On 20 May, the Dutch pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia was digitally opened.
The central theme of this biennale is “How will we live together?” – a question that has become even more urgent due to the pandemic. The Dutch contribution answers this question with a counter-question: ”Who is we?” and makes the pavilion a powerful plea against monoculture in architecture and urban planning. Urgent social and ecological issues require architects and urban planners to consider ‘we’ as a multiple. The exhibition in the pavilion therefore focuses on urban design that is feminine, of colour, queer and multi-species. To formulate a possible answer to the question “Who is we?” Het Nieuwe Instituut invited architect Afaina de Jong and artist Debra Solomon.
The Multiplicity of Other
With her research project The Multiplicity of Other, Afaina de Jong investigates the potential of architecture and urban design, were they to take other knowledge, values, methodologies and language as a basis. Driven by the untenability of one-sided design, perspectives and the privileged position of the designer, De Jong opens up a world in which the knowledge of the majority, who are neither seen nor heard, is central.
The research is presented in the pavilion in the form of the spatial installation Space of Other, made in collaboration with InnaVisions. The design transforms the ‘rational’ white space of the pavilion and plays with “not seeing” and “not being seen”. The spatial installation shows the play Preta by the Portuguese actor Gio Lourenço and videos of conversations that De Jong had with various thinkers and designers about other values, knowledge and ways of working in relation to urban planning and architecture. De Jong talked to Emmanuel Admassu, Samir Bantal, Khensani de Klerck and Farida Sedoc, among others. Paul Seji Dolby developed the soundscape for Space of Other. All conversations can also be viewed on whoiswe.nl.
Spurred on by the climate crisis, with Multispecies Urbanism Debra Solomon emphasises the urgency of a reciprocal relationship with the more-than-human, such as the soil and soil life, for just urban development.
Outside the entrance of the pavilion, life-size rhizotrons – spatial installations and scientific instruments in which living soil and root systems become visible – are set up, through which Solomon immediately makes the statement that soil too plays an essential role in urban design. In the pavilion, she shares a number of research methods and instruments that she uses to realize a 55-ha food forest in Amsterdam Zuidoost, in collaboration with a community of practice consisting of about 75 local residents.
Who is We? is not a conclusion, but rather a reason for further research, discussion and connection with other practices. In line with the policy field, Het Nieuwe Instituut works together with local authorities in the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Caroline Nevejan, Chief Science Officer of Amsterdam, developed the Values for Survival research programme; the Independent School for the City is putting together a community of learning entitled The Polder of Babel: A Super-Diverse City in the Anthropocene. In collaboration with Creative Industries Fund NL, three design teams have been selected to develop research in relation to the theme of Who is We?: Failed Architecture, Bureau LADA and Studio Wild.
Digitale exhibition: whoiswe.nl
Partly because of Covid-19, it was decided to make a digital exhibition in addition to a physical exhibition, which also makes it possible for those who cannot travel to Venice to experience Who is We? On whoiswe.nl, all the works present in the pavilion are shown in a digital setting. The platform was developed by Studio RNDR based on the graphic design of Richard Niessen.
Het Nieuwe Instituut has been commissioner of the Dutch pavilion at the International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia since 2014.
Who is We? has been made possible by the generous support of:
The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the City of Amsterdam, the City of Rotterdam and Creative Industries Fund NL
Note for editors, not for publication
Francien van Westrenen, Afaina de Jong, Debra Solomon and Caroline Nevejan are available for interviews.
For images and more information, please contact Annemarie van den Eijkel, PR Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: +31 (0)6 42 21 62 72.