People’s Utopia

© Iwan Baan – Torre David, Caracas

People’s Utopia

Iwan Baan (NL) & Kunlé Adeyemi/NLÉ (NG)

What can informal urban processes and bottom-up dynamics imagine for the city?

Bottom-up, self-invented architectural interventions and solutions of communities come about in precarious or challenging urban situations. What do these dynamics make plausible for the city and what can architecture and urbanism learn from this? How can rapidly changing urban landscapes achieve the maximum of their necessities with a minimum of means? How to step out of the self-fulfilling prophesy of informal solutions that in a way also consolidate the precarity they try to escape? 

Dutch photographer Iwan Baan is known primarily for images that narrate the life and interactions that occur within architecture. Originally working in documentary photography, he fell unexpectedly into the subject of architecture in 2005 when he proposed Rem Koolhaas to document the construction of OMA's China Central Television (CCTV) building in Beijing. Since then he collaborates with the world's foremost architects. In the last couple of years, Iwan Baan also turned back to his own photography practice with, among others, projects on the after-life of Modernism and photographic research on informal and unexpected architectural intelligence in challenging urban conditions, with a primary interest in Africa and South-America. In 2010 he won the first annual Julius Shulman Photography Award and in 2012 he was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennale for an installation he realized with Urban Think Tank on the Torre David, an unfinished skyscraper-turned-mini-city in Caracas, Venezuela.

Kunlé Adeyemi is an architect, designer and urban researcher. He developed the Makoko Floating School, an innovative prototype floating structure located in the lagoon heart of Lagos, Nigeria. This project is part of African Water Cities, an extensive research project developed by NLÉ, an architecture, design, and urbanism practice founded by Adeyemi in 2010, with a focus on developing cities and communities.

NLÉ explores human relationships with water in the face of climate change to find inclusive and responsible solutions within rapidly urbanising contexts of cities and vulnerable communities. NLÉ’s ongoing projects include the Chicoco Radio Media Center, an amphibious community building in Port Harcourt, Nigeria; the Museum of Aids in Africa; ROCK, a lakefront kiosk in Chicago, USA; and the CDL Microfinance Bank in Lagos, Nigeria. Recently NLÉ launched their Serpentine Summer House in London, UK and MFS II and a new, improved iteration of Makoko Floating School at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale, for which it was awarded the Silver Lion.

6 TOPIA: Conversations on Utopia and the Real

Six conversations confront utopian fictions on the city with their real-life counterparts. Whereas Thomas More used the fictive island of Utopia to hold up a mirror to the society of the time, the series re-engages with utopian thinking on architecture and the city from the point of view of its different incarnations and apparitions in reality. This takes place in the actuality of late capitalism in which representation and reality intersect and coincide. How can future scenarios for architecture and the city be truly radical and tangible in the current moment, where ideas, concepts and imageries have become commodities rather than catalysts for real societal change?

curators czvek rigby & natural born architects | organisation stad en architectuur vzw
partners stuk kunstencentrum, asro ku leuven, existenz | support stad leuven, provincie vlaams-brabant, vlaamse overheid | sponsors febelcem, vandersanden group, a+ architectuur in belgië, nav

STUK Auditorium
Wed 30 Nov 201620:00
ticketseason ticket
standard€ 9€ 45
STUK card€ 7€ 35
students€ 5€ 20
members S&Agratisgratis


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