Building Memory: 5468796 Architecture

Canada’s entry for the 2012 Venice Biennale will be a three-dimensional landscape populated by projects that settle into a state of unsettledness. The founding members of Winnipeg’s 5468796 Architecture, Johanna Hurme and Sasa Radulovic, in collaboration with Jae-Sung Chon, have proposed the idea of Migrating Landscapes, a project that attempts to discover in the condition of unfamiliarity common to all immigrants to Canada, an architecture of precarious accommodation. The team envisions an immersive environment that will not only fill the pavilion in Venice but will spill onto the grounds, not so much a replication of the Canadian physical landscape as a foray into the contours of the psychological landscape. The works will be juried in July from the work of a group of emerging designers and architects under 45 years of age. “We create the new land and the winning architects will literally emigrate with their design onto the landscape,” says Jae-Sung Chon. “The exhibition will be an enactment of that settling.”

Migrating Landscapes was itself generated when the three organizers became aware that their stories articulated different levels of leaving and arriving, belonging and being alienated. Jae-Sung emigrated from Seoul, Hurme from Finland and Radulovic from war-ravaged Yugoslavia. Jae-Sung describes the period we live in as a “migrational age” in which the complicated dynamic of being unsettled and then looking for settledness is as common as a passport. For Hurme, it was a process of accommodating herself to the landscape, a factor she had not previously recognized as shaping an individual’s identity. “I was baffled by it and was surprised at my own reaction. Now I have a certain love for prairie space.” For Jae-Sung, the story his experience tells is double-hooked. “I think half of my life is here and half of my life is elsewhere. And that identity issue is always shifting.” For Radulovic the process remains creatively confusing. “It’s a disconnect on one level and a very intimate connection on the other. But it is never a perfect understanding of the space. You’re actually teetering on the line where you think you might know what you’re dealing with but you probably don’t. So the architecture tries to bridge or reconcile that.”

The impulse behind the Migrating Landscapes project and the firm’s general practice recognizes the architect’s changing role in society. 5468796 Architecture is attempting to move away from the romantic concept of the all-controlling master-builder. Its partners argue that, as a profession, architecture has to become more collaborative. “Architecture is about trying to synchronize and synthesize all the different areas of expertise into something that remains coherent and produces work that delights the soul,” says Johanna Hurme. “Soul food for the people who use it–there’s no other way to describe it.”

Above images: (Left) Canadian Pavilion, Venice, 1958, designed by BBPR: Gianluigi Banfi, Lodovico Belgiojoso, Enrico Peressutti, Ernesto Nathan Rogers. (Centre) Conceptual rendering, Migrating Landscapes Organizer, 2011, 5468796 Architecture Inc, Winnipeg. Images courtesy 5468796 Architecture Inc. (Right) Conceptual aerial rendering of MLO’s exhibition framework/landscape, Canadian Pavilion, Venice.

Volume 30, Number 2: Brian Jungen

This article originally appeared in Border Crossings #118, published May 2011.

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