Innovation and research are the themes that define the work of the seven teams and the seven installations that articulate SPAINLAB, the exhibition at the Spanish Venice Biennale Pavilion curated by the architects Anton Garcia-Abril and Débora Mesa of Ensamble Estudio.
Each of the seven participants will display his or her unique take on scientific processes used in achieving a certain balance between abstract concepts and their actual implementation, transcending the finished product so as to open a new window to the reasons and emotions that made them possible in the first place.
SPAINLAB stems out of a clear strategy: proving that the true value of Spanish architecture does not lie as much in the final image it materializes, but showing instead that its real future demands support and attention to personal investigative processes. None of the seven installations tries to display certainties; on the contrary, all of them are but an excuse for each team to keep investigating, test its ideas, build prototypes of their work in progress and share their liveliest body of work.
The images, works and sketches resulting from this research will be displayed in the pavilion at their rawest, as if they were set in an unfinished space or in an architects’ studio. This atmosphere of constant creativity will enable several different, sometimes conflicting, approaches to architecture. They all share a Common Ground –the theme of this year’s Biennale-, which is their commitment to our time and culture.
Despite their seemingly disparate careers, there are several defining characteristics to them all: All of them are working internationally and their attitude towards their discipline operates beyond styles and trends, which is often risky. They transcend the mere construction of buildings towards the creation of private but tangible universes to best serve the society they live in.
SPAINLAB, beyond Venice: a digital platform and a book
The whole SPAINLAB concept does not stop at the exhibition. SPAINLAB will also be available through a digital platform (www.spain-lab.net) designed by architects Daniel Ibáñez and Pablo Rey, whose main aim will be to extend SPAINLAB’s legacy to a wider audience and create a significant impact in society. This platform will showcase a number of interviews with the participating architects, related texts, and all the contents of both the catalogue and the exhibition, which will thus be made available to any interested virtual visitor. SPAINLAB can also be followed in Twitter (at @SpainLab and through the hashtag #SpainLab).
A book, SPAINLAB, will review the work of the architects through essays and critical debates. Edited by Inma Maluenda and Enrique Encabo and designed by Juan Roldán, it will contain two important texts written by two members of the scientific committee: one written by Nader Tehrani, Head of the Architecture Department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), offering a critical review of research in architecture in Spain; and the other, a dialogue between Hans Ulrich Obrist and Spain’s innovative master Miguel Fisac.
A documentary video on the work of each team, directed by architect Artemio Fochs will be shown during the exhibition and available on the digital platform after the opening.
Award winning graphic designer Alberto Corazón is the creator of SPAINLAB’s graphic identity.
The entire exhibition site has been set up under the coordination of architect Javier Cuesta.
Roland Halbe, Luis Asín and Hisao Suzuki, well-known photographers of Spanish architecture, will be in charge of documenting the exhibition.
On the curators, Débora Mesa and Antón García-Abril
Débora Mesa and Antón García-Abril are architects and partners at Ensamble Studio, a multidisciplinary team with a solid research background on the lookout for new approaches to architectonical space and building technologies.
Beside their professional career, both architects keep a strong involvement in the teaching community through their lectures and their research. They founded Fundación Ciudad Positiva (Positive City Foundation) in 2009, with the aim of forwarding their views on urban development. They are in the process of setting up a POPLab (Prototypes of Prefabrication Laboratory) at MIT, where Antón has just been appointed full professor.
SEVEN APPROACHES TO INNOVATION IN ARCHITECTURE
INTO THE WALL
by Menis Arquitectos
Menis Arquitectos’ proposal for the Venice Biennale 2012 allows the visitor to get inside a recently-formed concrete wall, an act made possible by the installation’s geometry.
Outside, the wooden formwork is the first warning sign that something is still in the process of setting on the other side. The installation’s geometry makes an already existing pavilion wall ‘disappear’ with a single gesture, as if dematerializing the geometric rigidity of the whole.
At the ends, visitors are able to get inside this wall and to experience, through the forms of the concrete, an insight into the architectural philosophy of Menis Arquitectos. The texture of this material is emphasized through the artisanal craftsmanship of mass and void, which encourages the visitor in this journey through timeless architecture. The installation shows the new construction system of Menis Arquitectos, Foamglas, Lafarge and Shöeck in the Nowa Sala Koncertowa na Jordankach. This new combination of materials allows a double-skinned construction of reinforced concrete, structural on the inside and suspended on the outside. It is an innovation in architecture.
IT’S ALL ABOUT PARTICLES: ELBULLIFOUNDATION
by Cloud 9 (Enric Ruiz-Geli)
Particle Architecture Thesis
- Particle theory impregnates Cloud9’s architecture from the very inception of each project to its final construction
- This theory apprehends reality from the particle level. Said particles give out information that enables the interpretation on both material and unmaterial levels.
- We don’t simply register the landscape as a geometric map or through numerical data. 3D laser scan (Tecmolde), PointCloud files, and location weather sensors (Tecnalia) document the landscape in particle form.
- Particles are an abstract representation of a certain landscape condition over time. Therefore, this representation must be understood as in direct emergence from the landscape itself.
- Particle work transcends proprietary software. We work with open platforms.
- Particle work doesn’t limit itself to formal development, but, through rapid prototyping and numeric control, it reaches out from the project onto the building phase.
- Cloud 9’s Particle Architecture doesn’t distinguish between object and product, building and landscape, sea and mountain. Instead, it conceives reality as performative particles in an empathic understanding between people and nature.
DREAM YOUR CITY a global creative set of new tools to rethink and transform local urban life
by Ecosistema Urbano
Dream your city attempts to recreate Hamar’s dreamhamar urban building process, and to suggest its participative processes as methodology to be applied to other contexts.
As architects and urban designers who approach the city as a complex and multi-layered phenomenon, we realized that in recent years a deep transformation had occurred in the very way architects interact with city-related issues. We believe that in this new context citizens should somehow be incorporated as active agents.
Ecosistema Urbano is working on the research and development of tools that provide new opportunities for interaction and participation, enhancing creativity and incorporating the new technologies so that different groups can participate in different ways.
At Ecosistema Urbano we learned – by doing – that knowledge and creation are becoming hybrid and widespread phenomena which are transforming traditional closed and fixed structures into open and extremely flexible networked configurations.
It also creates a new field of research and study that we name ‘network thinking’ and define as a network approach to the creation, design and development of projects, ideas, strategies.
We really believe in people, their inner creativity and the power of collectivity.
by Sancho-Madridejos Architecture Office
Our exhibition/installation revolves around two main ideas
- The body of research at the studio, shown in the exhaustive development of working models. The models help visualize how each concept turn into a field in itself
- Final construction, and the intermediate steps to be taken, from concept on paper towards total materialization.
Our exhibition moves through each phase of the work process, from what is purely abstract and theoretical to finished building, through the careful examination of materiality, which is not only a part of the development of each project but an object of research onto itself. This system, by definition, cannot work in a linear way, but it is instead a point of convergence between references and subject matters that appear and reappear, and where the relationship between elements is never univocal, but multiple and they mark the territory for a new field of action.
RCR ARQUITECTES’ UNIVERSE, POETICAL SEARCH AND CREATIVITY
by RCR Aranda Pigem Vilalta arquitectes
From the actual to the broad
Our starting premise is showing RCR’s creative process, describing it in a universal way, so as to extrapolate it and apply it to any other creative activities.
The gist of the matter is: details change, but attitude remains, and therefore, all finished work shares the same signature and a common background.
We understand the creative process as continuous input flux that takes place in several stages. Each stage shall be demonstrated through one or all the disciplines we work in: architecture, landscape, urbanism, consulting/orientation, industrial design, graphic design, broadcasting, teaching…
Also, during the creative process several instruments will be used, as each one of them is defined by its own unique characteristics: Watercolors (the power of the idea), models (volumetric control), blueprints (linear control), 3D image (atmosphere)…
The stages of our creative process will be reflected through the aforementioned disciplines and instruments.
AL AIRE (BETWEENAIR)
Betweenair is a long imagined living installation that has finally been built thanks to our attendance at Biennale de Venezia. It’s conceived as an architectural and biological lab that will process data in that will work with the goal and in the hope we are able to redefine our inbred preconceptions on what is natural and to develop new ways of gaining back terrain for nature.
Maybe because nature seems to be often the matter least altered by technology, the relationship between both has always been unidirectional: technology has always been used as a way of detracting from nature. And in turn this has changed both concepts into opposites.
By using technology Al Aire attemps to re-use existing technology so that nature can sprawl. We are using technologies coming from the world of agriculture as architecture tends to be, out of its own nature, a slow field in terms of innovation. We are using new containers that allow the growth of plants in a very small surface of substrata. We are also working with hydroponics as to investigate the idea of earthless cultivation. Out of all this, a new movable agriculture emerges, and we will draw conclusions both in the botanical and architectonical fields, by using a wide variety of plants and by working on a new paradigm of elastic, adaptative architecture.
Barcelona is a Common Ground. It is the city where Cerdà coined the term ‘urbanism’ in 1859, and the city that in recent years has developed the celebrated ‘Barcelona model’, which enjoyed its period of greatest splendor during the Olympic years — a city in which every example of economic and social progress is embodied in the public space. Now, twenty years later, all over the world the urban condition is facing the new challenges of the information age. This being so, Barcelona is renewing its commitment to its continuing tradition of innovation at times of paradigm shift, and has developed two new mantras: “Barcelona wants to be a city of productive neighborhoods at a human pace, making up a hyperconnected city of zero emissions.” “Many slow cities in a smart city.” With this in view, Barcelona is acting on two levels. On the one hand the city is continuing the projects initiated in recent years in order to generate urban innovation in neighborhoods such as 22@, La Sagrera and Plaça de les Glòries, and is promoting initiatives that will transform the concrete reality of its citizens by means of projects such as Portes de Collserola, Els Tres Turons, Nou Barris or Can Batlló, in which the architecture will necessarily interact with a range of disciplines related to the transformation of the human habitat. On the other hand Barcelona is promoting the development of a City Protocol, in order to make understanding of the construction of the city common ground for cities, universities, companies and organizations. In the 21st century, our common ground is that people will be the cities in which we live and work, in which the real economy is produced. The City Protocol will therefore be a global, open platform, comprehensive and progressive, where cities will share knowledge, projects and policies, define indicators and common evaluation systems, and promote the transformation of our cities on the basis of ecological principles and collective progress.
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