Stripping the Storefront

Storefront's Ministry for All breaks down Brasilia's socio-political infrastructure

A new exhibition at the Storefront for Art and Architecture will remove the gallery's concrete panel facade to reveal the space's inner workings. (Romerito Pontes/Flickr)

Brasilia, the midcentury planning marvel designed by Oscar Niemeyer along Lucio Costa’s master plan, boasts monumental civic structures that have long provided a sense of stoicism as the face of Brazil‘s capital. But what goes on inside those government buildings—like many others around the world—changes from one administration to another, influencing the near future of a country seemingly in constant unrest. 

Since Brasilia’s buildings can’t be stripped apart to reveal their inner workings, architect Carla Juaçaba and artist Marcelo Cidade will expose the physical infrastructure of the Storefront for Art and Architecture as a commentary on the social and political foundations of the built environment. This site-specific exhibition, Ministry for All, breaks down Niemeyer’s utopian vision for Brasilia by removing the concrete panels of the SoHo space’s iconic facade and bringing them inside. 

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Opening this Saturday, September 21, the showcase won’t look like a typical, polished art installation at Storefront. Instead, construction materials such as insulation foam and plywood boards will line the exterior, while the concrete panels will be rearranged to make new forms within the gallery’s interior. According to Juaçaba and Cidade, “this layered installation extrudes the facade inward and allows visitors to walk through it, providing a different reading of its panels now that they are no longer forming their intended function.” 

Juaçaba and Cidade’s interventions will serve as a reminder that spaces are often used differently than they were intended for when originally built, solely because their users vary widely and change over time. It’s both a conceptual and poetic critique, according to the curators, on the resilience of architecture and will force the viewer to think deeper on how societies around the world can ultimately build systems that do work for all. 

Ministry for All will be on view through December 14 and is the second exhibition in Storefront’s year-long program, Building Cycles, which explores the differences between building as a place and as a process. 

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