The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) is a new exhibition space created for EDP, a Portuguese foundation in Lisbon. The building opened in October of 2016 and just created its first curated exhibition. I had an opportunity to visit its exhibit Utopia/Dystopia: A Paradigm Shift in Art and Architecture and it provided an opportunity to see how the new structure functions and is being programmed. Designed by British architect Amanda Levete's firm AL_A, The MAAT operates as a ‘Kunsthalle,’ with no permanent collection of artifacts, but as a space to promote and stage cross-cultural or interdisciplinary experimentation. The building has several functional exhibition galleries, but its focus is an enormous, 13,000-square-foot, centralized elliptical space, ringed with steep inclined viewing ramps made for theatrical performances and temporary installations. The ramps are meant as viewing platforms but the steepness of the slope propels viewers down and then up and around the central ellipse. This constant movement by viewers can allow them—if curated properly—to be part of the action or to become the event itself. It's an interactive public space for an age more familiar with digital and VR images on a screen than in a physical gallery. The low, long profile of The MAAT's exterior appears like a slightly opened oyster shell set in the mud along the facing Tagus river and estuary. If one imagines the shell opened ever so slightly, this is where Levete has placed the entrance into the building. Up a curving set of long, narrow steps, with a hovering deep overhang meant to capture the dappled reflection of the river, the public is pulled in a short entrance into the lobby and then into the grand open performance ellipse. Its facade is covered in 15,000 “crackle glazed three-dimensional” tiles that give it a fish scale like dimension on the cityscape and honors the city’s many tiled facades. When these ceramic rectangles catch beams of natural dappled or artificial light the building magically glows like a light bulb. But it is not simply the facade of the building that comes alive through refraction. This is a building meant to perform on every surface. It is, in some ways, as much landscape as it is an enclosure and thus a structure meant to perform. The term ‘performative architecture’ stands for several older and newer ideas in architecture and the design of urban public space. If by the term one means buildings created to encourage active public engagement and themselves actively participate like Roman baroque urban experiments or even worlds fairs, then Levete’s building is an unqualified success. It becomes a pedestrian promenade and visitors areg meant to walk along, onto, or over its tiled sloping roofscape like Foreign Office Architect’s 2003 Yokohama terminal. Last week's opening programmed performances to take place on every surface of the structure. It started with a musician ‘playing’ the ceramic tile facade with a vibraphonist's soft mallets and group of musicians dancing and singing on the top step of the covered front entry platform. The central oval space featured an opening night performance by Mexican artist Hector Zamora that featured crews of migrant laborers destroying a fleet of old unusable (but beautiful) fishing boats as a protest against the disappearance of a way of life represented by the small craft. The highlight of the first-day performance featured O Terceiro Paraiso, choreographed by Italian Michelangelo Pistoletto on the sloping roofscape public space. The Italian arte povera and ‘action’ artist theorized a potential new utopia—in accordance with the exhibition opening in the galleries downstairs—that asked several hundred participants to hold hands in three labyrinths made of a single line that would create a new third utopia from the two earlier ones that he theorized as an everyday 'Gesamtkunstwerk.' The performance was pushed along by the large sloping facade of the roof that stands as an open space above the riverside promenade and facing back to the city in the distance. It should be pointed out that the Levete renderings show the roofscape with a whiplash-like tail flying over the adjacent freeway to the roof of The MAAT. This freeway acts as a wall that cuts off Lisbon from its waterfront as if it were lifted out from any number of American cities. When (and if) this tail ramp is finished it will bring the city across the freeway and onto the roofscape and be the performative space the museums want to be for their home city. Levette has delivered a potentially valuable new focus and hub for the Portuguese capital but it remains for the MAAT director Pedro Gandhao and his curatorial staff to realize the spatial and performative qualities of the museum. They have the opportunity to make this one the most exciting venues in the world that programs architecture and technology alongside art.
Posts tagged with "Lisbon":
Héctor Zamora has three boats destroyed in Lisbon’s MAAT to protest loss of maritime culture and traditions
These boats have just been destroyed by a group of workers to protest the loss of “the maritime tradition deeply rooted in the Portuguese identity." The act is part of the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT)'s current exhibition Utopia/Dystopia: A Paradigm Shift in Art and Architecture. The artist Héctor Zamora has created two other similar destructions in Mexico City and Paris but in this event takes on an added dimension since the boats represent the types of crafts that recent refugees are taking to get to Europe and the crew who will be destroying them are all refugees. Héctor Zamora has three boats destroyed in Lisbon’s MAAT to protest loss of maritime culture and traditions. from Architect's Newspaper on Vimeo.
The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), designed by London firm AL_A, was opened this month in Lisbon, Portugal by the Fundação Energias de Portugal (EDP) to coincide with the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. The building is located within the Portuguese capital's Belém area and next to the Tagus River. Spearheaded by Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete, AL_A's design sees 15,000 three-dimensional, crackle-glazed, white ceramic tiles span an undulating roofscape, forming a reflective, rippling facade on the riverbank. While the rooftop terrace references the adjacent river through its flowing form, visitors can enjoy views of the 2,000-year-old São Jorge Castle courtesy from atop the cantilevered structure. Such expansive views, however, would be a rarity in (or on) a building that adds 75,350 square feet of public space yet barely rises the equivalent of three stories. However, the museum's four galleries can be found below ground, thus allowing the building not to tower above the low-rise Lisbon skyline. “In understanding EDP’s ambition for Lisbon, our design draws on the context of the site, creating both physical and conceptual connections to the waterfront and back to the heart of the city," said Levete. "The waterfront is so essential to the project that the design literally reflects it. The overhanging roof that creates welcome shade is used to bounce sunlight off the water and into the Main Gallery, one of the four interconnected exhibition spaces." Despite the museum's opening, the project not yet wholly complete. A pedestrian bridge coupling the museum (via its roof) to another gallery and restaurant nearby has yet to be finished. In addition to this, further public space will be added with a park area designed by Lebanese studio Vladimir Djurovic Landscape Architecture. This is all part of the project’s second phase, scheduled to start in March next year. Three of the aforementioned sunken gallery spaces will also be finished in 2017. Here, visitors will find work from Rotterdam-based architecture firm OMA and artists Aldo Rossi and Yona Friedman. Meanwhile, French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s Pynchon Park installation is now on display in the Oval Gallery as part of the Utopia/Dystopia exhibition that will run through into the new year. Pynchon Park occupies all 10,760 square feet of the gallery and invites audiences to engage and become part of the work in a "fun and intriguing way."
With the purpose of conferring the city of Porto, Portugal a new global identity, architects Pedro Bandeira and Pedro Nuno Ramalho have propositioned for the relocation of the Maria Pia Bridge from its original location on the River Douro to the city center. Plans indicate that the bridge’s framework could be easily dismantled and, though it may seem absurd, the proposal comes with a clever solution. Also called Ponte Dona Maria, the railway bridge was built in 1877 by Gustave Eiffel—the same designer of the Eiffel Tower—but has not realized its original purpose since the early 1990s. Constructed entirely of wrought iron, its double-hinged crescent arch once supported the Lisbon-bound train for 1,158 feet at a height of 200 feet across the River Douro. When built, it was the world’s longest single-arch span. The architects sense that the railway bridge has “lost its scale and dignity; it is hidden and forgotten.” By repositioning it in the center of Porto, the bridge would redeem its visibility and gain significance as a work of art. Remarkably, the undertaking could be easily implemented, with a budget of less than 10 million euros, by disassembling and reassembling the surprisingly light structure within five months. While Bandeira and Ramalho's railway bridge relocation concept may be on track to “bring a new monumentality to the city, the bridge would be a monument of the deindustrialisation, where the materiality of the nineteenth century gives place to the contemporary immateriality,” their proposal failed to win over the Portuguese Council of Architects, whose competition sought schemes for urban regeneration. Nevertheless, the duo contends the move could serve as a spark for urban renewal.
The 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale's emphasis on active workshops, networking and "research" projects rather than architectural set pieces often plays as live performative tableaus. The public focus of the exhibition is indeed an elevated stage in the city's Praca da Figueira (Square of the Fig Tree) where architects are performing plays, encouraging civic engagement with public performances, and programming research workshops. Performance is also the operative scheme in another triennial initiative, The Institute Effect, that takes place the city's Museum of Design. The Museum of Design, headquartered in a spectacular bank space, has given its third floor over to 12 "global institutions of architecture and culture" that are meant to appear at different times during the three month triennial to create "bespoke programs" of talks, debates, hands on workshops, and performances. The day of the opening the space was alive as the Italian firm, Fabrica, was designing and building out the space with tables, shelves, pin-up boards, and graphic designers creating a Phaidon book. The idea here seems to be that as part of this performance activity the "audience" or visitors will be encouraged to intact with the twelve invited organizations (including the C.U.P., Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Strelka School, and the online and database group Spatial Agency) in their programs and together create a record of the event in an ebook. The sort of experimentation and research-based projects featured in this triennial are exactly the sort of activities young firms should be engaging in—particularly in these perilous economic times—as they develop their practices. It's exactly the path traveled by the next curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale, Rem Koolhaas.
I wrote in my first post from the Lisbon Architecture Triennale Close, Closer that it's the first international exhibition that does not need or even want outside visitors. The exhibition's organizer and head curator, Beatrice Galilee, downplays installations and object-making in favor of active workshops, networking, and "research" projects aimed primarily at residents of the Portuguese capital. Galilee calls this idea—that invited architectural exhibitions should no longer be to create and install physical tableaus, but to initiate and carry out localized research—"an alternative reading of contemporary spatial practice." She and her generation of curators is calling for a reengagement of the "social and humanistic" aspects of architecture and these exhibitions' successes or failures depend on how well their research projects engage with local communities and how well it informs these publics about places and events that surround them everyday. The exhibition opened, for example, with a program of "Speech Acts, Body Acts, and City Acts" in a large but under-utilized urban plaza, Praca da Figueira (Square of the Fig Tree), where the Triennale has placed a beautiful circular, tilting stage for public events designed by Mexican Frida Escobedo. The first day included a debate by Lisbon mayoral candidates that brought out residents of the plazas fronting buildings to listen from their window and then a program of performances by Francisca Benetiz, Visible Speech, aimed at the city's Deaf Community using signing experts. In the evening the civic stage hosted Superpowers of Ten by Andrés Jaque / Office for Political Innovation (curated by Jose Esparza Chong Cuy), a play based on Charles and Ray Eames' film of the same name. The play is described as a celebration of "the struggle of inhabiting in and out of the frame, recuperating narratives lost somewhere in the scaling up and in the scaling down of the camera." The first few days of the triennial these events all were seen by a wide variety of of local people crossing the square or sitting in its many cafes and restaurants. It's hard to quantify the degree to which these events truly impact on the city, but they are open and accessible to the public. The impulse to have architects operating in civic space rather than on the drawing board is now, at least, the preferred operative model for young curators and we will likely see more of it in future biennales and triennials.
The Lisbon Triennale, Close, Closer, is the first architecture exhibition that does not need, nor even want outside visitors. In recent years, the relevance of the international exposition in a defined physical boundary has been questioned, given the energy and expense (particularly in Venice) involved in putting the event together and the ubiquity of digital display and information dissemination. Why not, many people argue, just do the whole thing on line and open it up to the whole world rather than forcing visitors to trek to expensive cities and countries? Lisbon's Close, Closer will have a tremendous online presence, but, more to the point, the curators of the exhibition, under the overall guidance of British curator Beatrice Galilee, have downplayed expensive formal installations in favor of workshop, networking, and research projects. Located all over Lisbon, these events are meant for the residents of the Portuguese capital—not architecture tourists from the around the world. Like others of her generation, Galilee turns away from formal exhibition expression toward a working method that emphasizes the social role of architecture and simultaneously questions the formal role of architecture. José Mateus, the president of the Lisbon Triennale, claims, "after a decade has passed since the construction boom, the mass proliferation of architectural sound bites, designed in record time from renders made overnight, people have come even to doubt the social and humanistic role that architecture can and should hold." It should not come as a surprise, but New York's Storefront for Art and Architecture has a very strong presence here, not only in the city wide workshops conducted by its director, Eva Franch, but several ex-interns and assistants from Kenmare Street are programming, curating, and organizing major parts of the Lisbon show. Today, ex-Storefronter Francisca Benitez organized workshops with sign language instructors for the deaf community in the oval stage created by the Triennale in the central plaza 'Praca da Figueira' and tomorrow another Storefront assistant, Jose Esparza Chong Cuy, now living in Mexico City, will begin his city wide programming. The strong social dynamic of everything Galilee has organized will likely be attacked by another movement back to formalism—just as happened in the Venice biennale in the 1980s. But for the moment this exhibit is the hallmark for all other exhibitions wanting to make a social argument about architecture in an exhibition format. It is engaging to be here and witness the workshops taking place all over the city, but the record of this work after it is flittered through the realities of contemporary Lisbon life will all be there to see—online.
The Venice Biennale may be the most visible and glamorous architecture exhibition in the world, but it is not the only one on the design calendar. In fact, these exhibitions have been proliferating around the globe in the past ten years and several have not made it past their inaugural year. One of the best of the newer architecture exhibits is the Lisbon Triennale, which is about to host its third exhibition opening September 12, 2013. The Lisbon event, like any new kid on the block, is more youthful and full of new ideas and features many architects who are appearing on the international stage for the first time. The theme of the upcoming Triennale is Close, Closer and is directed by English curator Beatrice Galilee along with Liam Young, Mariana Pestana, and Jose Esparza. The curators are proposing that during the event architecture will be portrayed as a living, social, and artistic force, charting cultural, political, scientific, and aesthetic territories. They propose to do this by examining "the multiple possibilities of architectural output through critical and experimental exhibitions, events, performances, and debates across" the beautiful city of Lisbon. The exhibition does not open for another three months, but the curators are already preparing the creation of a 40-square-meter, hyper-real, scale model for the Treinnale. One of the curators, Laim Young, is running a workshop for students and young architects to build this model before the opening of the triennial. The workshop will take place between July 29 and August 9 in Lisbon. It will not just create a model, but will provide an immersive experience described as an "intense sensory experience of the future urban habitat, which the visitor is welcome to walk through and explore." What better way to spend ten days this summer than working on a large-scale model in Lisbon?
EXD’11 Lisbon Design Biennale Opening Week September 28–October 2 “Useless,” the theme of Lisbon’s the sixth design biennale organized by Experimentadesign, grew out of a desire to explore what the term “useful” means today. A number a guest-curated exhibitions form the backbone of the event: for Sidelines, design historian Emily King considers the motivations behind collecting art and objects, deploying Lisbon’s museums to display an eclectic series of private collections; in Utilitas Interrupta, Joseph Grima, editor of Domus, asks what abandoned infrastructure and its implements (above) say about our society. These shows run through November, but opening week highlights also include a series of lectures by design scene fixtures like Hans Ulrich Obrist and Zoe Ryan, as well as a specially organized film series.