Brief Encounter / TRAUMNOVELLE

responding to Parasite 2.0

Can we exhibit architecture?

To answer this question, let’s first try to understand what it means to exhibit. The Cambridge Dictionary provides three possible interpretations.

Exhibit (verb)
example: Most zoos try to exhibit animals in naturalistic settings.

“To show something publicly.”

The question then becomes: can architecture be shown publicly? In that case: yes, architecture is always a public act even when it’s made to hide our undesirable secrets. If we compare architecture events or exhibitions to zoos, the aim to show architecture in its natural setting is far from being attained. Architecture is shown outside of its “natural context”, and the process of extraction is precisely that which allows to create the exhibition narration. The absence of “parasitic” elements linked to context which don’t adhere to the curatorial vision creates a de facto diorama. An idealized framework which has the pretence of showing archetypical – and as thus ideal – architecture, giving the public a reassuring sense of the social utility of architecture.

“To show something in public for competition, sale, or amusement”

The relationship between the zoo and the exhibition appears to be relevant again. Of course, they are educational spaces. We go there to learn things about how other beings behave, how they live, where they come from, what their primitive habits are. They are also moments of leisure and entertainment, bonding opportunities. Just like the zoo capitalizes on the apex predator’s enslaved creatures, the architectural exhibition is part of a devilish flight forward in the fight for visibility which immediately translates the competitive nature of the architectural profession. To whom does this competitiveness benefit? “Divide and rule”, as they say, forbidding any form of collective action through architecture.

“(in Law) a thing used as evidence (= proof that something is true) in a trial”

The zoo is based on the understanding that the signs of animal misery – the repetitive movements, the circular trails – are to be ignored and that the purpose of the institution remains unchallenged by them. The zoo is proof of the grandeur of the human race and the extent of its domination on the animal kingdom. Can architecture also be used as a proof that something is true? Architecture thus becomes a political tool articulating spaces of representation with specific values – generally related to the possession of a certain form of power. The architecture exhibition is another medium articulating architecture with a system of values. Architecture has, time and again, been used as an instrument of oppression specifically by taking up the pretense of objectivity.

In this framework, perhaps the question is in fact: “Should we exhibit architecture?”


1 Traumnovelle is a militant faction founded by three Belgian architects – Léone Drapeaud, Manuel Léon Fanjul and Johnny Leya. They use architecture and fiction as analytical, critical and subversive tools to emphasize contemporary issues and dissect their resolutions.
They curated (together with architect Roxane Le Grelle) Belgium pavilion at Venice Biennale 2018. Their concept of Eurotopie was also selected among 25 ideas at the Future Architecture Call for ideas in 2019.
Interview in Kontextur.
Interview in THE WORD.
Parasite2.0 was founded in 2010 by Stefano Colombo, Eugenio Cosentino and Luca Marullo. Studio is based between Milan and Brussels.They investigate the status of human habitat acting within a hybrid of architecture, design and visual art.
They are the 2016 winners of YAP MAXXI. Among other places, they were exhibiting also at Aformal Academy in the 2015 UABB in Shenzhen or at the Venice Architecture Biennale in the 2012 and in the 2014. They published the book Primitive Future Office which was one of the outcomes of the project with the same title which started from the research developed within the VIR artist residency program in Milan 2014. They are Professor at the MADE Program and Assistant Professor at the Politecnico di Milano and NABA Nuova Accademia Belle Arti Milano.
Brief Encounter* is a short and quick format that aims to reveal relationships between individuals, different professions, etc. By avoiding a more complex interview, it aims to recall the immediacy, the lightness of a single, acute, direct but essential question. A brief encounter of two people, a chance to ask someone about something related to their professional interest at a given time, publicly. A meeting framed by the extent of a single question and the virtual space of MAG D A.
* Brief Encounter comes from the 40´s movie by David Lean, about a chance meeting of two random people at a railway station.
22 / 4 / 2020
by Gabriela Smetanová
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