“Playground, Artifacts for Interaction” by Felipe Ferrer will be featured in the Peru Pavilion in the 2021 Venice Biennale of Architecture. The project was the winner of the Curatorial Competition held by The Cultural Patronage of Peru that aimed to highlight how fences and gates shape our understanding of public spaces.
In a November interview with El Comercio titled Felipe Ferrer and Art as Critique of Lima, The City of Closed Gates, Ferrer explains that "most of the time, the things we don't notice are the things right in front of our noses, such as gates and what they represent." In many ways, this statement goes hand in hand with the theme chosen by the curator of the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale, Hashim Sarkis: "How will we live together?" (¿Cómo viviremos juntos?).
“We need a new paradigm when it comes to space. In the context of the widening political divide and rising economic inequality, we ask that architects start imagining spaces within which we can live together generously," declared Sarkis.
The project proposes removing the gates enclosing public spaces throughout Lima and Peru's other urban centers, inviting residents to freely enter and interact with the spaces. By removing these "security" mechanisms, which really serve as tools of segregation, and installing benches, playgrounds, and soccer fields, the project aims to divert all the energy, time, and resources put into installing fences and channel it into bringing new life to these public spaces.
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Enclosed by fences, Lima's public parks are oftentimes inaccessible to residents, fomenting an overall feeling of exclusion and lack of ownership. With cities becoming increasingly crowded and political and socio-economic stability constantly fluctuating, people as a whole have become distrusting and fearful of one another.
We need more places of integration rather than exclusion. El Comercio newspaper published a statistic indicating that firefighters are only able to reach 30% of the emergencies that they are called to because of illegal fences blocking access. And even though assaults are on the decline, more fences are being installed everyday. It's important to reflect on the impact this has on the city and its inhabitants. After all, public spaces should be places of inclusion and interaction.
The pavilion itself features a large fence, typical of Latin American cities, hanging from a beam and spanning the length of the pavilion with STOP, NO ENTRY written in bold letters across the top. To enter the exhibit, visitors will have to pass through a small space between the wall and the fence and, upon doing so, will be greeted by an alarm and recorded message telling them that they cannot enter.
One side of the pavilion will feature twelve lenticular posters depicting photographs of iconic places from around the world. Each poster displays two versions of the same image. In one, the space in the photo is enclosed in the fence. In the other, the fence disappears. The first images are of fences typical of Lima and Peru. The images after depict the US border wall, the fences put up during the Brexit movement, and a boat carrying African migrants off the coast of Italy.
The principal fixtures of the exhibit are situated like a “playground," inviting viewers to interact with each other and formulate new social dynamics. There are see-saw benches that require two people to sit on them for optimal comfort, as well as a football goal, a ladder, and a carousel, among other things.
Under a portico on the other side of the pavilion, a video plays depicting the transformation of fences in playgrounds. To see the video, the prospective viewer must enlist the help of another viewer to lower an eyeglass with polarized lenses. Without the eyeglass, the LED screen appears blank, even though the video's sound can be heard.
On the same wall there are photographs of fences from Lima, Peru and other parts of the world. The quantity of images makes it impossible to distinguish between them. Some of the pictures come from Google Maps. Others come from recommendations from Instagram using the hashtag #ripublicspace.
Before exiting the exhibit, visitors pass by a series of mirrors situated on the rear of the signs posted on the gate at the entrance. These offer, literally, an opportunity to reflect on everything within the exhibit as well as everything outside of it, on the other side of the gate.
The project is supported by El Comercio and the Wiese Foundation as well as institutions such as ICPNA, the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, the University of Lima, CAPECO, the National University of Engineering, the Private University of the North, PromPerú, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, as well as the Ministry of Culture. Corporations supporting the project include Ascensores Powertech, Servimetales, and the citizen observatory Lima Cómo Vamos?.
The Cultural Patronage of Peru is a private, non-profit organization that has aimed to ensure Peru's representation in the International Exhibitions of Art and Architecture organized by the Biennale di Venezia since 2016.
- News from the Patronato Cultural del Perú