U.S. Architecture Pavilion at Venice Biennale Explores Our Common Humanity in 'Dimensions of Citizenship'

  • VENICE, Italy
  • /
  • June 21, 2018

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For the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, the U.S. Pavilion, commissioned by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and The University of Chicago (UChicago) of Educational and Cultural Affairs, presents Dimensions of Citizenship (through Nov. 25, 2018).

The exhibition challenges architects and designers to envision what it means to be a citizen today, as critical contemporary issues expand conventional notions of citizenship.

The U.S. Pavilion curators Niall Atkinson, Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and the College at UChicago; Ann Lui, Assistant Professor at SAIC; Mimi Zeiger, an independent critic, editor, curator, and educator; and associate curator Iker Gil, Lecturer at SAIC invited seven transdisciplinary teams to represent the United States at the Biennale Architettura 2018.

The teams, which include architects, landscape architects, theorists, and artists, were asked to grapple with the potential meanings and architectural implications of citizenship at a different scale. Their works use design to unpack contemporary social, political, economic, and environmental issues, including the meaning of home, the right to public space, the uses of civic monuments, the dynamics of borderlands, and the conditions of global migration.

The seven scales and commissioned participants are:

• Citizen | Amanda Williams + Andres L. Hernandez, in collaboration with Shani Crowe. Installed in the courtyard, Thrival Geographies (In My Mind I See a Line) explores issues of race, fugitivity, and public space. Made of steel and hand - braided cord, it illustrates ideas of black spatial practice and points toward a liberatory architecture inclusive of all citizens.

• Civitas | Studio Gang. Memphis Landing, a cobblestone - paved landing on the Mississippi River that served as the city's historic port, serves as the basis of Stone Stories. As part of a larger design process, hundreds of cobblestones were transported to Venice to explore how Landing could become a site of civic memory that represents many citizen voices, past and present.

• Region | SCAPE. Ecological Citizens uses the Venetian Lagoon as a globally significant case study of a region under threat and argues for the politics and practice of ecological activism to generate new regional landscapes of the future. The intertidal architectural artifacts on view such as sediment fences and biodegradable coir logs represent bio-reclamation tools for citizen-led responses to climate change.

• Nation | Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman. Challenging the way we think about national boundaries, MEXUS: A Geography of Interdependence presents a mural-sized visualization of the watersheds, indigenous lands, ecological corridors, and migratory patterns that straddle the political border between Mexico and the United States, suggesting an alternative transborder commons based not on physical division but shared assets and cooperative opportunities.

• Globe | Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, Robert Gerard Pietrusko with Columbia Center for Spatial Research. In Plain Sight reveals anomalies and the consequent perils at the core of this binary world view. Visitors are shown places in the world with many people and no lights, and those with bright lights and no people, and are suspended between day and night and light and darkness exposed to the political and social realities of being invisible in plain sight.

• Network | Keller Easterling with MANY. The MANY platform proposes to facilitate migration through an exchange of needs. Favoring cosmopolitan mobility over citizenship, it more robustly networks short-term visas and suggests that cities can bargain with their underexploited spaces to attract a changing influx of talent and resources matching their needs with the needs of mobile people to generate mutual benefits.

• Cosmos | Design Earth. Cosmorama presents - Mining the Sky, Planetary Ark, and Pacific Cemetery that speculate on the legal geography of citizenship and ask how we should reckon with the epic and frontier narratives that have fueled space exploration and projects for off-planet settlement.

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