It's not for you! It's for the building
With climate crisis at our doorstep, every architect now has an urgent global problem to solve. As crucial as technologies are in finding solutions, they also risk creating new problems along the way. Our exhibition and the accompanying book explore human resistance to technology as a pressing issue in contemporary architecture. By focusing on instances of unsettling techno-nonsense, we highlight the importance of the human perspective in architecture and stress the need to help people learn to live together with today’s intelligent machines. In so doing, we pursue an informed and balanced coexistence of comfort-seeking individuals with sustainability-driven technology as the condition for a liveable future for humanity.
The Latvian pavilion installation focuses on the contradictory nature of our relationship with technology. Made of an uncanny web of black pipes coming from an unknown source, the enormous apparatus first appears to be a foreign organism parasitizing on space that used to belong to humans. The installation invites visitors to change their perspective and discover an amusing neighbour in this seemingly threatening intruder — one that reacts to our presence and even addresses us in an incomprehensible yet comforting language of its own.
NRJA (No Rules Just Architecture) is one of the leading architecture
studios in Latvia. While small in size, they are a strong team of like-minded
outsiders. Their practice strives for honesty and clarity in materiality,
technique and thought, even if this is occasionally achieved at the expense of
Curators: NRJA (Uldis Lukševics, Elīna Lībiete, Ivars Veinbergs, Zigmārs Jauja, Ieva Lāce-Lukševica, Inga Dubinska, Līga Jumburga)
Realization: NRJA, Pēteris Riekstiņš, Ansis Bergmanis, Edgars Ošs, Mārtiņš Dāboliņš, Juris Simanovičs, Viesturs Laiviņš, Artūrs Tols, Artūrs Kalvāns
Book: NRJA and Levelup
Idea of the title: Peter Trummer
Graphic design: Alexey Murashko
Illustrations: Ivars Veinbergs
Audio design: Gatis Ziema
Photography: Ēriks Božis, Andrejs Strokins
Video: Ēriks Božis, Marta Elīna Martinsone
Project managment: Austra Bērziņa
Project manager's assistent: Jeļena Smelova
Communications: Linda Bērziņa
Translators and proofreaders: Raxti (Mārtiņš Sīlis, Oskars Jansons), Will Mawhood, Elīna Lībiete, Marco Benda
Subtitles: Pēteris Masļenčenko
Supported by: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, Arctic Paper
It's not for you! It's for the building
Mother Nature has given way to Mother Technology. In our homes, offices and public spaces, technology has become a way of life and it has certainly changed the way we interact with architecture. The growing complexity of mechanical and digital systems presents us with new circumstances to adapt to. How do we live together with the ever-present machine?
The switch to technologically saturated buildings has brought about not only new comforts, but also resistance and suspicion. The machine is no longer a convenient aid — it is now an integral part of architecture. Tangles of devices seem to encroach on diminishing living spaces. Smart solutions produce dumb results. At times, the machine imposes its own rules, alienating people from the spaces designed for them. Some people might view this as dystopian, believing technology has gone too far. But as with most arguments claiming that something has gone too far, the real issue is fear of the unfamiliar.
Our relationship with technology is ambivalent, contradictory, and often fraught with hypocrisy. From within our carefully conditioned fossil-fuelled interiors it is easy to forget that, after all, machines are our own creations, made for our own good. While architecture is struggling to find its relevance on the brink of ecological collapse, technology is not to blame. Quite the contrary – the machines, like the problems they solve, are most often a product of architecture itself.
The installation for the International Architecture Biennale in Venice embodies our contradictory attitude towards technology in a tangible and interactive way. At first sight, the tangle of black pipes looks like a foreign object that has overrun a human environment like a parasite. However, the installation urges passers-by to change their attitude and recognise a friendly neighbour in this seemingly frightening stranger, who responds to our presence and even addresses us in its own incomprehensible but reassuring language. This experience of coexistence between humans and man-made machines inspires us to create a sustainable partnership, simultaneously calling us to reassess the growing role of technology in contemporary architecture.
And if the current global health crisis has taught us anything, it is that when Mother Nature turns its back on us, technology turns from foe to friend. Cities are more than just clusters of buildings, and machines can bridge the connections interrupted by the “new normal”. Technology is a means to an end. What may have seemed only “for the building”, proves to be “for you” after all.
In 2020, in response to the global health crisis, Latvia’s Venice
Biennale pavilion was exhibited in a transformed form in Riga, Latvia. The installation “Connections Interrupted” is a play on the distance between individuals, households, cities and states that the pandemic has brought about. Having to work remotely and observe social distancing, people are forced to isolate themselves in their homes, where they maintain their connections with the rest of the world via technology. Physical ties have been replaced with digital signals. Severing the old connections has made our homes an unprecedented cluster of functions — our homes are now not only our private recreation areas, but also offices, schools, kindergartens, gyms, bars, restaurants and concert halls. Separated from the rest of the city, the living space has undergone social, functional and emotional saturation and is now cluttered. Although due to the pandemic our homes have become isolated from each other, like lonely islands, digital solutions have simultaneously made them transparent, by merging the boundaries between private and public space.
At the same time, the pandemic has served as a reminder of the
well-known truth that cities are not just a collection of individual buildings,
but of interconnections, and these have now been severed as a result of the
spread of the “Covid-19” virus. By the same token, nations are more than just clusters of cities, and the planet as a whole is more than a group of independent states. The global health crisis has forced us to find new ways to maintain this interconnected network, at least for the time being. Our streets have now become wires and our airports have become server complexes. By reversing our original concept for the installation, we want to illustrate the new role of technology during the pandemic, as it no longer focuses on a person living at home, but on the world outside.
The tangle of wires at the core of the installation embodies social, functional, emotional and technological oversaturation. The withdrawal, distancing and introversion that characterise the pandemic are symbolised by the fragile frame surrounding the archetypal form of the house. Equipped with motion sensors, the ball of wires responds to visitors and passers-by, sending light signals in their direction.