Independent Thinking

Future+, Shenzhen. Photo © Adam Snow Frampton
Future+, Shenzhen. Photo © Adam Snow Frampton

The April 2017 issue of Metropolis Magazine includes my survey of independent groups blending research, activism and new approaches to practice in architecture – what a pleasure to work with the Metropolis team! I was also lucky to talk to many amazing individuals while researching for this piece, from L+CC to Parasite 2.0, and from The Funambulist to Migrant Journal. The full piece is  online at Metropolis, and a little excerpt can be found below.

The ways in which architects and designers are taking action attest to a future of the practice that will be multilayered and adaptable, responding to our intricate times with polyphonic vigor. However, the passion poured into these projects is tempered by the financial challenges of running many of these initiatives, and practitioners find themselves on a steep learning curve trying to reconcile their independence with a sustainable business model. For many, the uncertainty is constant, and there is no five-year plan. And yet it is precisely these challenging conditions that drive some of their best work: Why not risk everything when you have nothing to lose?

On Preservation and Activism in Venice: OMA’s Fondaco dei Tedeschi

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A view of the renovated interior of Fondaco dei Tedeschi, by OMA. Photo © Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti. Courtesy of OMA.

I contributed to the The Avery Review 18 with a review of OMA’s project for the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, delving on the complex and loaded story of the commission and the many compromises that informed the fairly spectacular outcome. Many thanks to the wonderful editorial team at TAR, always a pleasure to work with. The piece can be read in its entirety here.

Meeting Jürg Lehni for HOLO

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Holo 2 – IF/THEN. Photo @ HOLO

I was lucky to encounter Jürg Lehni for an extended profile in the latest issue of HOLO magazine: his drawing machines Viktor, Hektor and Otto have captured the imagination of many and influenced a generation of designers. For the piece, I visited Lehni in his Zurich studio and followed his work during a few months. Thrilled to have contributed to HOLO with this profile, and many thanks to Greg J. Smith for his invaluable editorial perspective. More info on the magazine, and where to get it, can be found here.

Small Revolutions

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A view of In Residence at the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale. Photo © Istvan Virag

In September 2016, I was lucky to attend the opening days of the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale – After Belonging. My thoughts on this extraordinary event can be found on Disegno Daily: a little snippet below.

the most dynamic aspect of this Triennale materialised in the myriad exchanges, conversations, and encounters that took place everywhere in the city during the opening days. Many were consciously provoked in the opening conference and the large-scale international student exchange program launched by The Academy, a forum organised by the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Many more were unexpected and spontaneous, triggered in courtyards, parties, restaurant entrances and walks throughout the city. The opening weekend of After Belonging featured many personalities but little ego, and a larger interest in discussing and sharing ideas than in presenting solutions and absolute visions. There was plurality and tolerance, openness and exchange.

From Border to Threshold

Italian Limes. Photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani
Italian Limes. Photo © Delfino Sisto Legnani

When Disegno asked me to write about Italian Limes, a project of Italian design research studio Folder, I couldn’t believe my luck. Here is one of the most interesting projects done in design and architecture in recent years, and I tried my best to show its relevance in today’s world in a piece that made it to Disegno no. 12. An excerpt below, and the full piece available in the magazine.

Italian Limes’s greatest legacy is likely to be how it has contributed in a completely novel way to the fields of design and architecture, and helped carve out a path for a new generation of researchers. It has shown how design can meaningfully contribute to social and political discourse. In stark contrast to the postcard of the Brenner pass that initiated the project, a current Google maps rendition of Italy’s border shows desolation and emptiness. A bare road leads to the Alps, as if entering the country were nothing other than simple and objective. And yet, as Paasi writes, “borders are still with us,” their meanings “more and more complex in both social and political practice and academic research”. Borders are contested, transformed, permeable to different degrees, dematerialised, present – and as movable in their definition as the section of the Italian-Austrian frontier analysed by Folder. “Consequently, it is crucial to step beyond simple dichotomies dictating that spaces should be understood as either territorially bounded or open,” concludes Paasi. “Even the most thoroughly fixed borders transform, are crossed, and are partly ‘mobile’.”

On Relations in Architecture

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Cover detail of Cartha – On Relations in Architecture.

The essay I wrote with Juan Palencia on the inception and growth of TEOK for the inaugural issue of Cartha magazine has been included in their first book, titled On Relations in Architecture and published by Park Books. It was wonderful to see the essay come to life in the printed page! Congratulations to the Cartha team and all their other contributors.

Between form and function

An aspect of Wilmotte's studio in Paris. Photo © ICON design
An aspect of Wilmotte’s studio in Paris. Photo © ICON design

The July/August issue of Italian design magazine ICON design features my profile of French designer Victoria Wilmotte, who spoke to me from her Paris workshop/office. This was my first piece for ICON design and a wonderful opportunity to learn about the bold and sculptural projects of this young designer. An excerpt below.

A Parisian at heart, Wilmotte nonetheless points out that she derived her style from the London experience. Her strong, muscular shapes and almost reverential attention to materials and their properties indicate a devoted professional, and Wilmotte admits to a constant quest for “the balance between shape and function,” seeking to create “functional sculptures.” She points to Jean Prouvé, Gino Sarfatti, Angelo Mangiarotti and Konstantin Grcic as references. The latter’s Chair One for Magis is a visible presence in the studio, and Wilmotte admits she tries to emulate Gric’s process. “I always try to make the object as a sculpture, like [Konstantin] Grcic when he made his Chair One. He created a sculpture – you can do a mass-produced object with a sculptural look, you just have to find the technique. It doesn’t make it more difficult to produce.”

The Two Towers: On High-Rises and Urban Densification in Basel

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The projected Roche campus in Basel, designed by Herzog & de Meuron and slated for completion in 2021.© F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.

I contributed to the latest issue of The Avery Review with an essay on the inevitable densification of Basel. As a resident of the city since 2013, I was keen in telling this story for a long time. I have to thank Jacob Moore at The Avery Review for the invitation to contribute; writing this piece was an exercise in telling a complex story in a compelling way, and I hope everyone that reads it gets a little bit more acquainted with the architectural reality of this small city tucked in a corner of Switzerland. For the full piece head on to the Review‘s excellent website.

Strategies for contemporary Portuguese design

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“Strategies for the relevance of Portuguese design in the 21st century”, in Camões magazine no. 21

The latest issue of Camões magazine, a magazine of the Portuguese institute for language and cooperation, is fully dedicated to design in Portugal, and co-edited by designer Fernando Brízio and Maria Helena Souto. I was delighted to contribute an essay to the “Critical Voices” section of the magazine, outlining a series of strategies I believe are important for contemporary Portuguese design. It was an honor to be included among the finest voices in contemporary Portuguese design discourse, and contribute to a publication which I believe will have a strong impact in the country’s design scene. The essay is only available in Portuguese, and it can be read after the jump.

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Profile Picture: Digital Design from Africa

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A detail of the Mathare Slum as seen in the MapKibera initiative. Image © MapKibera

Avinash Rajagopal and I, as part of Superscript, contributed an analysis of contemporary digital design in Africa to the accompanying catalogue of Making Africa. The natural culmination of our role as Consultants for New Media and Technology, and members of the Advisory Board, the essay was a pleasure to write and research, and wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable assistance of Dalia Ohtman, a Research Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Center for Civic Media. An excerpt of the essay can be read after the jump.

Continue reading Profile Picture: Digital Design from Africa

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design

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Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design, published by the Vitra Design Museum accompanying the exhibition of the same name. Photo by Double Standards

As part of Superscript, Avinash Rajagopal and I served as Consultants for New Media and Technology and members of the Advisory Board of the most recent exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum, Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design. Curated by Amelie Klein and born out of three years of research, this ambitious exhibition seeks to change perceptions on what the continent is and can be, presenting Africa as a hub of experimentation generating new approaches and solutions of worldwide relevance — and as a driving force for a new discussion of the potential of design in the 21st century. The exhibition focuses on a new generation of entrepreneurs, thinkers and designers from and within Africa, who – as “digital natives” – address a global audience and provide the world with a new vantage point on their continent.

Avinash and I further contributed an essay to the catalogue and assisted the editing of the English edition of the Making Africa catalogue. It was a pleasure to work with Amelie and the Vitra Design Museum team in this fantastic project.

TEOK for Cartha #0 — Worth Sharing

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One of the diagrams drawn by Juan Palencia for Cartha #0 — Worth Sharing

Juan Palencia and I contributed an essay to Cartha, a new architectural magazine that doubles as an experimental editorial project. Living online during an initial run of six issues, the magazine privileges long-form, analytical writing. Each issue focuses on one single topic: appropriately open-ended, the themes allow for many different kinds of approaches. Cartha’s issue #0 combines striking imagery and thoughtful reflections; our essay draws from one year of TEOK and what we’ve learned from the experiment. The full essay can be read here.

Beyond exoticism: a profile of Jader Almeida

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A profile of Jader Almeida in Metropolis, February 2015

Early in the year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brazilian designer Jader Almeida, a 33-year-old industrial designer with an impressive career, and write a profile on him for Metropolis magazine. The promising young designer is one of the country’s top talents, with a singular approach and a remarkable, tenacious commitment to his craft. The full profile can be read over at the Metropolis website.

TEOK, the Display edition

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A detail of Depot Basel’s DISPLAY publication.

Following the tenth edition of TEOK, I wrote an essay for the DISPLAY publication launched by Depot Basel following its exploration of the theme in a series of spacial interventions, lectures and events at their Basel location. My contribution focused on the mechanics and structure of the TEOK held at Depot Basel, and reflected on the things learned following that evening. A big thank you to Matylda Krzykowski for the invitation to contribute to the publication.

A Good Virus

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An excerpt of Yona Friedman’s “A Map to the Future”, as seen in Designing Everyday Life, MAO and Park Books, Zurich 2014

As part of BIO 50 accompanying publication Designing Everyday Life, Tamar Shafrir and I wrote an essay on the evolution of design events in the last 50 years, and how contemporary design events can inform and shape the future of the design discipline. The full essay can be read below.

A Good Virus
Vera Sacchetti, Tamar Shafrir

When in November 2011 Italian architecture and design magazine Domus charted what it coined as the “Biennialozoic Era”, a foldout spread displayed a world map with a comprehensive overview of architecture, art and design events throughout the world. In a methodical manner, the mock atlas illustrated 150 events of the kind, from the Biennial of Design in Ljubljana, founded in 1964, to the 2012 inaugural edition of the Istanbul Design Biennial. Of these, 65% have been founded in the last fifteen years, the most recent being the newly announced Biennial of Architecture in Chicago, which will hold its first edition in 2015. Continue reading A Good Virus

Hacking Households

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A detail of one of the modular appliances developed by the Hacking Households group. Photo Hacking Households

I was happy to write about the Internet of Things and the future of smart home appliances in Disegno no. 7, with a piece focusing on the work of designers Thibault Brevet, Jesse Howard and their combined efforts alongside the Hacking Households group at BIO 50. The project was one of my favorites within the biennial, and can be fully explored here.

Summer exhibitions in Hasselt

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Felice Varini’s Trois Ellipses Ouvertes en Désordre, Hasselt, Belgium

A visit to Z33 House for Contemporary Art in the summer prompted two reviews of their exhibitions for the website of Disegno. The first includes my views on the retrospective of the minimal, precise work of Leon Vrancken; the second details the De Unie initiative, which connects the neighboring cities of Hasselt and Genk through a series of public art initiatives.

Z33 debates: mentorship and collaboration


A view of the Z33 debate last 10 April in the Tiepolo Room, Palazzo Clerici, Milan. Photo by Z33

For the 2014 edition of Salone del Mobile, I’ve been invited to contribute to the Z33 Debates – Designing Futures, writing a small text on the future of design education and mentorship. The text informed the debate that happened last 10 April between Aldo Bakker, Rianne Makkink and Jan Boelen, at the Palazzo Clerici, in Milan, and was included in a small publication distributed during the event. Reflecting on the experiences of the kick-off event of BIO 50, I jotted down some notes for the future of design education, which can be read after the jump. Following the debate, I made a small roundup of the event for Z33– watch the video below as well!

 

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Post World’s End Architecture: Italy and Portugal


ateliermob’s Open-Air Theatre in Rio de Moinhos. Photo by Zoraima de Figueiredo

Following the invitation of Gonzalo Herrero Delicado, I had the opportunity to further delve on my research on contemporary architecture in crisis contexts. This time, focusing on the south of Europe, for Blueprint magazine’s “Post-World’s End Architecture” Series. Together, we researched and analyzed the context in Portugal and Italy, while Gonzalo devoted himself to a full-on immersion in Spain and Greece. The result is a four-part series of articles that saw the light during 2013, and offer a comprehensive analysis of the contemporary architecture scene — in its many layers — in the crisis-ridden European south.

“Post-World’s End Architecture: Portugal” can be read in its entirety at Design Curial — and an excerpt can be found after the jump.

Continue reading Post World’s End Architecture: Italy and Portugal

We don’t always need to build


Polígono at work. Photo by Francisco Bahia Nogueira

The July/August 2013 issue of Domus features a story which I was thrilled to research and write, on small-scale interventions by emerging Portuguese architecture practices. For me, it was a bit like coming home – and simultaneously, it was one of the biggest challenges I’ve had in the year. It was a pleasure to speak to the people behind ateliermob, Polígono, Arrebita!Porto, Artéria, Casa do Vapor and LIKEArchitects, and understand what drives and moves them.

This issue of Domus is a special one, too. It is the last under editor-in-chief Joseph Grima, and brilliantly combines all the themes that marked his period in the magazine – a period that suceeded to truly capture the contemporary. The volume marks his departure from the magazine – and mine –, and heralds the beginning of new projects and adventures.

The full piece can be read after the jump.

Continue reading We don’t always need to build

The Collective Story


Unfold’s Stratigraphic Manufactury, part of Adhocracy. Photo by Benoit Palley

In order to celebrate the opening of Adhocracy at the New Museum, in New York, below is the essay Avinash Rajagopal and I wrote for the exhibition’s catalog, introducing the volume’s intentions and structure. The catalog is available at the New Museum store. Make sure to visit the show, which will be on through 7 July at Studio 231 at 231 Bowery.

The Collective Story
Avinash Rajagopal, Vera Sacchetti

At first glance, what does a film about superannuated gardeners in Barcelona have to do with 3-D printed ceramics from Antwerp, or an open-source tractor built on a farm in Missouri? The many manifestations of adhocracy—the conviction that societal change can come out of small interventions, little subversions, and closely-knit communities working without the aid of the powers-that-be—can be surprisingly, and affirmingly, diverse. If only all these local agents who create tirelessly within their own online and offline communities could speak to each other, then a powerful new mode of creativity could take over the world—or at least that is the dream.

Continue reading The Collective Story

Printable futures


A view of DUS architects’ studio. Photo by Hans Vermeulen

The April 2013 issue of Domus features my story on DUS architects’ KamerMaker — a large-scale, mobile 3D printer — and their project to built the world’s first 3D printed canal house, room by room, in the north of Amsterdam. The project seeks to revitalize a run-down area in the north of the city, and I was fortunate to visit DUS’ studio on a grey March morning to see the KamerMaker for myself. The full feature is available to read online over at Domusweb, and an excerpt can be seen after the jump.

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Art beacon in the Mediterranean


The open-air gallery of Mangiabarche. Photo Beyond Entropy

The March 2013 issue of Domus features my piece on the open-air gallery of Mangiabarche, in Calasetta, Sardinia. This was a truly special place that I was lucky enough to visit late in 2012, which defies the conventional notions of what a gallery space is and can be. This feature also marks the first time I write about contemporary art and politics of territorial occupation. The full piece can be read over at Domusweb, and an excerpt can be found after the jump.

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Beyond the Tin Can Radio


Moveable Playground Structure by Victor Papanek. Image courtesy Victor J Papanek Foundation

The 3rd issue of Disegno magazine features my story on the Victor J Papanel Foundation and its making, and tries to shed some new light on this controversial figure that has become the symbol of an entire movement in the early 2000s. I was privileged to have interviewed both Thomas Geisler and Martina Fineder, who were responsible for tracking and putting together the Papanek Archive in Vienna. The full piece is available online over at Disegno Daily, and an excerpt can be read after the jump.

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The Social Network


Marcelo Rosenbaum and Pedrita in Piauì, during AGT #2. Photo courtesy A Gente Transforma

For the September/October 2012 issue of Frame magazine, I wrote a feature article on the current state of social design, and focused on a few projects that I believe are shaping the future of the field. One of them is A Gente Transforma [“We Transform”], a project by Brazilian designer Marcelo Rosenbaum (pictured above). The text dovetails with the research I have developed for my masters thesis, and continues my investigation into a direction which I hope to further explore in the future. An excerpt of the piece can be read after the jump.

Continue reading The Social Network