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Design Actions for the Common Good

USA- New York, NY | Jun 24 2012 | (01:06:58 - EDT)

The U.S. Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, organized by the Institute for Urban Design on behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, will be devoted to the theme Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good.

The exhibit features 124 urban interventions initiated by architects, designers, planners, artists, and everyday citizens that bring positive change to their neighborhoods and cities. The selection was narrowed down after a search process that included an open call for projects realized in U.S. cities in recent years, which yielded over 450 submissions.

Spontaneous Interventions captures one of the most compelling contemporary urban trends, wherein individuals are taking it upon themselves to create projects that expand the amenities, comfort, functionality, inclusiveness, safety, and sustainability of cities. From parklets to community farms, guerrilla bike lanes to urban repair squads, outdoor living rooms to pop-up markets, sharing networks, and temporary architecture, Spontaneous Interventions highlights viable citizen-led alternatives to traditional top-down urban revitalization tactics. Together, these projects offer an opportunity to examine the history of the American city, painting a critical and dynamic portrait of its most pressing issues today and a vision of its future. At heart, Spontaneous Interventions is a reflection of country’s complex attitudes towards civic participation, social justice, and the built environment.

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Spontaneous Interventions resonates on many levels with the overall theme of the Biennale, conceived by director David Chipperfield, Common Ground. The projects featured in Spontaneous Interventions are characterized by their interest in collaboration, in serving the collective needs of a community, and in improving the literal common ground— public space. The exhibition examines how urban actions that originated as radical ideas have moved ever closer to the center, evolving from subversive tactic to increasingly accepted urban strategy.

Participants include: Architecture for Humanity, Barkow Leibinger Architects,The Better Block Project, Candy Chang, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Chicago Loop Alliance, City Repair, COMMONstudio, Nicholas De Monchaux, DoTank, envelope A+D, Freecell, Futurefarmers, GOOD, Fritz Haeg, Hester Street Collaborative, HOK, The Hypothetical Development Organization, Interboro, Kaja Kuhl/youarethecity, Macro Sea, MAS Studio, Mike Lydon/The Street Plans Collaborative, Popularise, popuphood, Public Media Institute, Rebar, Quilian Riano/#whOWNSpace, Rockwell Group, Mark Shepard, Stamen, WORKac, and many others.


For the first time, the U.S. Pavilion will feature an installation rather than a conventional exhibition of projects. Brooklyn design studio Freecell, founded by Lauren Crahan and John Hartmann, conceived of a lively system of banners to present an archive of 124 actionable tactics aimed at bringing immediate improvements to the urban public realm. Freecell is collaborating closely with Sausalito-based communication design studio M-A-D, led by Erik Adigard and Patricia McShane, to design an enveloping environment that puts Spontaneous Interventions in a broader historical and cultural context. Adigard, this year’s recipient of the Rome Prize in Design, has created a supergraphic that is an installation in and of itself, and serves as a bold counterpoint to the banners.


Brooklyn-based studio Interboro, winner of last year’s MoMA/PS1’s Young Architects Program, has designed an “outdoor living room” that will serve as the pavilion’s hangout and workshop space. The space will feature movable components that allow it to be easily reconfigured to accommodate various functions (informal conversations, lectures, workshops, and play space). During the three months of the Biennale, the Pavilion will host a lively series of programs.

About the Institute for Urban Design

Since 1979, the New York–based Institute for Urban Design has served as a central platform for debate among architects, planners, policy-makers, developers, academics, journalists, and urbanists. The Institute operates as a think tank and advocacy group, drawing on the collected experience and knowledge of its large fellowship to bring important issues into wider public debate through lectures, events, and publications.

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