Tuesday, March 27, 2012

ZigZagCity Rotterdam from april 20th

IABR welcomes students, policy makers, professors and professionals to visit the International Architecture Biennal. Rotterdam Festivals organizes ZigZagCity to link the locations. Observatorium is right bang in the middle.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Rotterdam like you’ve never seen it before!
From 20 April until 6 May architecture festival ZigZagCity will show you Rotterdam’s city centre in a unique and different way with an alternative route featuring buildings, stories of residents and local businesses.
Lijnbaankwartier has hidden courtyards and parks that not many people know about. Artists and architects including DUS Architecten, Observatorium, Gyz la Rivière, Rnul Interactive, Thijs van Vuure and Iris Schutten will transform the city centre into an enjoyable leisure area from 20 April to 6 May 2012.
An oasis in the city
There are several leisure areas in the original design of Lijnbaan. For example, the green park behind ice cream parlour Capri. The artist group Observatorium is keen to restore this park as an oasis of peace and quiet in the busy city centre. It will be turned into the all-inclusive city garden during ZigZagCity. A place to relax, to have a picnic, or to work, meet friends and to play.
Making City
ZigZagCity coincides with the 5th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (20 April to 12 August 2012). The IABR is called Making City and investigates how tomorrow’s city is shaped. Its main venue is the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) with various exhibitions and debates. In addition, the central railway station and Hofplein show what the future urban environment could look like. The 'Schieblock' plays a key role in this programme of events, exhibitions, pop-up stores and pocket parks.
ZigZagCity connects the central locations of the IABR and is linked to the architectural programme of festival Motel Mozaïque.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Domus interview by Loredana Mascheroni

Founded in 1997, the Rotterdam-based art collective Observatorium—Andre Dekker, Geert van de Camp and Ruud Reutelingsperger— is constantly searching for new meanings in transitional urban spaces. After presenting their work in the Venice Biennale and Ruhr European Culture Capital, the collective has been commissioned by Esterni to create a special garden for Cascina Cuccagna, a 17th century farmhouse embedded in Milan's urban fabric. The proposal will be developed in collaboration with a student team from the Politecnico University of Milan. Domus interviewed Observatorium's Andre Dekker about the project.

Loredana Mascheroni: How have you been called to develop this project and what is its concept?
Andre Dekker: It will be a long project. I came to Milan in September to be part of the Miao workshop at the Politecnico, in which we created park furniture in collaboration with two groups of students. There I had the chance to know Esterni. Then this organization and the Consulate of Holland invited me to come here for five days to observe the area of Cascina Cuccagna and to learn its history, getting the tools to think of a new garden. The big question is for whom is the Cuccagna, what type of garden does Esterni want, and how can an artist be of use in the garden. I am not a specialist in vegetables, but I have many experiences in creating public spaces. Our motto is "how do you arrive from the overall space to create a place". It is a work of "placemaking" which can be done by the neighbourhood, the gardener… my specialty is to add something to the space in the form of a sculpture. But the sculpture must be just as useful as a garden or a playground are, and still remain a sculpture. In the Cuccagna there are many great opportunities, it's a unique place full of energy and history and it can be unique in the city of Milan. As a foreigner I don't know how it is organised. We are trying to figure out who is the owner of the space and who will be in charge of the space for the next years. I must make sure that I am becoming a part of the big team working for the Cuccagna. So I have to be modest first, I am now designing by listening, even if I have my fantasies.

The phase of listening to the people living in the areas of your interventions and also to the history of the place plays an important part in your work.
Those are the foundations of each project. Somebody told me yesterday that there is an old man saying he used to swim in the Cuccagna area, apparently there was a spring somewhere down there. If you hear the story of the place you are amazed, and maybe the sculpture can help the story be told again and again.

Your sculptures have always much to do with architecture. Why is this your favourite medium of artistic expression?
Because it has the power to bring people to beautiful places and let them look outside again. It creates a relationship between outside and inside. It can create space. It is like an observatorium that is there to look at something else. The sculpture in the Cuccagna makes people aware of the quality of the space. Very often in a garden you wander around, you give every plant two seconds of attention. Actually I would like people to stand still, to do nothing, to be open.
In a certain way you are saying that your work is not important in itself.
There is already so much stuff built! Why should I eliminate parts of this beautiful world and only do the sculptures? I want to create the concentration necessary to appreciate what already exists, to appreciate the whole site. There is a big tradition of using art in public gardens to create attention, thus connecting culture and nature.

In your projects, you put a strong emphasis on cooperation. In your scripts there are recurrent words such as transition spaces, participation, recovery… that makes me think of concepts very much in fashion in the Seventies.
The goal of participation is to create the best possible use. I involve people during the phase of research, for defining the concept, the arguments and the ideas of the project, but not in the construction phase. I like to have two or three debates where I ask the people involved to convince each other. We want an argument, we want to hear what they need: it's their life, they have to be involved.
"Nowadays everything is about speed, communication, efficiency… That's why I am interested in designing a place where you can meditate on the craziness of the world, or escape it. A little view point, a place to go to look back on things"

You often choose transition spaces for your interventions. Why?
These are spaces where something has to be done. And then, the whole world is now in transition. Transition places are symbolic for the era we are living in. What happens with sculpture is that it has the power to create links between separate worlds—those of construction and of design, for example. A good example is our Observatorium Nieuw Terbregge ["The highway of few points"], a project where people from the neighbourhood can go into the park and look at the highway, that is a way to think at the time we spend in the traffic. It is really fascinating to be immersed by the noise, it's somewhat hypnotic.

The culture of space is an important topic for you. What are the words that you would use to define it?
Nowadays everything is about speed, communication, efficiency… That's why I am interested in designing a place where you can meditate on the craziness of the world, or escape it. A little view point, a place to go to look back on things.

Public institutions have a great role in the development and supporting of your projects.
There's a whole chain of people involved in our projects because, apart from supervising the transformation of the area and managing the bureaucratic problems connected to permits, they have to plan and manage a budget for the maintenance and cherishing of the public area. This latter is the most difficult part of the affair. It is left to the local people living close to the area.

At what stage is the Cuccagna project right now?
We are now in the process of organizing a team and focussing on the precise definition of the commission: who is going to use the garden, what are the plans until now, what sort of materials to be used, the possibility of including the terrace of the restaurant in the project, the need for permits. I have already studied a book by Multiplicity Lab on the cascine, I have been to the countryside to see the cascine, and I will come back in April; but it's really a big project full of uncertainties, we must be flexible… the project should be ready for the 2013 Salone.

What will the people visiting the area during this year's Salone find?
They will see the gardener growing vegetables informally, using the land that is there without the construction of the garden. They can enjoy the plants, their smell, the restaurant, the lack of cars and the open space. I would recommend seeing this Milanese site as bare as it is right now.