Philippe Sarfati presents Territories, or: how will we live together with architecture

Alessandro Melis, Clement Blanchet,

Philippe Sarfati,

Biennale di Venezia, Exhibitions,

Venice Biennale,

French architect and photographer Philippe Sarfati has presented his book Territories in the Italian Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at Biennale di Venezia. In the context of an event in the pavilion curated by Alessandro Melis, Sarfati shows how the photographic representation of architecture influences its reception and, consequently, its resilience.

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Philippe Sarfati presents Territories, or: how will we live together with architecture
The response given by Alessandro Melis - the curator of the Italian Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale - to the question posed by the curator of the Biennale as a whole, architect and scholar Hashim Sarkis, namely “How will we live together?”, is “resilient communities”. We all have our own ideas about what the word ‘resilience’ truly means, with it having been one of the most popular keywords for many years now, especially in the world of architecture. As per a contemporary definition, resilience consists of withstanding adversity. A resilient community will be able to withstand adversity within its urban or rural context. This context is mainly shaped by the architecture within it, and as such, the interaction between people and architecture is paramount to gaining a better understanding of the communities themselves.
In this sense, the book TERRITORIES BY PHILIPPE SARFATI provides a significant contribution to the wider discussion about how to convey certain abstract concepts in an immediate and, above all, intelligible way.
For years, Philippe has been deeply dedicated to photography, winning the world’s largest open photography competition, the Sony World Photography Awards 2019, in the architecture category.
The initial impulse that sparked this experimental project was that of injecting the methodology of street photography - in particular its way of entrusting the art to randomness and spontaneous behaviour - into architecture photography. Philippe says: “Inspired by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine’s films, I wanted to show buildings through the eyes of their users, presenting spaces as inhabited territories. Acclaimed works of architecture become dramatic backdrops to everyday scenes, their radical geometries framing simple acts”.
On the one hand, architecture is used as a frame, providing a focal point for the compositions in the form of a subject with bold volumes and strong lines. On the other, it is the people who give meaning and scale to the spaces showcased. Their behaviour, their emotions define our perception of the building’s atmosphere. The research conducted by the young architect - who works at Parisian firm Clément Blanchet - is based on the genuine, everyday relationship that we have with architecture, a world away from the carefully staged shots or drone views so ubiquitous in books and websites, providing an idea of how we could tell the story of our context in a more inclusive way.
These aspects, and the extent to which architectural representation actually influences a community’s resilience, was the topic of discussion, 1 June, in the TERRITORIES event hosted by the Italian Pavilion. Because the more loved an architecture is, the more resilient it becomes. Sarfati’s interlocutor for the discussion was Marie Arvinius - CEO and co-founder of renowned Swedish publishing house Arvinius+Orfeus, the preferred publishing partner of firms such as BIG, Cobe, C.F. Møller and other big names - and they will be talking about the importance of photography in communicating architecture.
Territories is a long-term photographic project (2016-2020). The book depicts 99 noteworthy buildings located in 12 countries, designed by 52 architecture firms, from Le Corbusier to MVRDV, Frank Lloyd Wright to BIG, Oscar Niemeyer to Snøhetta, Zaha Hadid to SANA, to name but a few. The photos themselves can be viewed in the digital exhibition that Sarfati has put together for the London Architecture Festival - which started June 1.

Christiane Bürklein

Territories by Philippe Sarfati
Event: 1 June 2021, 4.30PM, hosted by Padiglione Italia, Comunità Resilienti
Images: Philippe Sarfati
More information: 
LFA: https://www.londonfestivalofarchitecture.org/event/territories/
Crowdfunding: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/phsarfati/territories