Shenzhen Hong Kong Biennale 2011-2012: "The Street" Pavilion


The installation repositions the facade between architecture and city as the surface of a quasi-object. This new type of object engages the street, the city's prevalent compositional device, but also strategically disengages from it.

Conventionally, building a street façade usually implies: 1) that the street is the primary urban space to which architecture has to comply as context, 2) that the character of the street takes priority over other formal determinants of the building such as program or structure.

The rejection of postmodernism has come with a rejection of both the street and the façade as formal entities, and, more generally, of contextualism as a strategy for linking architecture to city. Instead, and over the past two decades, we have seen the two being recast in a range of relationships from negation (e.g. bigness) to continuity (e.g. landforms).

The return to the street and to the proposition that "Architecture makes the City makes Architecture …" begs a reconsideration of this relationship beyond contextualism, negation, or continuity. It compels us to think of other possibilities that do not fetishize the street and façade, and that do not require a causal link between architecture and city.

The installation consists of a square surface that floats in the plane of the street facade. It creates a silhouette with the ground and with the adjacent buildings. Simultaneously, this facade is part of a continuous surface, set in structural and spatial tension with the 6x3.5 space. The surface deforms to let visitors in and out, to structurally lean on the existing walls, and to act as display space. In doing so, it acquires internal consistency and legibility as a frustrum. Importantly, it generates its autonomy out of the very contingencies of context, structure, and program.

Inside this floating quasi-object, the exhibition is organized around five themes that situate the projects of HSS in relation to contemporary debates in architecture:

1. Engagement through Architecture (on the social agency of architecture)
2. Geographics (on the relationship of architecture to its context)
3. Intense Edges Open Spaces (on the relationship between program and form)
4. Inscription (on the role of the surface in architecture)
5. Quasi-Object (on the nature of the architectural object)


Exhibition Title: “The Street”
Project Team: Hashim Sarkis, Jonathan Scelsa (Project Coordinator), Penn Ruderman, Cynthia Gunadi