Posts Tagged ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’

Photography | Brasilia, Utopia, and Inertia

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Chamber of Deputies (Annex IX) #2, 2012



Vincent Fournier
‘Brasilia’
The Ravestijn Gallery
Amsterdam | The Netherlands
16 April > 28 May 2016



Brasilia, the purpose-built federal capital of Brazil, constructed from scratch in the middle of the 1950s by urban planner Lucío Costa with landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx and architect Oscar Niemeyer, is grappling with a dilemma. Planned for around 500,000 inhabitants, in 1960 – the year of its inauguration – there were already almost 140,000 people resident in the city. By 1970 the figure had grown to 537,000. It has now reached 2.5m and is growing at a phenomenal rate of almost 3% per year. The question is how to reconcile the pressing needs of the increasing population with the utopian dream on which the city was founded.

The Claudio Santoro - National Theatre,
ceramic tile panel
by Athos Bulcão, 2012



The torpid atmosphere pervading the narrative in Vincent Fournier’s ‘Brasilia’ series seems to imply that a solution, which deals effectively with the situation, if indeed one does emerge, might be a long time in coming. The anonymous single figure in his Chamber of Deputies (Annex IX) #2, 2012, could be looking for an inspired idea in the landscape beyond his circular window. The image conveys no sense of anticipation, but the bored children photographed at The Claudio Santoro National Theatre appear to have been waiting for some time – the security man, a permanent fixture, is rooted to his position.

The Itamaraty Palace - Foreign Relations Ministry,
spiral stairs, 2012



Having been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1987, Brasilia’s extremely strict planning controls ensure that, unlike it’s close contemporary, Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh (still only tentatively listed for UWHS status), which is gradually being eroded and is at risk from the ad hoc mixed development that scars most other Indian cities, and where slum areas have already been established, the pristine Brazilian city’s limits are still easily distinguishable from the expanse of virgin landscape into which it was introduced.

The Itamaraty Palace - Foreign Relations Ministry,
wood and steel panel
by Athos Bulcão, 2012



Inertia stops the energetically curving spiral staircase in Fournier’s photograph of the Foreign Relations Ministry, at The Itamaraty Palace, dead in its tracks, while a busy wood and steel decorative panel at the same location masks a hive of inactivity.

Unesco go so far as to admit that Brasilia is vulnerable to urban development pressure including increased traffic and public transport requirements, but insist that the singular and outstanding value of Lucio Costa’s scheme, ‘which remains wholly preserved, both physically and symbolically’, is not in jeopardy.

The Ravestijn Gallery is showing a selection of 36 photographs from Vincent Fournier’s ‘Brasilia’ series, prints from which form part of the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the LVMH Contemporary Art Foundation in Paris.

All photographs are C-prints on Ilford Fine Art Baryta with white border
All images courtesy The Ravestijn Gallery


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Architecture | Kultur:Stadt (Culture:City)

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Kultur:Stadt (Culture:City)
Akademie der Künste
Berlin, Germany
15th March – 26th May, 2013

After the Wall fell and reunification followed, the re-establishment of Berlin as a cultural centre, would be a symbolic act as important to the German people as rebuilding its capital. The Altes Museum, inaugurated in 1876, was reopened after substantial renovations in December 2001. The event marked the end of the first stage in the masterplan to renovate the city’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island) – declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The formidable, five-building museum complex, devised in 1841 was finally completed in 1930. A few years later, 70% of it lay in ruin.

The venue for Kultur:Stadt (Culture:City), The Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts), lies elsewhere the city. This ambitious exhibition and associated lectures, film screenings, concerts, sound installations and conferences, will take a critical eye to the relationship between the architecture of culture and the social reality of the 21st century, and aims to show the impact of art and culture on cities from a worldwide perspective.

Some of the most spectacular and innovative building projects of our age: Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, 1993-1997, by Frank Gehry; Tate Modern, London, 1994-2000 and The Tate Modern Project, 2004-2016, by Herzog & de Meuron, and the Guangzhou Opera House, 2002-2010 by Zaha Hadid Architects, will be put under scrutiny. In an effort to determine what lessons have been learned, their historic predecessors: Sydney Opera House, 1957-1973 by Jørn Utzon; Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 1965-1974 by Peter Celsing Arkitektkontor; Centre Pompidou, Paris, 1971-1977 by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, will be studied closely. In contrast, the inspection of community-generated projects, at the opposite end of the financial scale, like Detroit Soup also forms part of the agenda. Set up three years ago by Kate Daughdrill and Jessica Hernandez, Soup describes itself as a public dinner and collaborative situation. A democratic experiment in micro-funding, it functions as a hub bringing together various creative communities in Detroit. Around 40 people sat down at the first dinner – numbers now average 225 per month. The project has moved from funding artists in need of a little money to get a project underway, to a wide variety of community activities that have included cleaning up public parks. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to study initiatives such as The Centre Pompidou Mobile, launched in 2011, a touring exhibition that uses an adaptable, collapsible, tent-like structure to bring the experience of visiting a national collection of art to those remote from cultural centres.

The often criticised European Capital of Culture scheme was started in 1985 with the idea of creating opportunities for cities to generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits, to help foster urban regeneration, and to change their image by raising their visibility and international profile. More than 40 cities from Stockholm to Genoa, Athens to Glasgow and Cracow to Porto have so far been designated. The effectiveness of the scheme will be discussed and evaluated, via examples such as Kunsthaus Graz, built in 2003 by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier.

The architecture of libraries as ‘Spaces of Information’ will also be considered, amongst them the Seattle Central Library, Washington, USA, designed by a team led by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus. Described by the influential Arch Daily website, as ‘more than a mere library, but an enhaced public space around knowledge,’ SCL represents an attempt at re-defining the traditional concept of a library by organizing itself into spatial compartments each dedicated to, and equipped for, specific duties. In an age where information is accessible anywhere, it makes curatorship of content the key component to making the library vital.

Ironically, by 2025, when renovations are due for completion, unless those responsible keep a very close eye on developments and adapt accordingly, the debates raised by events such as Kultur:Stadt (Culture:City) may have transformed our ideas about the form our cultural institutions should take to such a degree that the Museumsinsel will already be moribund.

Images from top
Seattle Central Library, USA, 2004
Architects OMA/LMN
Office for Metropolitan Architecture in joint venture with LMN
Photo Philippe Ruault

Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1977
Architects Studio Piano & Rogers
Architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers
Photo courtesy RPBW, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Kunsthaus Graz, Austria, 2003
Architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier
Photo Universalmuseum Joanneum/Christian Plach

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain,1997
Architect Frank O Gehry
Photo David Heald
©The Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, New York

Centre Pompidou Mobile, France
Architects Patrick Bouchain and Loïc Julienne
Photo Loïc Julienne


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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