We have been invited to the conversation led by Aaron Betsky on LIMBO SPACES on Friday 25 May 2018 with some of the most active protagonists of the international architectural debate offered a perfect warm up event to the Venice Architecture Biennale, decreeing the design of these in-between spaces as the real challenge for architects of tomorrow.
La Biennale di Venezia kicks off from the terrace of InParadiso Café: here, during the preview days of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, in the crisp morning air of Friday 25 May 2018, architecture critic Aaron Betsky led a conversation whose topic was inspired by FREESPACE, the theme proposed by this year’s directors Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, at the presence of the Dutch Ambassador in Italy, who in his speech highlighted the efforts made by his country in supporting Dutch and Dutch based architects in undertaking some of the urban challenges for the city of tomorrow. He also applauded the relationship with Italy, by presenting the program of the next Manifesta directed by Dutch art historian Hedwig Fijen, that will take place in Palermo in mid June.
Aaron Betsky posed a crucial question:
“In the spaces where we wait, tarry, or just wile away the time, the strictures and structures of good architecture dissolve. What is the architecture of not-quite-free spaces, and how should we design what is meant to fade away?”
To help him solve the question, he invited some of the protagonists of the international architectural debate including photographer Iwan Baan, architects Maria Claudia Clemente (Labics), Nathalie de Vries (MVRDV), Elizabeth Diller (Diller Scofidio + Renfro), Andrés Jaque (Office for Political Innovation, and newly nominated director of Columbia University GSAPP’s advanced architectural design program) and Marina Otero Verzier (director of research of Het Nieuwe Instituut and curator of the 2018 Dutch Pavilion).
In turn, they were invited to share their visions and discuss solutions for the future in front an enthusiastic audience composed by journalists, architects and professionals, transforming the terrace of the Venetian café in a platform for cultural exchange and discussion.
Six guests, six different interpretations of the same subject.
Nathalie de Vries (MVRDV) illustrated her exploration of the idea of limbo space in designing an airport terminal. “I was fascinated by how in these spaces we are always evaluated, measured by our money or appearance by the presence of shops.” In her vision the limbo space in airports should be equipped with more identity and specificity, as a great deal of events take place here, while we wait.
By contrast, presenting the condition of the refugees as people in transit who are not valued, Andrés Jaque (Office for Political Innovation) – who will be one of the creative mediators of Manifesta 12 in Palermo – recounted the story of Abel, a Colombian man who colonized the freespace between his backyard and the highway in Los Angeles to reconstruct the social compound of his motherland. “I love the idea of being in between, this limbo state, as it is a place to which other people pay little attention so that can be subversive to capitalism,” said the founder of the Office for Political Innovation. “Architects should really reflect on this theme. Limbo Space is a place of eternal transition, here for once we are not meant to arrive somewhere. It’s not heaven, nor hell. I don’t like the word purgatory, I see Limbo Spaces as places to inhabit forever”.
“Until some years ago we would have called it NON-space, but we have empowered this concept, by defining it LIMBO SPACE,” said Marina Otero, curator of the Dutch Pavilion. “The entire Dutch Pavilion is constructed as a limbo space, but maybe the room with the lockers embodies this concept at its best. The lockers are the place where we do transform in other versions of ourselves, where we can decide what to be, full of possibilities.”
“Culture changes so quickly that our buildings cannot keep up with it. We should develop the unprogrammed as the main quality for a building,” said Elizabeth Diller, founder of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the New York based architectural firm that has just been appointed by the Victoria & Albert Museum to design a new V&A collection and research center to be located in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, recalled one of her best known project – the High Line in New York. “We wanted to create a space where all we could do was not being productive, where you could only walk or sit. Now it has become one of the most powerful tourist attractions of the city, but still offers you a sightsee of the unapproved New York, looked through the alleys or from the back of the buildings”.
Maria Claudia Clemente (Labics) summarized her thought by saying: “We should define the undefined – design spaces, especially public ones that can support the unexpected”. She added that we all could learn from the way Italy looks at its public spaces, as places of collision, places of life.
Photographer Iwan Baan expressed a more personal point of view, based on his daily experience. “My life may seem adventurous as seen from the outside, as I travel to all these places. But in the end, I think I spend most of my time in these limbo spaces, in airports, in waiting rooms. It’s very interesting to see all these different limbo spaces around the world, and how specific they may be in the various countries or even continents.
The conversation opens up many questions, that Aaron Betsky summarizes with these words: “What scares me, but also interests me, is that what is between the designed and the un-designed has already been colonized and theorized through the notion of affordance, which has various dimensions. On one side it has scientific roots in the studies of animals and in biology – a scientification and engineering evaluation of these limbo spaces – and on the other one by data collection that through software can predict the dynamic interaction between crowds and movement in order to create more efficient in between spaces. The question now is: what is left of these limbo spaces? Should we resist of should we go with the flow? How to design these spaces? That is the real challenge to architecture.”
Thanks to Image MEDIA AGENCY
Ph: Alberto Sinigallia