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Biennale Architettura 2021

The exhibition within the Exhibition: Future Assembly

Studio Other Spaces

Studio Other Spaces responds to curator Hashim Sarkis’ Exhibition How will we live together? with Future Assembly, a collaboration with six co-designers and fifty Biennale Architettura 2021 participants. The diverse group of designers and spatial practitioners imagine a more-than-human assembly for the future, inspired by the current paradigm for a multilateral assembly – the United Nations.

Located on the mezzanine of the Central Pavilion at the Giardini, Future Assembly comprises a display of fifty more-than-human ‘stakeholders’ from around the world submitted by the participants of Biennale Architettura 2021. These stakeholders – which include, among other things, fungi, estuaries, and ephemeral gases – represent those living and non-living entities whose rights are traditionally left out of human legislation. All fifty stakeholders convene on the shared ground of the Future Assembly World Map, a circular carpet, twelve metres in diameter, woven from up-cycled ocean plastic. Human attempts to recognise and secure the rights of nature during the 75-year history of the Charter of the United Nations are presented in the More-than-human Chart, which spans three walls of the exhibition. Visitors can further explore Future Assembly online at www.futureassembly.earth.

Message from the Secretary-General of the United Nations

‘The United Nations embodies the hopes of people everywhere to enjoy lives of peace and well-being.  Since the Organization’s founding in 1945, we have strived around the clock, around the globe, to advance human dignity and human rights for all and to be a beacon to a better world. 

Today, as humankind faces a devastating pandemic and a triple planetary crisis -- climate change, biodiversity loss and severe degradation of air, land and water  -- we need to end our war on nature and begin to act more holistically to secure the health of the species, ecosystems and resources with which we coexist and on which our survival depends. 

This “Future Assembly” exhibition calls on all of us to re-imagine new pathways for our global governance architecture, and to strengthen multilateralism so that it is more networked and inclusive.  At this pivotal moment for people and planet, the United Nations is determined to work with all partners to uphold our shared values, navigate common challenges and seize the opportunities of the century ahead.’

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

What could a multilateral assembly of the future look like?

The eight co-designers are Studio Other Spaces (SOS) – represented by its founders, artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann – with Caroline A. Jones, professor of art history; Hadeel Ibrahim, activist; Kumi Naidoo, Global ambassador, Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity; Mariana Mazzucato, professor and founding director of the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at University College London; Mary Robinson, chair of the Elders and adjunct professor of climate justice at Trinity College; and Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Responding to the question How will we live together?, posed by Hashim Sarkis, curator of the Biennale Architettura 2021, the co-designers state, ‘We must imagine a future together from the perspective of a we that includes the more-than-human. But who is we? By pronouncing the word we, we aspire to look outside our human selves: to the living, the non-living, and all the systems and mutualities in between, which constitute earthly existence.’

In January 2020, the eight co-designers invited Biennale Architettura 2021 participants to nominate more-than-human stakeholders from anywhere in the world to be represented in Future Assembly asking them to find novel, imaginative ways of spatially representing diverse non-human agencies.

Future Assembly presents fifty more-than-human stakeholders, represented in the space through a network of projections, images, films, and audio recordings. Speaking in concert and in conflict to form a diverse assembly of the future, the stakeholders – such as the bat and fungus communities submitted by MAEID and Doxiadis + – state their interdependence on human infrastructures and ruins. The ‘gaseous subject’ of the atmosphere, submitted by ROJO / FERNÁNDEZ-SHAW, has no shape, yet drives planetary systems. The Ring of Fire, submitted by BASE studio, reminds viewers that living together is a constant renegotiation.

The stakeholders assemble on a The Future Assembly World Map – a vast circular carpet woven from up-cycled ocean plastic. Distinctly unrecognisable from human maps that chart topography, division between land and water, biomes, cities, and political borders, The Future Assembly World Map has been created by Studio Other Spaces to imagine how more-than-humans might see their worlds – for example, an ocean current might be as significant to some species as a mountain range is to humans. Focusing on different rhythms and perceptions of time, the map creatively depicts the planet’s dynamic elements – such as wind patterns, ocean currents, water salinity and average temperatures.

‘The United Nations, the paradigm for a multilateral assembly of the twentieth century, was founded in 1945 in response to political, social, economic, and humanitarian crises. Today, an equally radical response is needed to the urgent, human-propelled climate crisis’, state the co-designers. ‘Future Assembly is structured around reciprocity, collaboration, and coexistence. This extends to our design approach: imagination of possible futures requires us to find novel ways of spatially representing diverse non-human agencies so they may take a seat at the table.’

The More-than-human Chart compliments the 75-year history of the Charter of the United Nations and forms a living collection of attempts by humans to recognise and secure the rights of nature. Spanning three walls and framing the exhibition, it draws on stories and perspectives from around the globe, acknowledging the wisdom of indigenous peoples, tracing recorded histories, and attempting to hold space for otherwise excluded voices. Shaped by the co-designers with input from the Biennale participants and wider networks, the chart uses specificity and multiplicity to build a non-linear picture of the past and present. The chart inspires the question, what will the next 75 years bring?

‘The health crisis, like the global-warming crisis, has taught us how ill-prepared we humans are to cherish and support all our planetary dependencies. ‘ state the co-designers. ‘Just as we must not simply honour ‘essential workers’ while failing to value the structures that support them, our future plans must include the needs of the more-than-human. We propose a fundamental shift from what keeps humans alive to what helps life thrive in all its diversity. In asking How will we live together? we ask ourselves what if the values underlying this concept, could be extended to the more-than-human? Trees and phytoplankton are the oxygenators of the planet – health workers for respirators. Can we see the planet’s photosynthesisers as essential and help them thrive?’

The co-designers on Future Assembly:

‘As Donna Haraway reminds us, to be a one, you must be a many. Future Assembly will need to recognise our status as assemblies, from the microbial gut-brain to the human dependence on the hospitality of our shared planet. Just as we give standing to the fictive entities of corporations and the protected entity of the human child, can we not give standing to the life forms on which we humans are utterly dependent? Oceanic phytoplankton that make our atmospheres; arboreal canopies that breathe in our CO2; the mycorrhizae that knit soil together – I voice them and give them standing. With Future Assembly, we’re constructing a place for kinship with the fellow companions who sustain our planet as habitable for all these unlikely energy forms that are alive – mineral, animal, microbial, photosynthesising giant. These entities need protocols of respect and relation by which we account for the more-than-human that makes life possible.’

Caroline A. Jones, professor of art history


‘As architects, we need to learn how to truly collaborate with our many more-than-human companions. Our spatial contracts and capacities must be extended to reflect our planetary responsibilities in a better way. Scientific inquiries have deepened our knowledge of the more-than-human entanglements. Let us use our imagination to transform what we know from science, into a strategy that holds space for every species on this planet and respects the world’s many temporalities and modes of existence.’

Sebastian Behmann, architect and co-founder of Studio Other Spaces


‘What are a tree’s interests? A puffin’s needs? What does a waterfall want? And what, in a world defined by humans and our tenacious belief in human exceptionalism, are their non-human rights? It is urgent to ask such questions, since the climate crisis affects everything on the planet – humans, animals, plants, and inanimate objects. We must attempt to dissolve the boundaries of our individual existences and recognise our many entanglements with all living and non-living entities. In doing so, we can forge a collective space to explore sustainable, more-than-human futures – a space for future assemblies.’

Olafur Eliasson, artist and co-founder of Studio Other Spaces


‘In an increasingly multi-polar – and polarised – world, how do we embrace a pluralism that goes beyond culture, race, class, religion, or politics? Are we courageous enough to decentralise power, such that the dignity and rights of our more-than-human family might legitimately supersede our own? When trees have voice, are we willing to concede the argument? As the United Nations celebrates its birthday, perhaps the central question is, have we as a species finally come of age?’

Hadeel Ibrahim, activist


‘We can tackle the climate crisis, the health crisis, the economic crisis – and its close cousin, the poverty crisis – only if and when we also acknowledge that a system built on inequality on the basis of race, gender, social class, and species cannot be sustained if we are to survive and thrive along with our non-human neighbours. Perhaps when we care more for non-human forms of existence, we will acknowledge our own inherent value. Either we all have rights, or none of us do.’

Kumi Naidoo, global Ambassador for Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity


‘Fifty years ago we sent a man to the moon – and back. There is no reason why we cannot apply the same level of investment, risk-taking, and innovation to our greatest social problems. But first we must treat them with the same level of urgency – doing it “not because it is easy, but because it is hard”.’

Mariana Mazzucato, professor and founding director of the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at University College London


‘I have spent the whole of my adult life championing and defending the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Now, having listened to the wisdom of indigenous friends, I see that we have to go further and recognise the dignity and rights of all species. This will not diminish us as humans; it will enhance our role as guardians of a holistic approach to the sustainability and future of the world.’

Mary Robinson, chair of the Elders and adjunct professor of climate justice at Trinity College

Thank you

Participants of the Biennale Architettura 2021 who submitted fifty more-than-human stakeholders to be a part of Future Assembly:

Kuarup – ACASA GRINGO CARDIA DESIGN | Hoplia Argentea, Leptinotarsa Decemlineata, Cassida Viridis and Chrysomela Vigintipunctata – Achim Menges / ICD University of Stuttgart and Jan Knippers / ITKE University of Stuttgart | Argyroneta aquatica – Aerocene Foundation | The Umbrella Islands – Alison Brooks Architects | Negev Desert – Allan Wexler Studio | Youra – Aristide Antonas | ROOTS – Atelier Marko Brajovic | Die Allmende (The Commons) – AWILDC-AWP london | Covid-19 Virus – Azra Aksamija | Rio de la Plata estuary – BAAG Buenos Aires Arquitectura Grupal | Ring of Fire – BASE studio | Murchison Meteorite – Bethany Rigby | Giant Mastiff Bat Cave_bureau | Clipperton Fracture Zone – DESIGN EARTH | Fungi – Doxiadis+ | BIT.BIO.BOT with Spirulina – ecoLogicStudio | SEEDS – ELEMENTAL | Barrio La Palomera, Caracas Venezuela – Enlace Arquitectura | Unclassified Bacteria – FABER FUTURES | Axolotl (Ambystoma Mexicanum) – Fernanda Canales |The Antarctic – Giulia Foscari and UNLESS | Jerusalem Stone – Ifat Finkelman & Deborah Pinto Fdeda | Earth Crust – Igneous Tectonics | Snow in Tokyo – Kei Kaihoh Architects | The Quino Tree – La Minga/OPSYS | The Deep Lebanon Sea – Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture | Cauê – Mabe Betônico | Nectar-Feeding Bat (Glossophaga soricina) – MAEID | Undaria Pinnatifida – Matilde Cassani, Ignacio G. Galán, Ivan L. Munuera | Washington park system – MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste | Montserrat Mountain – Miralles Tagliabue EMBT | The Forest – MOLOARCHITEKTI | Globe Skimmer Dragonfly – Monsoon Assemblages and Office of Experiments | The Zayandeh-rud River Basin – NADAAA | Old Norse Sheep – OPAFORM architects | Ash trees of North America – Parsons & Charlesworth | Cradle – Philip Beesley & Living Architecture Systems Group / University of Waterloo School of Architecture | Moon – Plan B Architecture & Urbanism | The Guadalquivir River – PRÁCTICA |The gaseous subject / the gaseous state – ROJO / FERNÁNDEZ-SHAW, arquitectos | Mosquitoes – S.E.L | THE HAND OF A DEAD MAN – SKULL studio | Hedgerows – Smout Allen | Old Bridge in Mostar – studio L A | The Alexandrine Parakeet – Studio Ossidiana | Vulpes Vulpes – Superflux | Luna – THE OPEN WORKSHOP | Boll Weevil – TVK | Erratic Boulder / Rolling Stones – Vogt Landscape Architects  | Leonmarcial Arquitectos | Weitzman School of Design


Future Assembly supporters:
Ege Carpets, www.egecarpets.com, Future Assembly World Map carpet fabrication  
FlexMirror, www.flexmirror.com, Exhibition mirrors
Viabizzuno, www.viabizzuno.com, Exhibition lighting
And to those who wish to remain anonymous.

Biennale Architettura
Biennale Architettura