As Yan says to a packed auditorium, “The real exhibition is the vibrant city life.” Much in sync with the biennale’s theme, “Cities Grow in Difference,” the auditorium where Yan is speaking is filled with an audience that ranges from architectural experts to local inhabitants of Nantou Old Town, the majority of whom are Chinese migrant workers.
For the curatorial team, the urban village is a model for the future. Against what Yan calls the “globalized, standardized, capitalized city” that has expanded to the global scale, the urban village is a hybrid, a wetland, a “breeding ground for a new city.” The biennale seeks to learn from it, and to emulate it in its search for possibilities.
The location of the biennale is a case in point. One of the oldest parts of Shenzhen, Nantou is an urban village, a specific Chinese typology of low-rise housing in the center or outskirts of the city, serving mostly migrant workers and temporary dwellers. Nantou is lively, crowded, and seems to be a place where everything is possible.
Upon invitation by the curators of “Forum Basel”, the most recent exhibition at the S AM, TEOK Basel broke the fourth wall and occupied the streets of Basel for two guerrilla-style events. On 11 and 13 June, during the 2017 Art Basel week, we took to the streets for two performative occupations that brought our events – usually taking place in domestic settings – to the wider public. Thank you to S AM and the curators of the show, especially KOSMOS Architects, for the invitation!
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?
Invited by Cartha Magazine, one of the Associated Projects of the 2016 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, TEOK went to the Mãe D’Água in Lisbon to launch its Lisbon series and dwell on the theme of the Parallel. Speakers Andreia Garcia and Susana Oliveira took us on a journey to parallel architectural worlds, serenaded by the rumours of the water reservoir and peaceful ambiance of the Mãe D’Água. Thank you to Cartha for the invitation, it was a pleasure to bring TEOK to my hometown!
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.
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.
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’.”
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.
The Counter Borders handout, designed by Raquel Pinto. Photo Superscript.
How important is belonging to emerging architectural practices today? The post-recession economy has brought to the fore a number of critical, nimble, and resourceful young architects, who enjoy an extraordinary level of mobility in where they practice, where they build, and where they draw their ideas from. This is one of the many reflections sparked by the theme of the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale — After Belonging, which Superscript integrates with “Counter Borders“, a project that is part of the Triennale’s Extended Program.
It was under the blue hues of the Dutch Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale that we presented the first e-book of the Unmanned: Architecture and Security series. Titled Drone, this first issue combines several essays on the topic with reports on two events that took place at Studio X and Het Nieuwe Instituut. I was thrilled to be able to assist the very talented team of editors – Ethel Baraona Pohl, Marina Otero Verzier and Malkit Shoshan – in the making of this volume with dpr.barcelona, and was happy to participate in the launch discussion, where the editorial team was complemented by respondents Anna Puigjaner and Tamar Shafrir.
I contributed to the latest issue ofThe 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.
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.
A view of the “Towards a New Avant-Garde” debate and installation. Photo Philippe Declerck /DEVspace
“Towards a New Avant-Garde”, the three-part conversation series I lead with Superscript during the opening weekend of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition— La Biennale di Venezia, brought together 40 talented young architects, writers, critics, to debate issues of identity, collaboration, and economics. Over the course of three 90-minute conversations, several key themes emerged, including the need of architects to engage the public directly, the importance of evolving new forms of communication and criticism, and the value of capitalizing on opportunities to be proactive. A recap of the discussion’s main topics can be read at ArchDaily. The event was also covered on Dezeen and Domusweb, among others.
Produced by Superscript withCatharine Rossi and Rossella Ferorelli, the conversations took place within the main Monditalia exhibition at the Corderie dell’Arsenale. The live-edited installation, designed by Brussels-based architecture firm DEVspaceand French-Swiss interaction designer Thibault Brevet with students from Basel’s Hyperwerk Institute, featured 18 Arduino-powered open-source printers and standard marker pens. Provocations from the organizers, participant names and quotes, as well as contributions from online followers using the hashtag #stayradical became part of dynamic backdrop that emerged over the course of each conversation.
The project was made possible through generous assistance from Hyperwerk Institute (Kevin Renz, Gabriel Meisel, Gabriel Kiefer, Fabian Ritzi, Ivo Ludwig, David Safranek, Matthias Maurer), and contributions by Amelie Klein, Niku Alex Mucaj, Becky Quintal, Elian Stefa, Fabrizia Vecchione, and Malte Ziegler. The project is supported by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and WallonieBruxelles International (Belgium).
Towards a New Avant-Garde. Photo by Alicja Dobrucka
I’m proud to announce Towards a New Avant-Garde, a three-part event series that will take place on the first weekend of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale! Within the Monditalia exhibition at the Arsenale, the events will trace parallels between distinct generations, seeking to understand what lessons can still be learned from the Italian architectural impulses of the 60s and 70s, and how they can be best applied by the newest generation of architects in Italy and abroad. Lead by Superscript, the event is a collaborative effort with author and scholar Catharine Rossi and researcher and scholar Rossella Ferorelli, and the design team includes architects DEVspace and interaction designer Thibault Brevet. More info over at the Superscript blog— see you in Venice, and #stayradical!
With Shumi Bose, Ethel Baraona Pohl and Tiago Mota Saraiva at the Tanto Mar roundtables. Photo by Tanto Mar.
Last December marked the public presentation and discussion of the Tanto Mar project, an excellent initiative of Lisbon-based architecture studio ateliermob. They propose to map and register the work of Portuguese architects outside of Portugal, reuniting their work in an exhibition in Lisbon’s CCB cultural centre. The project launched an open call to Portuguese architects abroad, and invited critics, curators and architects to discuss the submissions in two open roundtables. I was happy to take part in the international roundtable last 13 December, alongside Blueprint magazine’s Shumi Bose, dpr.barcelona’s Ethel Baraona Pohl, and ateliermob’s Tiago Mota Saraiva. The discussion was enlivened by the audience and a few agents provocateurs – Fredy Massad, Anna Buono and Cesar Najera Reyes – and a series of important trends and topics soon emerged. Alongside the results of the Portuguese roundtable that was held the previous days, these will inform and shape the curatorial process that will then materialize in an exhibition, which will open in Spring 2014. Thanks to ateliermob for the invitation and for having me! It was a pleasure to take part in the discussion and I look forward to see what the exhibition will bring.
Post World’s End Architecture at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Photo Valerie Bennett/AA
By initiative of Gonzalo Herrero Delicado and in association with Blueprint magazine, the Post World’s End Architecture series became an event during the opening week of Close, Closer, the 3rd Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Unfortunaly, Gonzalo couldn’t make it– and therefore Blueprint magazine’s Shumi Bose and I led the event in the courtyard of the Triennale HQ, during a wonderful sunny afternoon. The informal but energetic discussion was a fantastic opportunity to hear from Portuguese and Spanish practitioners — including dpr barcelona, O Espelho, Ateliermob, Polígono, blaanc, Artéria, Inês Moreira, Paulo Moreira and many others. Their passionate and unromantic debate described both the practical and moral predicaments of working in architecture today, and of maintaining civic and social principles under financial constraints. Thank you to all the participants for such fantastic contributions to the discussion, and thanks to the Lisbon Architecture Triennale for having us!
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.
The July/August 2013 issue of Domus marks my departure from the magazine, after a year and a half of intense learning and a lot of fun. It was an honour, a challenge, and an immense pleasure to work under editor-in-chief Joseph Grima and the Domus editorial team — among which Marco Ferrari and Fabrizia Vecchione—, creating a magazine and a website that truly captured the contemporary.
Personally, this period marks my most intense professional growth thus far, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity. For the moment, find all my collected writings at Domusweb here. And now, on to the next challenge!
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.
One of the slides in my Pecha Kucha presentation, reading “Writing = weapon”.
During my last visit to Lisbon, I was happy to participate in the 18th edition of Pecha Kucha Night Lisbon, where I talked about my writing and work. This was the first time I presented in an open event in Portugal (my home country), and it offered a good opportunity to reflect on everything I’ve been doing in the last few years — happy to say it’s been a lot.
The presentation was also a moment for me to advocate the use of writing as a weapon of agency and power — ultimately, I began writing (back in 2003) because I was frustrated with the state of cultural critique in Portugal — and to discuss the work of a series of Portuguese architecture studios, who together form a potential new avant-garde in the country, in a moment of crisis and exception.
The Superscript wall at New York’s MAD after the third On Display event. Photo by Aileen Kwun
As part of the MAD museum’s The Home Front 2013: After the Museum exhibition and series of events, editorial consultancy Superscript (which I co-founded) alongside HAO and Neil Donnelly proposed a series of panel discussions titled On Display. In each of the events, a simple starting point was used to discuss issues around objects, exhibitions and location in the future of museums. While discussion progressed, a wall in the exhibition gallery was transformed with live inputs from the discussion, such as images, quotes from readings, or comments by participants in the discussion. The results of the three events will be compiled soon in a publication.
I was fortunate to participate in one of the discussions on the occasion of my last trip to New York. On Display #3focused on location, and started with the location of MAD — 2 Columbus Circle — to then question physical and virtual locations of museums, collections and galleries today and in the future. For me, it felt just like coming home — so many friendly faces! —, and it was a pleasure to participate in a discussion expertly led by Molly Heintz and Avinash Rajagopal.
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.
The Adhocracy Reader, page detail. Photo by Ethel Baraona Pohl
During the summer of 2012 I was lucky enough to be involved in the preparation of Adhocracy, an exhibition curated by Joseph Grima with Elian Stefa, Ethel Baraona Pohl and Pelin Tan for the 1st Istanbul Design Biennial. My collaboration with the team materialized in the exhibition catalog, which I co-edited with Avinash Rajagopal and Tamar Shafrir. The Adhocracy Reader was designed by Folder (Marco Ferrari and Elisa Pasqual), and in its 400 pages we tried to push the concept of a standard catalog and create a reader, evoking a standard college reader — a compilation of pre-published material. A series of introductory essays frame the exhibition’s premises and the catalog’s intentions, followed by a carefully curated selection of material on the projects on display in the exhibition, alongside a series of pre-existing essays. The whole catalog can be consulted on Issuu, and a Flickr photoset by Ethel Baraona Pohl can be seen here.
During June and July 2012, I copy-edited and helped Elian Stefa finish the book Concrete Mushrooms: Reusing Albania’s 750,000 Abandoned Bunkers, which was then published by dpr.barcelona in August 2012. The book, in Albanian and English, traces the history and fascinating “bunkerization” of Albania during the last years of Enver Hoxha’s dictatorship, and proposes a series of uses for these now discarded military structures. The project was originally started as a research project at the Politecnico di Milano. In August 2012, Concrete Mushrooms was also one of the initiators of Concrete in Common, an exhibition at the Kunst Raum Riehen, in Basel, Switzerland — which I reviewed for Domusweb —, and was presented as one of the projects in the Albanian Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition — Venice Biennale 2012.
Braga Municipal Stadium, Souto de Moura Arquitectos. Photo: Luis Ferreira Alves
More on the Souto the Moura front: my commentary on the Portuguese Pritzker, as well as an exclusive interview, are now up on The Architect’s Newspaper. It was a pleasure writing a bit more about this Portuguese architect, whose work I like so much. It was great to interview him, too. A small excerpt here,
Your work is full of quotations of work you admire: the Corbusier-type window in your House in Maia, the Xenakis-imposed rhythm in the House in Barrocal, and Mies in the Burgo Office tower, this last one an homage…
The Burgo Tower is not an homage. I quote, because those who cannot write quote. What I don’t want is to start from scratch, which is a waste of time and a sign of little intelligence. If there is a set of circumstances to which architects have answered in a way I admire, I would like to use it, because this is part of the continuity that architecture needs. Architecture is a continuous story. I’m not going to invent a brick angle if Mies already did it in the Dominion Center, but what I can do is to re-think or re-draw it. But I always start from a concrete thing. To start from scratch leads to two things: either it’s stupid, or it leads to an excessive creativity that architecture doesn’t need.