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"The future is shared or none". Spanish Pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale

07 of June '21

: Which projects impressed you the most? Have there been proposals and solutions that can realistically improve the quality of life for users?

AG: It is difficult to predict which of the projects will have the most measurable impact on improving our quality of life. The most important thing was that they understood uncertainty or crisis as a field of action, as an opportunity to look for innovative solutions in the here and now, without waiting for a better tomorrow. For example, one of the existing "problems" that hit Spain with redoubled force in the context of the pandemic became immigration. Because of the coronavirus, the borders were closed to immigrants, so they began arriving in large numbers from Africa to the Canary Islands. In April, more than seven thousand people entered Ceuta, Africa, trying to cross to the mainland. Once again, Covid only highlighted the existing problem, reminding us that despite the new threats, we still need to find common solutions to existing global challenges. In the pavilion, we present the Furniture of Social Integration or Furniture for Migrants ["Asiento para migrantes," proj.: Baum arquitectura; Marta Barrera Altemir, Javier Caro Domínguez, Miguel Gentil Fernández]. - a simple project in which the architects proposed placing small benches made of bent sheet metal and attached to traffic signals at intersections in Seville. On these benches, people who work at intersections, selling tissues or washing windshields (most often immigrants), in moments when they are not doing their jobs, can sit down and rest. Usually, when they have a break for a while, they hide somewhere looking for shade. The idea behind this project is to give people back their space, to give them visibility in the city, because it is often the lack of visibility of certain social groups that is the basis of exclusion. Cities are designed to gently "eliminate" certain groups, which is unfortunately what urban furniture design is very often about.

However, this simple and inexpensive project shows an alternative way of designing urban spaces, visions of cities where there is room for everyone. By the way, it also tells the story of people locked in cars, in a kind of bubble of self-isolation, which I think is an incredibly interesting insight, looking through the prism of the current Covidian-related isolation and fragmentation of our society. Anyway, in the pavilion we are just wondering whether society is really as atomized as everyone is trying to convince us, or whether there are some common strategies after all.

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photos of participants' works

© organizers archive

: Were you able to find an answer to this question?

AG: There is an answer to this question! It is the "Uncertainty" experience. Our goal was to turn the pavilion, which is a historic, century-old building, into a kind of interactive machine, an uncertain platform that is in constant process. To create a space for thought, where entrenched assumptions that we all hold a priori are overturned, where new questions are asked that expand and at the same time clarify that first Sarkis question.

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left: projection of the pavilion; right: axonometries of the works of the participants

© organizers archive

We proposed a rather simple spatial arrangement - the whole experience begins by entering a central "cloud of uncertainty," in which we hung seven thousand cards in the air, half of which contain portfolios submitted as part of the aforementioned open call. This space, like uncertainty itself, blurs the boundaries between concepts that seem contradictory in advance. It contains a certain duality of uncertainty - on the one hand, it depicts a scattered society in which each citizen is an individual suspended in mid-air, everyone is distant from each other, everyone "fits" on a single sheet of A4, and the whole is a collection of individualities frozen in time and space. This is a rather frightening vision of society, with no common strategies and no common goals. On the other hand, when we immerse ourselves in the "cloud," when we encompass the entirety of this installation with our gaze, we see what an important endeavor it is to gather all these individuals in one place, that is, the decision to simply be together. This allows us to understand the incredible potential for change behind all these works, as long as we start looking for connections between them. That's why there's an exhibition ring around the central space, where we dispel the myth of the first zone together with the visitor.

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In the "cloud of uncertainty" hangs seven thousand cards, on some of them are the portfolios of architects

Photo: Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzman and Rocio Romero)

The pavilion works through contrast - the central space is a zone of light, static and monochromatic, and what happens around is a reversal of this spatial arrangement or atmosphere. It is a shaded space, full of games of light, color, dynamic. In it we discover that the vision of an atomized society does not correspond to reality, that this great "cloud", which seemed isotropic, completely dispersed, is actually full of micro-connections that form a complex network. One can compare this vision to a peer-to-peer Internet network, in which connections overlap to create actions or strategies that are capable of changing the whole, transcending their own local context. The surrounding cloud spaces of the pavilion are meant to showcase these interdependencies and invite participants to make their own juxtapositions. That's why they are designed like cabinets of curiosities, where we don't exhibit finished solutions, finished projects, but try to show objects that are often fragments of concepts or certain metaphors for the processes that the architects developed. These objects are meant to arouse curiosity, to intrigue, to give a chance to create their own connections, to question the juxtapositions proposed by the pavilion.

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projects in the side halls

Photo credit: Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzman and Rocio Romero)

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