Organised by the Tate Gallery in London, the 2015 Turner Prize – Europe's most prestigious tribute for the visual arts – caused quite a stir when it was awarded to a collective (and an entire community) for transforming a public space, rather than honouring a work by a specific artist. Not only was this first time that a collective won this Prize, it was also the first time that ‘non-artists‘ won the Turner, and the first time that the prize-winner was an architectural practice. This was the Assembly, set up in 2010 by eighteen recent architecture graduates from King's College, Cambridge University. With the support and contributions from local residents, this group used recycled materials to revitalise four streets in Toxteth, a run-down suburb of Liverpool.
A UIA2021RIO speaker, Jane Hall is one of the founders of Assembly. As they moved into their twenties, she and her classmates wondered where they would meet up after graduation. So they set up the Cineroleum movie theatre at a decommissioned petrol station, followed by a culture centre under a viaduct. Later still, they became involved with the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust in Toxteth. “We were sick of just working in the office; we wanted to get closer to construction and people," said this architect, in an interview with the Entre portal in 2016.
In parallel to her work with Assembly, Jane Hall won the first Lina Bo Bardi Fellowship in 2013. Focused on the work of this Italian-Brazilian Modernist architect, this scholarship programme rewards British researchers. Becoming interested in how Bo Bardi worked with artists and designers, influencing a generation of collectives, Jane says her focus is on temporary works that blend art and research.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Pedro Varella is a young architect working on the crossroads between Architecture and Contemporary Art. A founding partner of the gru.a (Grupo de Arquitetos) architecture firm, which was set up in 2013, he has already been honoured by local and international awards.
Drawing attention in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, his work is gaining worldwide visibility. After the huge Perimetral viaduct was demolished in 2015, as one of the major steps in the Rio Docklands modernisation project, this artist built an observation platform in the centre of the Praça XV square, on the site of one of its pillars, and at the same height as the viaduct (ten meters), where the public could admire newly-revealed views of the landscape. “Where once there was a heavy infrastructure, there is now emptiness, the wind, the fragility of an ephemeral structure," notes the text explaining this Cota 10 intervention, which won the Architecture Prize awarded by the Tomie Ohtake AkzoNobel Institute.
Two years later, this artist crossed Guanabara Bay to subvert the use and image of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC), an iconic work designed by Oscar Niemeyer in Niterói. The De onde não se vê quando se está intervention played with a lost-to-view-from-here concept offering the public a chance to be part of the city’s iconic landscape, losing sight of its firmly solidified image. To do so, Varella provided access to the Museum's roof, "where there is no longer any way of defining its limits or recognising its shape. The architecture that is usually known and recognised for its visual appearance is subverted into a prop for the imagination," Varella explains. Winning the Reynaldo Roels Jr. Prize awarded by the Parque Lage School of Visual Arts, this project was featured in the Brazil Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennial.
Back in Rio, Varella then took a questioning look at another icon: Copacabana Beach - "a massive landfill, which says a lot about Rio's urban planning," he reflects. Exploring the beach, time and weather, his A praia e o tempo installation blended intentions to demarcate a work area and reposition it through the shifting of its material: sand. The O Tempo International Performing Arts Festival in Rio featured dance performances at this venue. Winning the VI Architecture Prize awarded by the Tomie Ohtake AkzoNobel Institute in 2019, this intervention was also selected for the XI Ibero-American Architecture and Urban Planning Biennial in Asunción, Paraguay.
According to Varella, his work and the output of gru.a collective lie in the hybrid zone between the Visual Arts and Architecture.
Learn more about UIA2021RIO speakers at: https://www.gapcongressos.com.br/eventos/z0140/palestrantes_en.asp
Partnership on Paper and Design Works