Venice Biennale 2012: U.S. Pavilion Announces Designers and Participants

Proxy by Envelope a+d - Photo courtesy of Envelope a+d

Organized by the Institute for Urban Design, the American Pavilion for the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale is devoted to the theme Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good. The installation will feature 124 urban interventions initiated by architects, designers, planners, artists, and everyday citizens that bring positive change to their neighborhoods and cities. The selection was narrowed down after a nationwide open call for projects, which yielded over 450 submissions.

Designed by the Brooklyn creative studio Freecell, the space will feature a lively system of banners that will frame an archive of the urban interventions. Collaborating with Sausalito-based communication design studio M-A-D, the installation will also feature a supergraphic that serves as a bold counterpoint to the banners and act as an installation in and of itself. This will all be presented in an enveloping environment to put Spontaneous Interventions into a broader historical and cultural context. Continuing into the courtyard, a NYC-based studio Interboro (winner of the 2011 MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program) designed “outdoor living room” will serve as the pavilion’s hang-out and workshop space during the three months of the Biennale.

Continue after the break to review the selected projects and participants.

Air Casting HabitatMap (New York, 2010)

AirCasting by HabitatMap - Photo Courtesy of HabitatMap

AirCasting is a platform for recording, mapping, and sharing environmental data using smart phone technology. Aimed at enhancing the impact of community voices on building greener cities, users can upload local measurements of sound, temperature, humidity, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide, and share their data with a worldwide community via the AirCasting CrowdMap. It’s a project of HabitatMap, a New York nonprofit devoted to environmental health justice.

Better Block Project Jason Roberts & Andrew Howard (Dallas, 2010; now in other US cities)

Better Block Project by Team Better Block - Photo by Jason Roberts

Better Block is an open-source demonstration tool that founders Jason Roberts and Andrew Howard call “a living charrette.” Better Block organizes a team of volunteers that, virtually overnight, temporarily transforms a drab or problematic street into a “better block,” with urban design features such as bike lanes, sidewalk cafes, trees, and other amenities, showing the potential to create a revitalized and vibrant neighborhood. The exercise inspires communities to actively engage in the build-out process of their own neighborhoods. City officials now regard Better Block as a potential economic development tool.

Edible Schoolyard, P.S. 216 WORKac (Brooklyn, 2011)

Edible Schoolyard by WORK Architecture Company - Photo by Raymond Adams

For Alice Waters’ first Edible Schoolyard in New York, architecture firm WORKac created a place where students can grow, prepare, and enjoy meals together at Brooklyn’s P.S. 216. WORKac’s marriage of agriculture and the urban environment is made up of interlinking systems that produce energy and heat, collect rainwater, process compost and waste. The project features a retractable greenhouse that extends the growing season by sliding over 1600 square feet of soil during the winter months.

Fresh Moves Mobile Market Architecture for Humanity & Food Desert Action (Chicago, 2010)

Fresh Moves Mobile Market by Architecture for Humanity Chicago - Photo Courtesy of Architecture for Humanity Chicago

Fresh Moves Mobile Market is a one-aisle grocery store built in a retrofitted Chicago Transit Authority bus purchased for $1. Architecture for Humanity partnered with the Chicago nonprofit Food Desert Action to design the bus, which brings fresh produce to the 500,000 Chicago esidents living in food deserts. Fresh Moves’ website lists its hourly schedule, and not only sells produce but offers classes on cooking and healthy diets.

Guerrilla Bike Lanes & Signage Anonymous (Various cities)

The guerrilla bike lanes and sharrows (shared lanes) cropping up in major cities range from the clearly illicit (brightly colored spraypainted arrows and bike symbols) to studiously official (exact copies of the stencils cities use). Tired of waiting for cities to act, bike activists risk arrest by painting unauthorized lanes. But they have seen rewards: In several cases, illicit lanes have been made permanent. As one LA councilmember describes the lanes, “It’s the DIY project that roared.”

Hypothetical Development Organization Rob Walker (with contributions by Candy Chang) (New Orleans, 2010)

The Hypothetical Development Organization by The Hypothetical Development Organization - Rendering by Dave Pinter

The Hypothetical Development Organization creates a new form of urban storytelling. Members of this organization examine the city for compelling structures that have fallen into disuse. H.D.O. invents a hypothetical future for each selected structure, a future that isn’t necessarily bound by practicality or reality. The organization then creates convincing renderings of these imagined uses, and prints them onto large signs to be shared with the public.

Local Code: Real Estates Nicholas de Monchaux (San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, 2009; forthcoming, Chicago)

Local Code by Nicholas de Monchaux - Rendering courtesy of Local Code

Using GIS mapping, architect and urbanist Nicholas de Monchaux has identified thousands of vacant city-owned lots sites – over 1,600 in San Francisco alone. The U.C. Berkeley professor proposes a landscape design for each parcel, using parametric design to optimize thermal and hydrological performance. The result is a network of urban greenways that enhance the city’s ecology and benefit citizens’ health and safety.

Proxy Envelope a+d (San Francisco, 2010)

Leasing an empty site from the city, San Francisco architect Douglas Burnham redeveloped two large lots to become a kind of urban living room, with food stands, a temporary art gallery, a beer garden, and an area for food trucks. With plans for outdoor films and a farmers’ market, Proxy has become a focal point of its community and has become an inspiration for other cities looking to maximize latent real estate.

Spontaneous Interventions Description: Provided by the Institute for Urban Design

Via Spontaneous Interventions

Spontaneous Interventions captures one of the most compelling contemporary urban trends, wherein individuals are taking it upon themselves to create projects that expand the amenities, comfort, functionality, inclusiveness, safety, and sustainability of cities. From parklets to community farms, guerrilla bike lanes to urban repair squads, outdoor living rooms to pop-up markets, sharing networks, and temporary architecture, Spontaneous Interventions highlights viable citizen-led alternatives to traditional top-down urban revitalization tactics. Together, these projects offer an opportunity to examine the history of the American city, painting a critical and dynamic portrait of its most pressing issues today and a vision of its future. At heart, Spontaneous Interventions is a reflection of country’s complex attitudes towards civic participation, social justice, and the built environment.

Spontaneous Interventions resonates on many levels with the overall theme of the Biennale, conceived by director David Chipperfield, Common Ground. The projects featured in Spontaneous Interventions are characterized by their interest in collaboration, in serving the collective needs of a community, and in improving the literal common ground – public space. The exhibition examines how urban actions that originated as radical ideas have moved ever closer to the center, evolving from subversive tactic to increasingly accepted urban strategy.

Participants include: Architecture for Humanity, Better Block Project, Candy Chang, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Chicago Loop Alliance, City Repair, COMMONstudio, Nicholas De Monchaux, DoTank, envelope A+D, Freecell, Futurefarmers, GOOD, Fritz Haeg, Hester Street Collaborative, HOK, The Hypothetical Development Organization, Interboro, Kaja Kuhl/youarethecity, Mike Lydon/Street Plans Collaborative, Macro Sea, MAS Studio, Popularise, popuphood, Public Media Institute, Rebar, Quilian Riano/#whOWNSpace, Rockwell Group, Mark Shepard, Stamen, WORKac, and many others.

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About this author
Cite: Karissa Rosenfield. "Venice Biennale 2012: U.S. Pavilion Announces Designers and Participants" 28 Jun 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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