Choreographies, an installation at the 4th Lisbon Architecture Triennale by Pedro Alonso and Hugo Palmarola, presents the construction of building sites as cultural and political archetypes. By critically contesting comic films and animated cartoons released in the United States and the Soviet Union between 1921 and 1980, it presents construction sites as places in which ideology and imagination were combined through the choreographic movements of hanging steel-beams in the US, and flying concrete-panels in the USSR. These building components symbolize the construction of the modern world, the technological optimism of industrialization, the relevance of the building process over the completed building, and the standing of workers—welders, riveters and crane operators—against the vanishing figure of the architect.
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Between 1945 and 1981 around 170 million prefabricated (prefab) residential units were constructed worldwide. Now, as part of a study undertaken by Pedro Alonso and Hugo Palmarola of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile between 2012 and 2014, an exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art features 28 large concrete panel systems from between 1931 and 1981. In so doing, it explores a transnational circulation of these objects of construction, "weaving them into a historical collage of ambitions and short-lived enthusiasm for utopian dreams."
This show, curated by Meira Yagid-Haimovici, is an attempt to reveal "how architecture and urbanism was charged with historical, social, and political narratives, and how the modernist vision promoted the fusion of aesthetics and politics." The models, which are being exhibited as part of the Production Routes exhibition, seek to highlight the richness embodied in 'generic' architecture through the lens of prefab construction methods.
Between 1931 and 1981, the Soviet Union exported a prefab concrete panel system for housing - whose development and exportation embodied the ideals of the modern movement - to countries around the world, creating more than 170 million apartments. In 1972, during the socialist government of Salvador Allende, the USSR donated a panel factory to Chile. The Chile KPD (an acronym derived from the Russian words for “large concrete panel”) produced a total of 153 buildings during its operation, before being shut down and forgotten during the military dictatorship.
The full story of the concrete panels produced in Chile had been buried in history, but research conducted by curators Pedro Alonso and Hugo Palmarola for the Chile Pavilion has resurfaced the political, ideological and aesthetic implications of the panel. Monolith Controversies not only shows the technical aspects of a fundamental element of a prefab building system, but also demonstrates how it was connected to an ideology. Upon entering the Chile pavilion, visitors find themselves in the recreation of an interior of one of the apartments. Next they enter the main space, in which one concrete panel found by the curators stands as the representation of how modernity was absorbed in Chile.
In the Absorbing Modernity section of the Biennale, Koolhaas asked curators from all over the world to bring to light the ways modernism developed in their countries. The work done by the Chilean curators in the Monolith Controversies exhibition is one of the best examples of this call, recognized by the jury with the Silver Lion. Read on for the curator’s statement.