An installation highly commented by the visitors of the Vernissage of the Biennale. The Magnet and the Bomb presents two projects from the Chile based practice Elemental, lead by Alejandro Aravena. These projects are urban interventions that were required for specific social issues, that have required a common ground between several stakeholders. A ticking clock bomb counts down at the entrance of the exhibit, that will last the 100 days fo the Biennale, around the same time that both these projects took.
The projects are presented over big walls of unfinished wood, with projections over them. Each project timeline appear on a wall, carved in the case of Constitución (view the PRES Constitución project), and as a series of cards inserted into slots for Calama (view the Calama Plus project).
Chile is facing a big challenge, as the income has tripled in less than a decade, yet inequalities have remained intact. This is creating popular discontent that is accumulating pressure like a social time bomb. Equally, in order to maintain growth and remain competitive at a global level, the country must attract and retain knowledge creators. Presented here are the projects where architects were required to respond to these profound dilemmas.
The first example is Constitución, a city of 50,000 inhabitants that was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami that hit Chile on February 27th, 2010. Elemental had a hundred days to deliver projects ranging from public buildings to housing, from the energy matrix of the city to transportation. The architects proposed using a forest both to protect the city against future tsunamis and to provide democratic access to the river, as a park.
The second example is Calama, a city of 150,000 situated in the driest desert in the world. It is the core of the copper production in Chile, and in 2011, thousand of people protested against economica disparity and poor living conditions. Elemental was again hired to provide a series of projects in a hundred days- this time to decompress the social pressure. At the core of the conflict was a battle for water: who owned it, who was using it, and how much more would be required in the near future? Elemental’s response, which involved intense and challenging consultation with the local population involved expanding the river’s oasis area and transforming the mining camp into a proper city. In both cases, urban design was used as a force to attract people, knowledge, and development, as a device to defuse social unrest.