The Austrian Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
Giardini della Biennale – Venice, Italy
May 22 – November 21, 2021
PLATFORM AUSTRIA. ON THE PHENOMENON OF PLATFORM URBANISM
The focus of PLATFORM AUSTRIA is platform urbanism. Platform urbanism marks a highly significant upheaval in the design of our environment and its architecture. It concerns the changes that the rise of digital platforms is bringing to all spheres of our lives – from living, working and learning to health, recreation and culture.
The pandemic we have been experiencing over the last months has clearly shown how heavily dependent we have become on platforms in our everyday lives and how much the use of platforms has changed our environment. Rather than an architectural history of heroes and villains, of good and evil, the contribution to the Biennale Architettura 2021 by curators Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer presents a series of analyses designed to inspire us to engage with and take part in these changes.
PLATFORM AUSTRIA sees itself as a platform of active engagement with the question of the future of the city and its architecture. All arrangements and structures and thus the conventional organisation of cities are increasingly coming under pressure due to the rise of platforms. For the platform economy the city is interesting for two reasons. It provides a wealth of information in the form of data that can be processed and re-utilised by platforms. At the same time the city is the biggest market for the recycling of data. This means that for platforms cities are equally interesting as both resource and market.
The increasing diversity of data technologies and the increase of platform applications promising possibilities for the use of this data have fundamentally altered the goals of urban development. Urban life itself is now being recognised as a decisive mechanism of economic growth and asset accumulation. Large platform enterprises are accordingly expanding their business models and noticeably engaging in the development of cities in order to plan the infrastructure and services that are best able to supply them with data.
Platforms often present themselves as technology enterprises that are difficult to monitor, impenetrable and prone to fluctuations. However, their material grounding in everyday urban existence provides a good insight into how the interplay they steer between digital networks, people and urban space intervenes in living and working environments and in the process suggests a new communal architecture. Interrogating and co-designing this architecture in its built and lived form is what PLATFORM AUSTRIA is about.
In 2019 a discussion was launched involving almost 100 people from a wide range of disciplines and countries. At the time it was envisioned that this interaction would ultimately lead to a range of theorists, architects and artists from all over the world coming together as guests in the Austrian pavilion at the Biennale Architettura in 2020. Live weekly debates were planned with these bloggers in residence, who included Peggy Deamer, Teddy Cruz, Saskia Sassen and Slutty Urbanism. The goal of these interactions was a comprehensive survey of platform urbanism and wide-ranging recommendations for architectural praxis.
The advent of the pandemic necessitated a different approach to this project. From September 2020 to March 2021 the invited experts produced hundreds of blog contributions from their homes and workplaces. These texts can now be read online (www.platform-austria.org) and form part of the multimedia installation in the Austrian pavilion in Venice. In addition, all these contributions have been compiled in a comprehensive publication (Platform Urbanism and Its Discontents, nai010 publishers, 2021), which responds to the fleeting dimensions of digital platforms with a piece of material reality and will be available at the opening of the pavilion.
It remains a priority for the two curators to provide as many different ways as possible of engaging with our chosen theme. Apart from the presentation in Venice, these include a comprehensive online presence comprising blog contributions, videos and discussions (website), participative formats (social media and image bank projects will be launched in 22 May) and a satellite exhibition in Vienna (MAK FORUM) as well as a series of discussion events in Venice planned for the autumn.