São Paulo - Morumbi Subway Station, from the office 23 SUL. Photo: Pedro Kok
“Spontaneous Landscapes” by Studio Associates

Until some time ago, an architect would have expected to have designed the greatest work of his career in order to submit it to a biennial, says curator and researcher Vanessa Grossman. Projects on smaller scales – such as one-off interventions in cities or homes – and apparently very specific debates – on the maintenance of buildings or the impact of eating habits on built space, for example – would seem insignificant to be exhibited in a large international exhibition. Well, at 12a São Paulo International Architecture Biennale, which takes place between September 10 and December 8, radically breaks with this idea.

titled Everyday, the show turns to everyday life and (seemingly) banal practices to discuss issues of global relevance, such as sustainability, preservation of built goods and social, racial and gender inequalities. Divided into two exhibitions set up in “everyday manifest-buildings”, the CCSP (designed by Eurico Prado Lopes and Luiz Telles) and the Sesc 24 de Maio (by Paulo Mendes da Rocha), the edition is curated by Vanessa Grossman and Ciro Miguel , Brazilians, and the French Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, all currently based in Switzerland. It is the first time that the curatorship of the event has been selected through a public contest, organized by the Instituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil (IAB-SP).

“We realized that there was a kind of return to everyday life in architecture. This is nothing new, but in the last decade architects have increasingly talked about the everyday as a temporal and spatial dimension that is pertinent to the discipline,” explains Grossman. “In general, architects have a certain megalomania that, if they could, they would design the whole world. But I think there is an increasing perception that we inherit a world that has already been built and that an impactful way to change it is to work in this dimension of everyday life.” When mapping contemporary practices, says the curator, there is then a certain “ethics and aesthetics of simplicity”, another way of operating the world.

“Nova República”, work by Hélio Menezes and Wolff Architects assembled between Sesc 24 de Maio and Galeria do Reggae. Photo: Disclosure

In this perception, talking about what is served at the dinner table, the renovation of a house or the daily maintenance of public and private spaces can be as relevant as talking about the construction of a great public work. And this does not exclude, according to the curators, discussing issues on an urban or global scale, but it is about understanding the connection between the various spheres. The theme of everyday life thus emerges as a kind of common denominator to discuss the many forms of intervention, according to Grossman.

To deal with this vast universe, the curators structured two shows with different characteristics. While 74 works selected from the 710 submitted in an open call are presented at CCSP – projects at different scales and presented in different media – at Sesc, ten “devices” – types of installations – are on display, commissioned, created mostly by multidisciplinary teams. If the first bets on a more traditional exhibition format, as the president of the IAB-SP, Fernando Túlio explains, the second “talks with a contemporary art show, in terms of language, with projects site-specific that spread in unusual places in the building”.

Both shows dialogue with the three thematic axes defined by the curatorship. The first, “reports of everyday life”, mainly refers to the production and uses of space linked to social issues. It involves both the subtleties and beauties of everyday life as well as the violence, inequalities and segregation that affect societies, treated from racial and gender themes, among others.

São Paulo – Morumbi Subway Station, at the 23 SUL office. Photo: Pedro Kok

For Túlio, “this Bienal wants to highlight and sensitize public opinion to the perspective of putting citizens first in the planning of cities. Especially citizens who are in a situation of greater vulnerability,” he says. “In São Paulo, for example, we have people who live in situations similar to urban refugees, without decent housing. So it is necessary to adopt mechanisms that can improve life.”

The second axis, “everyday materials”, addresses sustainability issues in a world that lives in the Anthropocene era – a concept used by several scientists to define a new geological era, the current one, considering all the impact caused by man on the planet. . In this axis, themes related to the use of construction materials arise, as well as a more direct dialogue with the rural world and with indigenous themes, in an effort to not restrict the debate to urban issues that usually guide architectural events.

There appear works that address eating, for example, and other day-to-day practices. “Until some time ago, it was thought that only large projects impacted humanity, but that everyday life was somewhat exempt from participating in this chain. And today we can perceive things in a more linked way, even due to globalization and available technologies”, says Grossman. “So there are a lot of architects these days thinking about how to work without having more impact on the planet.”

“Apanhador de Nuvens”, at the top of Sesc 24 de Maio, work by BRUDER (Alexandre Theriot and Stéphanie Bru)

The third axis, “daily maintenance”, deals with a dimension intrinsic to architecture, but often seen as less important than construction or building. “Maintenance is a matter of the order of the day, especially when we see cases such as the fire at the National Museum, in Rio, or the collapse of the Wilton Paes de Almeida building, in São Paulo. We have a chronic maintenance problem in Brazil, but we can also talk about Notre-Dame, in Paris, which caught fire due to lack of maintenance”, says the curator. In this axis, the show also seeks to delve into maintenance at other scales and dimensions, whether it be daily care for the body to the preservation of collective memory.

In order to democratize the Bienal and reach a wider audience than the niche of architects, the edition seeks to address all thematic axes in a multidisciplinary and multimedia way. The event puts architecture in dialogue with History, Anthropology and the visual arts and exposes the works through audio, installations and a large amount of videos – not just architectural plans, texts and photos of projects. “The theme of everyday life is a tangible theme,” says Grossman, “and we try to approach it in a didactic way.”

For Túlio, the use of new exhibition formats is also a necessity nowadays. “Before, to get to know a project from outside your city you would have to have access to a magazine, which was expensive and more difficult to access. Today everything is on the internet. So that model of fair, of just presenting projects, was exhausted. Hence the challenge of flirting with new languages ​​and formats, in order to sensitize the public. I think this biennial advances in that direction, but it is a permanent challenge”.

“Jardim do Ócio”, series of photographs by Pedro Motta

Another important aspect in the sense of democratization was the choice of the two buildings that house the show, located in central areas of the city and with a large circulation of people of all ages and social classes. It is the third edition of the Architecture Biennial outside the Ibirapuera Pavilion. Finally, the president of the IAB-SP highlights what he calls the primordial role of life in society, “the civilizing dimension”, and the fundamental role of architecture in this sense. “In this context of crisis of democracy, architecture also has the role of reconstituting the values ​​and the republican dimension of public affairs.”

And he returns, once again, to everyday life: “A person who lives in Cracolândia, for example, their problem is not just the lack of housing; it's not just the lack of medical support; it's not just the lack of a job; nor is it just the lack of access to social assistance or cultural facilities. These are all integrated problems, in addition to more intimate issues, from the family, for example. So the story of everyday life comes a lot to shed light on this. Because when you can understand a person's daily life, you can understand these multiple aspects”, concludes Túlio.

Everyday
Sesc 24 de Maio – Rua 24 de Maio, 109, Downtown, São Paulo
Until September 29, 2019

everyday architectures
São Paulo Cultural Center (CCSP) – Rua Vergueiro, 1000 – Paraíso, São Paulo
Until December 8, 2019

 

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