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’.”

Towards a New Avant-Garde at the Venice Biennale

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 with Catharine 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 DEVspace and 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

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!