SpontaneousInterventions: design actions for the common good is the theme of the U.S. Pavilion at the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale (Fall 2012). In recent years, there has been a nascent movement of designers acting on their own initiative to solve problematic urban situations, creating new opportunities and amenities for the public. Provisional, improvisational, guerrilla, unsolicited, tactical, temporary, informal, DIY, unplanned, participatory, opensource—these are just a few of the words that have been used to describe this growing body of work.
Spontaneous Interventions will frame an archive of compelling, actionable strategies, ranging from urban farms to guerilla bike lanes, temporary architecture to poster campaigns, urban navigation apps to crowdsourced city planning. These efforts cut across boundaries, addressing architecture, landscape, infrastructure, and the digital universe, and run the gamut from symbolic to practical, physical to virtual, whimsical to serious. But they share an optimistic willingness to venture outside conventional practice and to deploy fresh tactics to make cities more sustainable, accessible, and inclusive.
The Venice Architecture Biennale is the most prestigious architecture event in the world. Now in its 13th edition, the Venice Architecture Biennale was formally established in 1980 and is held every other year (alternating with the Venice Art Biennale, which was first held in 1895). For the 12th edition, held in 2010, 53 countries participated in the Biennale, which was attended by 170,000 visitors.
The 13th edition will be held from August 29 to November 25, 2012 (press preview August 27–28). On December 27, 2011, British architect David Chipperfield was appointed the director of the Biennale, and he outlined the theme Common Ground at a meeting of commissioners held in Venice on January 17.
The U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is presented by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State (ECA), which supports and manages the official United States participation at selected international exhibitions. Following the recommendation of the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions (FACIE), convened by the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. State Department selected “Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good,” proposed by Cathy Lang Ho teamed with the Institute for Urban Design, to be featured in the U.S. Pavilion. The U.S. representation at this global event ensures that the excellence, vitality, diversity and innovation of the architecture in the United States are effectively showcased abroad, and provides an opportunity to engage foreign audiences to increase mutual understanding.
Commissioner and Curator: Cathy Lang Ho is an independent architecture critic and editor based in New York. She is a contributing editor to Architect magazine and founding editor- in-chief of The Architect’s Newspaper. She has published hundreds of articles in publications worldwide. She is a member of the board of the Institute for Urban Design.
Co-curator: David van der Leer is the assistant curator of architecture and urban studies at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the curator of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile laboratory for urban experiments and public programs traveling to nine major cities worldwide over six years (New York 2011, Berlin and Mumbai, 2012).
Co-curator: Ned Cramer is the editor-in-chief of Architect magazine, the official magazine of the American Institute of Architects and the media sponsor of the U.S. Pavilion. Previously, he was the curator of the Chicago Architecture Foundation and executive editor of Architecture magazine.
Paola Antonelli is a senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Her writing has been published widely and she has lectured on design and architecture throughout the world, at such prestigious forums as the TED Conference, Davos, and the World Economic Forum.
Anne Guiney is the executive director of the Institute for Urban Design. She was previously the editor of the New York edition of The Architect’s Newspaper and senior editor of Architecture magazine.
Zoe Ryan is the chair and John H. Bryan Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she is building the museum’s first collection of contemporary design. She was previously the senior curator at the Van Alen Institute (VAI) in New York. Her writing has appeared in design publications worldwide.
Michael Sorkin is the founder of the Michael Sorkin Studio in New York City, founder and president of Terreform, and distinguished professor of architecture and director of the Graduate Urban Design Program at New York’s City College (CUNY). He has authored and edited 15 books, including most recently Twenty Minutes in Manhattan (Verso, 2009) and All Over the Map (Verso, 2011). Sorkin is the president of the Institute for Urban Design.
Erik Adigard (see M-A-D bio below)
FREECELL: Freecell is a Brooklyn-based design studio founded by Lauren Crahan and John Hartmann. Their rigorous search for innovative solutions is strengthened by their drawing, modeling, prototyping, and fabricating skills. Their site-specific installations that question the use and perception of space have been exhibited at SFMOMA, Henry Urbach Architecture, and Artists Space. Their recent work includes the completion of “Point to Line,” a public art commission at the University of Akron, and custom furniture for the fashion designer Alexander Wang. Lauren will teach an interdisciplinary design studio at Parsons New School in September. John is on the board of Superfront, a nonprofit supporting architectural experimentation.
M-A-D: M-A-D is a Berkeley-based interdisciplinary communication design studio founded by Erik Adigard and Patricia McShane. They focus on the convergence of cultural, economic and design concerns. In recent years, M-A-D conceived large media installations for the Paris, Lisbon and Venice biennales. Their work has been recognized in international exhibitions, film festivals and publications, such as the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, SFMOMA, the Sundance Film Festival, and Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, and by the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design. Erik is a lecturer at the California College of the Arts and a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale. More: m-a-d.com
INTERBORO: Interboro Partners is a New York City–based office of architects, urban designers, and planners. Led by Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca and Georgeen Theodore, the firm strives to improve cities through innovative, experimental design ideas. Interboro has been honored with many prestigious awards including the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program, the AIA New York Chapter’s New Practices Award and the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices and x Young Architects Award. http://www.interboropartners.net/
Project managers: Gordon Douglas, Mimi Zeiger. Team: Justin Allen, Mina Chow, Brendan Crain (social media), Giulia Cugnasca, Lee Ann Custer, Alex Fortney (web programming), Nathan John, Andreas Jonathan, Stéfan Jonot, Sarah Kantrowitz, Katherine Koh, Andrea Soffientino, Alexandra Sutherland-Brown, Alexandra Tell, Samantha Topol (event programming), Julia van den Hout. Film: Kelly Loudenberg (director) with Louie Metzner (assistant editor).