Othernity, Hungary at the 17th Architecture Biennale

Venice, Italy, Budapest,

Biennale di Venezia,

Exhibition, Venice Biennale, Refurbishment,

Othernity, the Hungarian exhibition at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale, provides thought-provoking answers to an important question: what lessons can be learnt from the legacy of architectural modernism left behind in Central and Eastern Europe? The answers offered by the 12 emerging studios invited to participate in the initiative are presented in a captivating way, while at the same time providing interesting inputs for other geographical contexts.

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Othernity, Hungary at the 17th Architecture Biennale
Since the very beginning, on the Livegreenblog we have always been deeply committed to saving modernist architecture (Oslo link), fuelled by the strong belief that the simple demolition and replacement of a building with something “new” does not solve the deeper issues that are often mistakenly linked to actual architectures, rather than to the overall system in which these same architectures are inserted.
The Hungarian pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, which saw the curatorial team of the Othernity project taking a close look at the potential of Eastern Europe’s substantial modernist architectural heritage, dating back to an often controversial era, was therefore quick to capture out interest. Well-aware that in addition to issues relating to sustainability, many decisions in this regard are also fuelled by an aesthetic repulsion and by a political antipathy often leading to the demolition or rebuilding of these structures, the curators of the exhibition believe that instead of destroying and transforming these architectures, we should use modernism. This heritage should serve as a starting point or a ground zero to develop a responsible and innovative behaviour for future architectural practice.
As these are clearly issues affecting all the countries of the former socialist area, the Othernity curatorial team composed of Attila Róbert Csóka, Szabolcs Molnár and Dávid Smiló proposed a collaborative project, inviting 12 young and emerging architecture firms from Central and Eastern Europe to rethink and refurbish 12 socialist modernist buildings in Budapest. Given the shared historical background of their home countries, the architects involved in the project are, at the same time, close enough to and far away enough from these buildings located in Budapest. Moreover, the generation that the exhibiting architects are part of is the first one that did not experience socialism directly and therefore has no direct memory of the architectural production methods of that era. At the same time, whether they are from Warsaw, Bratislava, Belgrade, Tallinn, Skopje, Zagreb, Krakow, Bucharest or Prague, they were nevertheless raised between these buildings, sharing common experiences and memories of these socialist environments.
The answers offered by the 12 architecture studios have led to the production of an exhibition of great elegance and clarity in the Hungarian pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale. A pleasantly analogical exhibit featuring beautiful light boxes where the individual buildings are shown, followed by the “practical” aspect, with models or sculptures of great visual impact illustrating the new uses of the recovered architectures.
The young architects’ capacity to go beyond appearances becomes quite apparent, as they rediscover that important value that community and public architecture – created for a past era and a past society and with rather limited resources – has for the communities in which these same architectures have been inserted. Indeed, in this current unprecedented and historical moment it would be of great value to change the way we think about heritage, values and protection, focusing on the aspects that are truly meaningful for our present and for our future. A reflection that is certainly not limited to Eastern Europe and to socialist modernist architecture!
In the words of the curators of the exhibition: “We see this project as a new, collaborative method to rethink our ways of heritage protection; as an example for a more responsible architectural community and a more sensible society. How will we live together, asks Hashim Sarkis, chief curator of the 17th Biennale of Architecture. Our answer is: by using what we have, but in a more understanding, innovative and emotional way.”

Christiane Bürklein

Othernity - Hungarian Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale
From May 22 to November 21, 2021
Giardini della Biennale, Venice
National Commissioner: Julia Fabényi
Curator: Dániel Kovács
Curatorial team: Attila Róbert Csóka, Szabolcs Molnár, Dávid Smiló
Organiser: Ludwig Museum - Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest
The 12 participants: A-A Collective, Architecture Uncomfortable Workshop, b210, BUDCUD, KONNTRA, MADA, MNPL Workshop, Paradigma Ariadné, PLURAL, Vojtěch Rada, LLRRLLRR, Studio Act
Photos: Daniel Domolky
Additional information: http://othernity.eu/


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