Brief & Agenda

BRIEF

The House of Politics 2018 is a 11-day research workshop in collaboration with the European Council and the Faculté d’Architecture La Cambre Horta (Université Libre de Bruxelles).

The program uses film as an analytical tool to address the role of architecture in representing and constructing political communities. In practical terms, we will produce short films looking at the architecture of political organizations that exceed the paradigms of the traditional nation-state.

The workshop is developed in Brussels, home of many supra-national political bodies such as Benelux, NATO and the EU. Our main case study is the European Union and, this year the focus will be on the European Council. 

The 2018 edition of the workshop will contribute to a wider ongoing research that, in previous editions looked at at the EU Parliament and Commission. The aim of the project is to address the following questions:

How are the complex functions of supranational political bodies spatially articulated?

What spatial formations can represent the values of EU political community?

How does the architecture of EU headquarters relate to multimedia and transnational channels of audiovisual distribution in relationship to institutional communication strategies?

How can film reveal/produce a specific form of spatial knowledge?

An understanding of the ubiquitous importance of supranational political organizations is the starting point of our research. In particular, the EU study case has been chosen in order to address the uncertain continuous becoming of a European political project in a globalized world.

Recent political tendencies of both right and left parties actively question such a project by pointing toward an assumed lack of identification of the European citizens with its institutions. However, these voices are claiming for an identity construction in analogy to nation states, disregarding that the European project be build on non-national political constructs that require new and imaginative forms of identification.

Traditionally, architecture has a prominent role in visual culture and is crucial to the edification of collective imagination. Thus, what kind of role could architecture play in establishing new perspectives on transnational institutions and their diverse citizenship.

During the workshop we will analyse how the buildings of the EU institutions actively perform an arrangement of rituals, circulations and symbolic orders, with the objective of unveiling the poetics hidden in their, a priori, unappealing generic architecture.

The objective is to question the role of architecture in relationship to EU’s visual identity strategies within a contemporary context where digital technologies are crucial to the construction of public image. Furthermore, to reveal with the media of film yet unknown conceptions of the EU and its transnational institutional architecture.

More information on 2016 edition can be found HERE.

More information on 2017 edition coming up soon.

 

AGENDA

Since the Second World War, numerous supra-national political institutions have established their headquarters in Brussels. The European Union and NATO concentrate their principal premises in the capital of Belgium, along with many other international organizations. However, Brussels, home of some of the world’s most powerful institutions, doesn’t present an architectural landscape with evocative aura. The buildings that accommodate these political bodies are ordinary; in most cases they seem corporate-like buildings camouflaged between banks, offices and hangars; as examples, the recently build NATO headquarters by SOM or Justus Lipsius building, house of the European Commission. In consequence, these architectures are vaguely present in the collective imagery. Their capacity to build a space that effectively represents the organizations that govern us is undermined.

 

10 years ago the Berlage Institute presented “Brussels. A Manifesto”. This investigation project addressed the problematic of Brussels becoming a European capital without a clear architectural response. Their proposal was that the lack of architectural quality of the European institutions should be solved by replacing the existing architectures.  The construction of more readable buildings and public spaces would make evident where power structures reside. Despite the quality of the buildings and public space would probably be strongly improved, the proposal dismisses the potentiality of the already existing structures. An already existing structure accumulates, by the sole fact of being present and used, an energy that cannot be dismissed. Years later, if we look at Brussels again, can we release this contained energy and thus unveil the hidden poetics of this existing structures?

 

Supra-national political institutions are increasingly necessary in a globalized world, where the systems of production, consumption and affection are not contained within the nation-states. Nevertheless, a translation of the new political scenario into the spatial expression of its institutions has still not been addressed; an appealing narrative linking the institution and its architecture is missing. The scale, the program or the rhythm of activity of these institutions, already present interesting conditions that have been overlooked in the design of their headquarters. Also, an increasing need to be present in the new media channels reverses the traditional relationship of these spaces with the citizens.

 

The role of film in our investigation will be two folded. On one hand, is the appropriate tool to capture both the spaces and the activities. Thus, it facilitates an immediate analysis of the discordance between the architecture and the expression of its use. On the other hand, film is the medium used in official and social media to communicate. In most of the occasions, it is only through the screen that the citizens get to know these institutions. Thus, it becomes an instrument of mediation between the institutions and the citizens. In consequence, film will be used both to inquire on the existing architectures and to test its possibilities as an extension field for the visual expression of architecture.

 

Parliament 1