Interwoven, by Peruvian architectural firm Leonmarcial Arquitectos, formed by Alexia León and Lucho Marcial, is an installation in the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2021, under the theme “How Will We Live Together?”. It is part of the exhibition space called “As New Households”. The installation is focused on exchanges between households and their environments through architecture, rethinking the notions of public and private. Interwoven aims to bring up the idea of integration and interaction in social transitions through the dissolution of boundaries.
By the curator Hashim Sarkis, this year’s architecture biennale was developed around the theme “How will we live together?”. This theme was announced in 2019, as the biennale was expected to take place in 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, it was postponed to 2021. Interestingly, the topic chosen brings up a very compelling discussion inside the Pandemic context as well. Coexistence, as Interwoven intends to talk about, is a concept that had to be reconsidered to fit into a socially isolated world. And now, as the social distance is being eliminated little by little and people feel the need to regain a sense of community, the idea is being overhauled again. In light of all of the facts mentioned, this is a very appealing scenario for the Peruvian installation to raise the topics of interactions and environments.
Interactions between people are encouraged through the architectural exhibition in different ways. First, the walls are made of rotatable blocks, and some of them are also displayed casually on the floor. Thus, visitors are able to touch and assemble them as they wish, which emphasizes the ideas of exchange, environmental transformation, and building different possibilities collectively. The possibility of playing with the blocks also makes the exhibition very appealing for children, as several photos show. The rotation of the blocks enables different degrees of visual permeability, indicating different levels of privacy to point out the dynamics between private and public spaces and encourage people to think about how they see them. The gaps on the walls have the same purpose, although they also allow people to flow through the installation and possibly make a reference to the doors and windows of a house. Overall, Interwoven is an invitation to reshape the way people coexist, dissolving the boundaries between exterior-interior.
Displayed at the Arsenale venue, the exhibition is made of 2.000 Panguana woodblocks, which are usually discarded in Peruvian Amazonia because of their softness. On the other hand, it is used by artists to create different types of objects. This type of wood has fast growth, so it does not represent significant damage to the forest. As the architects mentioned, they were concerned about environmental awareness in their design. The material and shape of the blocks are used to show that reshaping the way we coexist can be simple. This choice of material also contributed to the goal of assembling a light structure, as the blocks were meant to rotate around their axis. Besides, it indicates the presence of a Peruvian cultural and environmental influence on the design.
Leonmarcial Arquitectos was founded in 2011 by Alexia León and Lucho Marcial. Most of the studio’s work is focused on family houses and community centers, which gave them a fine background for the development of Interwoven installation. Since her first work, Mori House in Playa Bonita, Alexia has been nominated for several architectural prizes. In 2007, she was invited to teach as a visiting professor at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Along with Lucho Marcial, who graduated from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, their experience studying and working in different countries has certainly improved their perception of coexistence between distinct cultures, enabling them to point out this topic more accurately and universally in the exhibition.
Delving deeper into the issue of coexistence
As Interwoven points out, coexistence depends on interactions between households. In city planning, diversity is a guiding principle today. Spaces should promote interactions between different people because the consequences of segregation have to be avoided at any cost. When several people are willing to move to the suburbs or to a closed condominium to have a more private life, for example, communities are at risk of becoming unhealthy urban environments. As mentioned before, this scenario was worsened during the Pandemic, as privacy and isolation were not just a matter of comfort, but also a matter of safety against the virus. Once society experienced the effects of heavy isolation, however, they started to better understand the importance of interactions between households and public spaces. Therefore, Interwoven brings up very relevant considerations regarding social environments, which can be applied both to the urban scale and the architectural scale. It encourages visitors to rethink the possibilities of coexistence and re-evaluate the barriers people often build between each other.
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World Architecture Community. (2021). Interwoven explores interactions and transitions between households and environments in Venice. [online] Available at: https://worldarchitecture.org/architecture-news/evmnh/intervowen-explores-interactions-and-transitions-between-households-and-environments-in-venice.html [Accessed 14 Sep. 2021].
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