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As a response to the Biennale Architettura 2021 theme set by curator Hashim Sarkis, which is ‘How will we live together?’, Het Nieuwe Instituut asks a counter-question: ‘Who is we?’. The team, led by curator Francien van Westrenen, argues that current social and ecological urgencies demand that architects and urbanists regard ‘we’ as a more pluralised pronoun that encompasses all humans and more-than-humans such as soil, plants and animals. The knowledge, values, and methodologies necessary for this transformation have been developed throughout history but are largely marginalised by the architectural canon.

The contributors, architect Afaina de Jong and artist Debra Solomon, deconstruct normative concepts of space such as terra nullius and tabula rasa, visualising what remains unseen behind the dominant structures that typically define urban spaces

In Multiplicity of Other, De Jong reconstitutes the dominance of a single-sided universal minority perspective on cities, identifying the spatial knowledge of the overwhelming majority of ‘othered’ groups as fundamental. Her Space of Other, developed in collaboration with InnaVisions, is a performative space using public dialogues to engage with values and languages that are often misrepresented, using spatial practices like dance, music and poetry.

Debra Solomon advocates Multispecies Urbanism as a solution for just inter-species urban development driven by care and climate crisis mitigation. In the pavilion, she shares research tools and methodologies, such as Radical Observation, soil chromatograms, and rhizotrons, that can be used to produce environmentally democratic urban landscapes in the form of public space food forests.

Francien van Westrenen, Head of Agency at Het Nieuwe Instituut and the curator of Who is We?, says:

“As social and ecological urgencies demand immediate care and action, Who is We? is an empathic plea against homogeneity and monoculture. Differences and plurality create the relationships and interactions essential to build resilient societies and cities.”

Who is We? is accompanied by the public research programme Values for Survival, developed by the Chief Science Officer for the City of Amsterdam, Professor Caroline Nevejan. The programme relates the concepts Multiplicity of Other and Multispecies Urbanism to other fields of knowledge, design, and policy, thereby inspiring cities to act in this decisive decade of climate change. The results are published in a series of cahiers presented on the Who is We? digital platform.

The graphic design for the project is by Richard Niessen. Design of the digital platform is by Studio RNDR.

Who is We? is made possible by the generous support of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the City of Amsterdam, the City of Rotterdam, and Creative Industries Fund NL.

Note for editors

The 17th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia is open to the public 22 May to 21 November 2021, Vernissage, 20-21 May 2021

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For further information and interviews about the Dutch Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, please contact ING Media:
Lauren Teague | E: | M: +44 (0)789 446 2340

For more information about Het Nieuwe Instituut, please contact:
Annemarie van den Eijkel | E: | M: +31 (0)6 4221 6272

Guus Beumer, artistic director Het Nieuwe Instituut
Francien van Westrenen, head of Agency Het Nieuwe Instituut
Afaina de Jong, architect and researcher; Debra Solomon, artist and researcher
Richard Niessen
Laura Pappa, Robert Milne
Juan Arturo García
Caroline Nevejan, Chief Science Officer City of Amsterdam; Huda AbiFarès, graphic design and co-editor
Mike Emmerik, Simone Rots, Independent School for the City
Lada Hršak, Bureau LADA; Chiara Dorbolò and Daphne Bakker, Failed Architecture; Tymon Hogenelst and Jesse van der Ploeg, Studio Wild