Cover photo Michel Boesveld, other photos Roemer van Toorn

Mapping urban reality has become the fashion. Many of the strange shapes of contemporary architecture, design and art can be attributed to the devotion of mapping and the authorial absolution diagrams grant. Subjective vision is not the touchstone here. Instead, this trend is an addiction to extreme realism, yet a realism intended to show no theoretical or political mediation, a kind of degree zero of the political with no awareness of the consequences regarding reality’s social construction. What’s failing, in our age of radical modernization, now that the old rules and basic distinctions within our global civilization are renegotiated, is how architects might conceptualize the city beyond mapping.

The Berlage Institute believes that after mapping the fascinating changes, contradictions and paradoxes radical modernization introduces, society urgently needs to develop new approaches to the city. The time of universal urban visions belongs to the past, but new architectural models have yet to rise up in replacement. The urgent question the Berlage Institute researches regards the kind of cosmopolitan future the discipline of architecture can project now that the majority of the world population lives in the city. The Berlage Institute explores two alternate positions that emerge from this question. One hypothesis finds maneuvering space in the realm of micropolitics and through complicity, rather than in the conception of all-encompassing visions or confrontational strategies. The studios of Peter Trummer (Associativity), Markus Schaefer (Scripting) and Yushi Uehara (Negotiation) follow this route. Their approach finds the architect concentrating his efforts on riding the external forces to the discipline in an attempt to obtain the necessary energy to produce new prototypes and regimes. This approach tends to have a holistic outlook where disciplinary genres and scales of operation become blurred, open-ended and inter-related. Housing neighborhoods become populations tested on an urban scale. The economic processes of urban transformation becomes, in itself, an object of profound analysis. Not just urban complexes, but whole cities are explored as components of world-wide processes, rather than as discreet units of identity, culture or lifestyle. The alternative approach by Pier Vittorio Aureli (Representation) is skeptical of the open-endedness of this first form of engagement and makes an ideological stance to define the direction of research, maintaining that it is impossible to transform reality without establishing certain ideals and external models that will enable to shift the city into new directions. In this approach, architecture and urbanism are not just a problem of opportunity, growth or technology, but a theoretical problem of representation. The subject of Capital Cities, or cities which, beyond their mere performance as urban systems, need to become vehicles to represent a culture, a nation and a set of values. This situation is the ideal field for an approach that understands a city is more than its factual performance as an urban system.

The Venice Biennale exhibition and this special hunch “Beyond Mapping. Projecting the City” attempts to present these two extreme paths of pro-active investigation into the contemporary city through the presentation of four, of many, architectural expertises: Associativity, Representation, Scripting and Negotiation. Via this specific architectural knowledge, and the inherent ideology contained within each expertise, alternative projects re-envision six paradigmatic urban conditions: Madrid, Moscow, Tirana, Brussels, Ljubljana and unknown urbanity in China.

In the exhibition, an evocative video installation “City Talk” positions the studio professors’ various expertises in a conversation and opens the Berlage’s ongoing debate and discussion to a wider public, in line with the nature of the Institute’s idea of ongoing dialogue and exchange of viewpoints. In addition, seven poster-books of the research reports have been printed especially for the exhibition to give more detailed information on each studio, along with this oversized Biennale hunch magazine, including the Berlage approach to research, manifestos of expertise on the city, interviews with the studio professors, studio report order cards and the Berlage Institute prospectus. [More see PDF]

Projecting the City. Beyond Mapping
Special Hunch Issue Berlage Institute, Architecture Biennale Venice 2006

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