undergoing a dramatic transformation that involves new commercial developments, new cultural institutions, and even new inhabitants. Caruso St John and Thomas Demand propose to reconstruct the Chinese Nail House in the square, under a road viaduct, and to open it to the public as a 24/7 restaurant. The modest building would appear as an archaeological fragment of a street that stood there previously.
The reconstruction of the nail house is also a social experiment that explores how migrating forms can bring new life into an overlooked urban setting. The experiment takes a particularly interesting meaning in a country ill at ease with immigration. Only a few months ago, a referendum has backed a proposal to ban the construction of new minarets.
The Nagelhaus project is facing controversy in Zurich, with the right-wing populist SVP trying to prevent its construction. The party has obtained the requisite number of signatures to force a referendum and the matter will be voted this month. Looks like the brave little Chongqing nail house will have to face yet another battle.
The installation at the Biennale consists of the reconstructed house, built to look like a Demand paper model and squeezed under the roof of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, as well as illustrations of the restaurant under the viaduct.
The inside of the Nagelhaus looks like the hidden side of a theater set.
Also at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni: Tom Sachs at the Venice Biennale of Architecture.