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— urbantick

Book – Testify! Architecture for Real

Architecture is not only about building a new house. There is a wider context to creating spaces for people. Very often this is overlooked already in the planning and in the process. The social and cultural impact for both neighbours and users as well as the community is often a byproduct the wider public becomes aware if it results in conflicting interests.

To integrate these wider community aspects as part of the planning process, thinking ahead and thinking a projects as part of wider network of activities and places is a challenging and particular way of programming a project that require a multidisciplinary team. Architects, even if they wish they could, can not quite think this far out of the box.

Testify! Exhibition
Image taken from Studio Freireiss / View into the Testify! exhibition. It will be on until the 13 of November 2011 at the NAI in Rotterdam.

The new NAi Publisher book Testify!: The Consequences of Architecture‘, edited by Lukas Feireiss, presents a selection of 25 projects that all are designed to address this wider context of architecture. The subtitle sort of hint at the after life of a project, but really the projects are aiming to include the consequences from the innitial idea.

As the Gestalten puts it in short: “Testify! The Consequences of Architecture gathers 25 projects from around the globe that have taken the chance to open themselves up to critical self-reflection, submitting to a non-biased evaluation of their work from a lived-in perspective.”

Favela Painting Rio
Image taken from Lushlee / Favel Paintingin Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The project was developed by the Dutch artist duo Haas and Hahn, starting in 2006. As presented in the publication: “In the heart of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, the Dutch artist duo Haas and Hahn fostered pride and created jobs by painting enormous murals on concrete structures and residential facades. Through colour and imagery, the neighbourhoods have been given a fresh face and a point of media contact from wich to present themselves anew.

The publication accompanies an exhibition currently at the NAi in Rotterdam presenting the projects in space, to showcase the NAi’s engagement and work. A umber of the projects presented were initiated around an engagement with the NAi worldwide. This is of course a very noble thing to do but is, as the book illustrates, definitely a necessity for many urban locations.

This integrated view of spatial planning and the actual implementation is not new but has not founds its feet in practice. Since the fifties this is part of the theoretical planning discussion and pops up every now and then. It has lead to some participatory planning processes in the west, but not as elaborate and far reaching as this new publication proposes it.

The publication comes in four chapters with an introduction by Ole Bouman. Chapter one is ‘Urban Acupuncture: Reprogramming the City’, chapter 2 is ‘Smooth Operators: Interventions in the Public Realm’, chapter 3 ‘Reach Out: Spaces for Learning and Community’ and chapter 4 is ‘Exploring Horizons: Pushing the Boundaries of Architecture’.

Image taken from monkeyking on flickr / This photo was taken on August 6, 2010. Documentation of the Cinema Jenin in Jenin, a small city in the West Bank. Here the opening festival of 5-7 August 2010, which included the screening of several films as well as musical performances and other cultural events.

The book has a very designed and styled approach tot he topic. From the words to the images everything is cool and flashy. It brings the content a long way and is definitely helpful for the communication of a good cause. At times it is however almost over enthusiastic about itself, at the brink of invention.

Some of the projects you might have heard of already, but there will be others and complementary ones as well as new aspects of contextual and responsive architecture. Especially overall and in combination across the presented project, the book manages to seed the idea of thinking architecture in a wider context. It might not happen tomorrow, but it will sink in a stick.

Inkwenkwezi School Capetown
Image taken from Architype Source / Inkwenkwezi School Du Noon Township, Capetown, South Africa by Noero Wolff Architects, 2007. As presented in the publication “Through intelligent architecture with the aid of government and international support, a school in a poverty-stricken neighbourhood in Cape Town has become a safe place and a hub for youth from all over the Cape to gain the necessary tools to overcome their difficult situations and escape the traps of poverty through education.”

Participating are 2A+P/A, iAN+, ma0, Arup Foresight, at103, atelier d’architecture autogérée, Cinema Jenin, Decolonizing Architecture, dhk architects with towthink architects. Alejandro Echeverri Arquitectos, EcoLogic Studio, KARO* with Architektur+Netzwerk, Haas & Hahn, Li Xiaodong Atelier, Antanas Mockus, NAI Matchmaking, Noero Wolff Architects, Grávalos & Di Monte Architects, Enrique Peñalosa, Project Row Houses, raumlaborberlin, Sambuichi Architects, Senseable City Laboratory, Skateistan, Studio Gang, The Winter School Middle East, TYIN tegnestue, Zecc Architekten.

Testify! will be on display at the NAI until 13 November 2011 after which the exhibition will go on tour.

Testify! Book Cover
Image taken from iitaias / Book cover.

Feireiss, L. ed., 2011. Testify!: the Consequences of Architecture, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers.