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Spontaneous Interventions

By September 25, 2012Blog

Spontaneous Interventions“, the official U.S. presentation at the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale, represents a spirited movement for improving cities through DIY innovation and playful direct action. Walking through Venice’s tree-shaded Giardini during the preview, the first thing I saw as I approached the American pavilion was a huge projection of my face framed by the Palladian building’s central entry way. I couldn’t help but laugh – how did my work as a radically pedestrian, New Public Sites tour guide end up here, in Venice, as one of many incredible projects representing of the United States?  The dérive will always take us to unexpected places…

Pondering this with amusement, I wandered closer, through Interboro’s orange-cubed court yard and finally inside the first of four galleries filled with the Freecell’s interactive, hanging banners. On display are 124 projects, each an example of small scale: grassroots, guerilla, tactical and participatory actions for improving cities. While the phrase “American intervention” might evoke questionable military action in a far off country, Spontaneous Interventions captures something quite the opposite. From pop-ups parks in the fragments of public space to appropriated street signs and open-source apps for everyday visionaries, Spontaneous Interventions is proof that drifting for fun, innovating for peace and building for good is an American practice that we can truly be proud of. Together we celebrate voluntary urbanism for the common good.

In addition to contributing documentation my hanging banner (see below), I was also asked by Guggenheim curator David van der Leer to present my “wildest dreams are for American city of the future” in a video piece by filmmaker Kelly Loudenberg. Kelly came down to Baltimore and interviewed me at my home in Baltimore, Mirkwood. Above is my delivery of Infinite Freedom for New Baltimore. Architizer wrote about it here.

Seeing the projects of Spontaneous Interventions and meeting so many talented interventionists was incredibly inspiring. I am still deeply honored and excited to be recognized for my involvement in this nascent and exciting architecture and social movement. Out of 55 national participants we were one of three Special Mentions, along with Poland and Russia, in the competition for the Golden Lion for Best Pavilion, which was ultimately won by Japan. Partnering with the Institute for Urban Design, exhibit Commissioner and Curator Cathy Lang Ho, and Co-curators David van der Leer and Ned Cramer, Editor-in-Chief of Architect magazine, have masterfully of represented the zeitgeist of U.S. tactical urbanism and done us interventionists all a huge service by elevating the work on an international stage. While we may not need “the institution” to approve of our direct actions, the legitimacy that comes with the SI show will no doubt help us propel our projects towards future success and ultimately make our cities better places for living. Special thanks to urban sociologist Gordon Douglas for nominating New Public Sites.

Statements and Essays on Spontaneous Interventions

Official exhibition catalog: Architect magazine, August 2012

Additional photos on flickr:
Venice Architecture Biennale – Spontaneous Interventions
Venice Architecture Biennale – Giardini
Venice Architecture Biennale – Arsenale

Additional videos on youtube:
Infinite Freedom | New Public Sites

Media coverage:
Architizer on New Public Sites
Architect magazine on New Public Sites
New York Times Projects Without Architects Steal the Show
CJSW 90.9FM Calgary Independent Radio: Space and Place #16 Bubble-up Interventions
Tracy Metz Micro-urbanism the American Way

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