Photo above: Director-general Culture and Media, Barbera Wolfensberger officially opens the Dutch Pavilion, by starting the music of 'Songs for hard Working People' by Noam Toran with Remco de Jong and Florentijn Boddendijk. Photo: Daria Scagliola
With FREESPACE, the curators highlight the enriching role of architecture, of course physically but also spiritually. This requires a sense of wonder, which is exactly what makes the installation by Northscape Collective so successful and so relevant. As a result of robotisation, automation and digitisation, new sociological structures and life environments are emerging at a dizzying pace. This compels architecture to question the new relationships and to engage in new experimentation.
At a time where the size of available public space in the Netherlands is dwindling rapidly, it is worrying to note how this edition of the Architecture Biennale contains few to no interventions in the city’s public space (outside the pavilions and the Arsenale). In this respect, the city of Venice itself does not present or represent much FREESPACE, which is a pity.
other supported presentations
The Creative Industries Fund NL has compiled a publication presenting all twelve of the supported projects on display in Venice. For instance, ‘A City of Comings and Goings’ by Crimson Architectural Historians has been selected by the curators for the Central Pavilion in the Giardini, and ‘A School in the Making’ by Case Design (Anne Geenen & Samuel Barclay) has been included in the main exhibition in the Arsenale.
Photo above: On 24 May, a large delegation headed by the director-general of Culture and Media, Barbera Wolfensberger, visited the installation ‘The Port and the Fall of Icarus’, where Northscape Collective offered an extensive explanation and MAKE MOVE THINK added an extra layer of significance with their shrewdly designed dance performance 'Cosmogonia Mundi'.
The submissions for Turkey related to both large and small cities, instead of a mono-focus on Istanbul. This distribution of projects over the country makes the proposals interesting and sometimes surprising. A total of 11 applications is a modest harvest of entries, considering the long-standing relationships between the Netherlands and Turkey in the cultural sphere, and the challenges associated with urbanization in Turkey. One possible explanation is that the aim is to achieve collaborations with the local authorities and that is particularly challenging. The composition of the teams and expertise turned out to match only in varying degrees the themes and objectives of the projects, on both the Dutch and Turkish sides. The balance in reciprocity, the relevance of the issue and the approach was good in the selected projects. How collaboration and reciprocity are to be safeguarded and organized in the subsequent course of the projects requires further development for the second phase. The partnerships were the deciding factor for the selection of projects in Turkey.
selected projects Turkey:
• Lüleburgaz Bisiklette Biniyor, cycling for a better city
Artgineering/ Novusens/ Sustainable Solutions
• Toroslar Interactive CityLab
Ekim Tan, Play the City
• PALANGA, Turkish and Dutch Farming Practices Learn from each other
• Izmir Metabolic Cycling Network (IMCN)
Geographically, the applications were very widespread, from Moscow to Siberia and even Svobodny, towards the borders with China and Japan. This is an interesting and positive yield. The level and quality of the applications varied significantly in the 20 submissions for the open call Russia. Several applications focused on ‘mono-towns’. This is the phenomenon of mono-functional cities that in their development – composition of services, economy and inhabitants – specifically focus on a particular industry. In terms of themes, these applications were similar to each other. The differences in approach and method therefore weighed more heavily. Many applications were focused on improving or developing the public space – a development that has recently been utilized in Russian cities. Only a few applications had a distinctive approach to this. One of the reasons for this could be that the same Russian partner, an important player in the development of public space, was often included in the project teams. On the whole, it was noticeable that 2 to 3 Russian partners were frequently mentioned in the applications. A few projects had an extremely good approach with regard to accessing local partners, particularly users, which is one of the greatest challenges in Russia in the area of spatial issues. In general, something that stood out in the budgets was that the hourly rates in Russia are lower in comparison with the rates in the Netherlands. This is a realistic representation and, according to the advisers, it is all the more important to be clear about how the reciprocity has been organized in the collaborative relationship. The approach chosen was decisive when selecting the projects in Russia.
selected projects Russia:
• Prototyping Future Energy with HSE
• LL Tomsk One - Living Laboratory
• The 'Samarsky Yard' - Housing Heritage in the Post-Socialist City
• New Urban Media Centre in Yekaterinburg
The submissions for Egypt varied in their approach and the issue chosen. Many projects focused on Cairo, despite the fact that Egypt is a large country. It is, after all, the city where many things are centralized, including art and culture. Cairo is certainly the perfect place to start working in Egypt and to build up relationships from there. The strongest applications were to be found on the interface between art, culture and heritage. They are small in terms of set-up and implementation, but great in potential impact and for knowledge development and sharing. There are still opportunities and scope for small-scale projects in Egypt. Large-scale, urban design projects require collaboration with the authorities at national or local level and that is extremely difficult, perhaps even unrealistic, considering the time frame of the projects. However, the committee noted that heritage as a main theme was conspicuously absent in the applications. This is however a very relevant topic in the Egyptian context, for both material and immaterial heritage. A positive aspect is that a few projects made this connection and took up a position towards approaching heritage from a designer's perspective. It was noticeable that one particular local partner appeared several times in different applications. Building up relationships between various Dutch and Egyptian parties appears to be necessary. On the Dutch side, the main applicant or other parties involved appeared to be less well-matched with the theme or approach. From the applications, it emerged that the necessary cultural sensitivity (from the Dutch perspective) of the social context was not always present. This is crucial when working together on the basis of reciprocity. Deciding factors for the selection of projects in Egypt were the relevance of the themes and the partnerships entered into for the purpose.
selected projects Egypt:
• Grounded Urban Practices
Non Fiction & Cluster
• Darb el Labana Lab
Bureau LADA & LALA Studio
• Hope for Embaba
• Connecting Deltas
Inspiring approaches to themes and collaborations – ranging from establishment to grassroots – characterized the applications focused on Morocco. There was a good geographical spread: Meknes, Casablanca, Rabat, Tanger in the north and Tiznit in the south. Remarkably enough, no projects focused on Marrakech. In terms of themes, various projects differed significantly in their degree of development. A few projects resembled ‘classic’ architectural projects that lay close to project development. In addition, the social or cultural significance and aim of the project were not always very clear. A balanced distribution of the budgets between the Dutch and Moroccan parties was not the case in all of the applications. In many projects, the requested amount for the first phase was intended in its entirety for the Dutch party, without clear insight into the contribution from the Moroccan side. Either in kind or financially. How the reciprocity is organized in the collaboration was already described in some project proposals, but attention is required for further development. In a number of applications, a Dutch team member with Moroccan roots is involved. The Moroccan diaspora is a valuable connection in building relationships and understanding between the Netherlands and Morocco, but also in creating together and sharing knowledge. Deciding factors for the selection of projects in Morocco were the approach to the collaboration and the type of projects (study + pilot).
selected projects Morocco:
• Affordable Housing Casablanca
• PLAY CITY
Network of Research & Architecture BV and MB Paysage
• Learning from Tiznit
Slow Research Lab
Every open call specifically focused on one of the four countries, but they are all part of a single programme. For this reason the choice was made to put together a special committee, which includes experts per country, who are working in one of the fields of the creative industry and are able to think in an interdisciplinary way. The members of the committee are:
Committee chair: Saskia Ruijsink – senior expert Urban Policy and Planning Institute for Housing and urban development studies (IHS).
Advisor Egypt: Nat Muller – curator, writer and art critic specialized in the Arab world.
Advisor Morocco: Hicham Khalidi – curator Rotterdam Triennale 2020, Lafayette Anticipations - Fondation d'entreprise Galerie Lafayette in Paris, former guest curator Marrakech Biennale.
Advisor Russia: Eva Radionova – landscape architect bureau Novascape, curator and project leader Russian-Dutch projects, guest lecturer at the Academy of Architecture Amsterdam.
Advisor Turkey: Aslı Çiçek – architect and guest professor KU Leuven, works in Brussels and Istanbul.
Generalist advisor: Paula Zijp – project funding coordinator at Triodos Foundation, MSc Cultural Anthropology (Sociocultural Transformation).
The Creative Industries Fund NL is conducting a four-year programme within the policy framework of the International Culture Policy 2017-2020 (objective 2) with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, entitled ‘Sustainable and inclusive cities through design’. Central to the programme is the role and deployment of design and design thinking to question and provide solutions for rapid urbanization and the corresponding social themes. Cross-disciplinary working with relevant stakeholders in Turkey is encouraged, both within and beyond the design disciplines, where it revolves around providing opportunities for collaboration between Turkey and the Netherlands on an equal footing and strengthening the trust and understanding between the two countries.
Photo above: Grounded Urban Practices, Non Fiction and Cluster