2 letters on Architecture

Transatlantic routes: from here to there and back

Dear Ignacio (and by extension dear ABA),

The members of your collective are all part of the recent Spanish diaspora, highly educated young professionals, who because of the economic crisis moved out of Spain, seeking for work or pursuing an academic career. Of course the set of skills and probably also the passports that you carry facilitated for you the entry in highly competitive systems, frequently in the US, where key positions in institutions and schools are occupied by many of your fellow citizens. The topic that you propose for the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016, where you have been selected as curators, “In Residence”, makes references to singular nodes where the experience of transit and mobility are is articulated. I truly appreciate the spirit of your proposal. On the other hand, it seems to accept the reduction of the collective to the sum of atomized and separated individuals: in that sense your emphasis on the residential is revealing. Do you think that there might be instead actions capable of generating new collective articulations? There seems to be a contradiction in your proposal: residence recalls family and small nuclei, while instead you also employ the world “people, which connects back to another political lineage. I am interested to know how you foresee the possibility to create “people”, an element which id equipped with some degree of collective identity and common objectives out of migrants, when the factors of nation and territory are absent.

Fabrizio Gallanti (Via Donato Bramante V, II piano)

Dear Fabrizio,

There are several questions at stake in your provocation, but something that is very important for us and that could help us begin responding is that we don’t want to make too easy a connection between our own experiences living abroad and the topics discussed in the Triennale. Also, we would like to unfold some of the notions you mention: instead of taking them as stable and fixed, we consider its unpacking to be critical for the definition of current constructions of belonging.

Each of us was brought to the US for different reasons that range from our interest in continuing our training in other academic and professional environments as well as questions of affection or the attraction of various imaginaries of what living abroad in a different continent could entail. As you can imagine, reasons behind the decision to leave home are always diverse and never reducible to one axis. While many of us moved to the US at the start of the crises, our plans and desires were forged amidst the construction bubble. Our motivations were far from a mere desire to leave the crisis behind. You have to remember that the US had been equally affected by the crisis in 2008, with a daily increase of the layoff rate. What back then was not a strategic move, might seem so right now, as the crises has become harsher and longer in Southern Europe.

It would be also difficult to reduce our personal stories and professional projects only to our passport. Even if the five of us are Spanish, each of us deals with different conditions determined by diverse visas, and its associated permissions and restrictions. As for of many other young citizens, our professional expertise, personal projects and experiences are grounded in a community that expands through many countries and sensitivities, and which is difficult to identify with any particular national profile. Carrying a Spanish passport might not imply that Spain is the only place where you belong (and not even where you have most of your belongings, which each of us manages in a different way).

And still, far from celebrating any nomadic form of life or an idealized cosmopolitan community, the project we are pursuing for Oslo takes very seriously that not everybody circulates in the global context voluntarily and in the same way. That diversity is the reason why we are very cautious to separate our own experience from the broad range of situations addressed by the curatorial framework of the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale. There are currently 230 million migrants around the globe and each year 1 billion tourists float worldwide, creating a condition that has destabilized what we understand by the term ‘residence.’ But what each person calls home (both within their domestic settings and in the spaces defined by national boundaries) is very different. It is the redefinition of the space of residence and its architectures that we are looking for in the Triennale, titled “After Belonging.”

This approach to the question of residence is far from accepting the atomization of individuals. Quite the contrary, it assumes residence as a reality shaped by economic, cultural, technological and social processes that have very little to do with what one could call the private sphere, as the naturalized space for the individual. The identification of residence with the private is a recent, dangerous connection that we are not willing to accept so easily. Our concern with critically rethinking “belonging” is that, in addressing this very topic rather than accepting social bonds as constrained to traditional familial structures and national “imagined communities,” it will also appeal to different meanings that encapsulate heterogeneous forms of collectivity. While there is an obvious rise of nationalist and religious movements in our times (with which the project is also concerned), our proposal for the Triennale tries to identify the architectures at stake in contemporary forms of being together and belonging, with its spatial configurations, its aesthetic agendas, its furnishings, its markets, its territories and its technologies.

Lluís Alexandre Casanovas Blanco
Ignacio González Galán
Carlos Mínguez Carrasco
Alejandra Navarrete Llopis
Marina Otero Verzier
(After Belonging Agency)