Close, Closer

image from the Future Perfect exhibit by Liam Young.

Lisbon Architecture Triennale 2013
Entitled CLOSE, CLOSER, the Lisbon Architecture Triennale is taking place for the 3rd time. Chief curator Beatrice Galilee (UK) sees exhibitions as opportunities to test ideas, and here aims to examine the political, technological, emotional, institutional, and critical forms of global spatial practice. The Lisbon Triennale provides a platform for emerging practitioners and protagonists whose work and interests are far from that of the traditional client-architect model. “Close, Closer moves away from architecture as a series of buildings and designs into a much broader and expansive architecture culture, with much of the programme taking place in squares around Lisbon.” An Architecture Triennale, but not as we know it. 
Led by Beatrice Galilee, along with curators José Esparza, Mariana Pestana, and Liam Young, the Triennale launches three main exhibitions, a broad public programme, an e-publishing series, and the Millennium BCP Début Award for young architects (won by Chicago-based Jimenez Lai).
One of the eye-catchers this year is the Future Perfect exhibition, curated by Liam Young. He created a fictional, future city – an imaginary place with all the nuances of a real city. “A think-tank of really cutting edge contemporary scientists, technologists, designers, artists, and science fiction authors have collectively developed this imaginary place”, Young says. “Future Perfect tells of our collective hopes and fears, and of the wonders of the future. It’s not an exhibition for architects but for the wider public. What we do to open up the conversation with that broader group is to use techniques and formats people are familiar with.” Thus, Liam Young included narrative techniques and visual forms from Bollywood to Science Fiction to share the story of the future city. Stories built out of the very real research that is now happening in all kind of labs all over the world. “Because fiction became this extraordinary, shared language, unlike the closed language of the architectural drawing. So we worked with concept artists, science fiction authors, filmmakers, animators, and special effects artists – all the people who typically work in popular culture, not in architectural culture, in order to enable a larger audience with which to connect and emotionally engage. We take these critical ideas about what cities are and are becoming, and how technologies are changing them, and we communicate them in a way that’s accessible.” 
The exhibition is a stage set for a collection of fictions, emerging infrastructures, and design experiments that can be inhabited as large-scale districts of the future city. “Right now we’re in a really interesting moment where there are so many unknowns about the future. Biotechnology, climate change, the failing economy –those are massive issues. As a culture, we just don’t know how to deal with them. And it’s good to present different views and scenarios, not just one view of the future. Future Perfect is about scenarios and possibilities. It is speculative urbanism, an exaggerated present, where we can explore the wonders of emerging biological and technological research, and envision the possible worlds we may want to build for ourselves. Because the future is not something that washes over us like water, it is a place we must actively shape and define. Through fictions we share ideas and chronicle our hopes and fears, our deepest anxieties, and our wildest fantasies. Some of us will be swept-up in what the city could be; others will be reserved and look-on with caution. We have not walked these streets before… what things may come, in a Future Perfect.”
One of the many side projects of the Triennial worth mentioning is Casa do Vapor [Steam House], on the other side of the Tejo river. Instigated by international architectural platform EXYZT, a multidisciplinary crew of enthusiasts from various disciplines set up a collaborative cultural project in Cova do Vapor – a self-built illegal neighbourhood located just outside Lisbon that increasingly faces the threat of being taken over by project developers.
For three full months, until December 15th, the Lisbon Architecture Triennale serves as a critical platform, with events and exhibitions introducing architecture as a discipline that is not exclusive to professionals or only defined by buildings, but rather as an expanding field where artists, scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, and designers engage.
Civic Stage in the heart of Lisbon. Image: Catarina Botelho.
Civic Stage, public speech by Fernando García-Dory. Image: Luke Hayes.
Super Powers of Ten by Andrés Jaque \ Office for Political Innovation. Image: Jorge López Conde.
Unfinished Casa do Vapor last august. Image: Rui Silva.
the curators: Beatrice Galilee, Liam Young, José Esparza, Mariana Pestana.