To see in Venice: reinterpretation of the built environment, the water and the ecological holistic system


Views of the Watershed urbanism Exhibition, curated by Dean Adrian Parr, at the Architecture Biennale of the European Cultural Center in Venice

No matter what kind, water keeps us all alive. That is the theme at the heart of Urbanism on the watershed, the exhibition curated by the College of Design Dean Adrian Parr, which is now on view in Venice, Italy – a fitting location as the city itself is defined by its historic canals.

“We have a responsibility to be sensitive to other species and our waterways,” said Parr. “Although cities are human habitats, they are not just human habitats. They harbor a multitude of species and ecosystems other than humans. “

Parrs Watershed urbanism Exhibition is part of PERIOD EXISTENCE, the biennial architecture exhibition of the European Cultural Center in Palazzo Bembo, Palazzo Mora and Giardini della Marinaressa. The exhibition runs until November 21st, at the same time as the Venice Architecture Biennale. The exhibition includes a group of 212 international architects, artists, academics and creatives who explore contemporary issues such as climate change, migration, water and rapid urbanization by “reinventing new ways of life and rethinking architecture”.

“Although cities are human habitats, they are not just human habitats. They harbor a multitude of species and ecosystems other than humans. “

Architecture professor Erin Moore is also an invited participant of the PERIOD EXISTENCE Exhibition curated by the European Cultural Center. Her installation “Topography: Feminist Re-mapping of the Space of Fossil Fuel Transportation” is a series of wall-mounted topographic models. “We are re-using the media of architectural design practice,” wrote Moore, “to redraw the space of fossil fuel transport to include and reclaim the ecological, human and non-human material whole.” The installation was made with her design research team FLOAT developed.

Photo of the architecture exhibition in Venice

Reproduced from Professor Erin Moore topography Exhibition at Palazzo Mora by Garrett Leaver / FLOAT

While these events were slated to open in Venice in 2020 – events that will bring more than 600,000 international visitors to the city – the pandemic postponed their start dates to May 2021.

Invited to curate in her capacity as UNESCO Chair in Water and Human Settlements, Parr decided to create an exhibition of speculative and real-world projects that explored the intersection of water, land and the built environment throughout Trinity Watershed. Parr uses the urban growth of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex as a stepping stone to investigate and rethink ecologically and hydrologically sensitive forms of urban development.

These exhibited design projects include the work of faculty and students; professional work by the international design firms HKS Architects, Perkins + Will and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates; and urban watershed development initiatives through the Texas cities of Arlington, Fort Worth, and Lewisville.

Against the background of the frescoes, chandeliers and glass doors of Palazzo Bembo with a view of the Rialto Bridge and the main canal of Venice, Parr’s exhibition looks like an independent installation. Projects are represented as blueprints on loosely hanging fabrics through which the viewer wanders. Data visualizations appear on light blue glass (a tribute to Italy’s famous Murano glass) and line the white walls at eye level. And a film installation of trans-species life serves as a border area between the speculative and the real. The film is a montage of urban life that oscillates between human and non-human events. Here micro-urban worlds become visible and audible through poetic sequences, overlaid with atmospheric soundscapes of dissonance and polyphony. The third room presents a more traditional exhibition format as the real and planned urban watershed projects line the walls.

A photo of the Watershed Urbanism Exhibition in Venice, Italy

The Watershed urbanism Exhibition at Palazzo Bembo

Moore’s installation topography can be seen in the Palazzo Mora on the Rio di San Felice. For this project, the FLOAT team included the PhD students from the Department of Architecture Mike Kwilos, March ’20, and Jeremy McCarthy, March ’19, who worked on the digital modeling and production of the 3D-printed models, as well as the student Garrett Leaver (BArch , Class 2021) who contributed to the digital modeling. The doctoral student Heather Tietz (MLA, born 2021) in the landscape architecture department developed data sets. The work builds on student work from the architectural design studio “Lines, Pipelines, and the Contested Space of Transcontinental Fossil Fuel Transport in the Pacific Northwest” (2016) and the 2019 pipeline project by FLOAT, which built three installations in protest against a great nature includes gas pipeline in Oregon.

“This is part of a larger work that aims to challenge extraction-based power structures and advance cultural thinking about the role of design in the future of fossil fuels and the future of climate,” wrote Moore.

Parr plans to travel to Venice in October to have a broad international discussion on urbanism in a watershed in collaboration with the Design Futures Council and the European Cultural Center. Moore will attend the exhibition and the Venice Architecture Biennale as soon as public health recommendations allow.

Photo of the topography exhibition

Of the topography Exhibition; Photo by Mike Kwilos / FLOAT


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