A virus was enough to give an anachronistic and almost paradoxical meaning to the theme of the Venice Architecture Biennale “How will we live together?” (postponed to 2021 , May 22/November 21).
While the curator Hashim Sarkis asks the architects to “imagine spaces in which we can generously live together ”, on a globally, health needs seem to force us to live separately.
“We need a new spatial contract” says the curator, but at the moment the word “together” is causing anxiety; the call for community and collective action is frightening; and fear takes the place of generosity.
The 17th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice was announced as one of the most politically committed in recent years. Starting from the choice of the curator Hashim Sarkis “particularly aware of the topics and criticalities which the various contrasting realities of today’s society pose for our living space”, as explained Paolo Baratta, president of La Biennale di Venezia.
And Sarkis did not disappointed us proposing the theme “How will we live together?” and explaining:
“We need a new spatial contract. In the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities, we call on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together: together as human beings who, despite our increasing individuality, yearn to connect with one another and with other species across digital and real space; together as new households looking for more diverse and dignified spaces for inhabitation; together as emerging communities that demand equity, inclusion and spatial identity; together across political borders to imagine new geographies of association; and together as a planet facing crises that require global action for us to continue living at all”.
During the press conference Baratta quoted: “Living together means first and foremost awareness of potential crises and old and new problems that do not get appropriate solutions, nor often appropriate attention, in the spontaneous development of our economies and societies and that require enhanced attention and an extensive and courageous planning capacity”.
But the Corona virus pandemic has generated an unexpected crisis that has changed the collective imagination and which could call into question the 2020 Biennale vision and even be opposed to the “collective architectural imagination” proposed by the title.
Certainly the invited architects and the 34 nations participating in the Biennale will have worked out their projects, for some time, well before the recent health crisis, but right now we ask ourselves:
What role does the architect play in imagining virtual collective geographies? What can he do in connecting people within the digital space?
It will therefore be stimulating to find out if someone has faced one of the consequences of “living together”, the one that, not only emotionally, at the moment worries us: contamination.
No, not cultural contamination -passepartout so much abused in recent times- but the danger of real contagion, from one individual to another living together.
Text by Renata Sias
Who is architect Hashim Sarkis?
He is principal of Hashim Sarkis Studios (HSS), established in 1998 with offices in Boston and Beirut. He is also the Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) since 2015.
Before joining MIT, Sarkis was the Aga Khan Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism at Harvard University. He has also taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, Yale University, the American University of Beirut, and the Metropolis Program in Barcelona.
The architectural and urban projects of HSS include affordable housing, houses, parks, institutional buildings, urban design, and town planning. HSS has received several awards for its projects.
Sarkis was member of the international jury of the Biennale Architettura 2016.
Sarkis earned a Bachelor of Architecture and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, and a Master of Architecture and a PhD in Architecture from Harvard University. He is the author and editor of several books and articles on modern architecture history and theory, including Josep Lluis Sert, The Architect of Urban Design (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008); Circa 1958, Lebanon in the Projects and Plans of Constantinos Doxiadis (Beirut: Dar Annahar, 2003); and Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital (Munich: Prestel, 2001).