Design as Politics was invited to take part in the 5th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) ‘Making City. Our contribution involved an exhibition in the Mini Mall and the publication of book #6 in the Design and Politics series titled  “Are We The World?” (TBA). The exhibition and the book were both composed of the work of researchers and students within the chair which is focused on the use of urban planning and architecture in reaching urban political goals. The Dutch Randstad, Rotterdam, Istanbul, Sao Paolo and Detroit are the test cases.

The city is politics
The city is politics. The city is the place where money, power, business, culture, religion and leisure come together, each fighting for primacy. That is why architects and urban planners need to make careful choices in their design and planning. For example, Andrea Bagnato incorporates residential properties as a counterweight to the corporate and one-sided character of the City of London. Ekim Tan aims to place the ownership of urban development in Istanbul in the hands of local residents rather than major state organisations. They adopt a position for or against the financial sector, for or against citizens building their own homes and for or against the motorway. The Design as Politics exhibition provides a showcase for six designers who dare to take a clear position in the ongoing urban conflict.

Fighting for the city
Why is it that a beautiful new urban project can lead to the demise of an entire existing city district? Why are the Olympic Games causing social unrest in the deprived areas of London? And how are political uprisings, such as the Iranian revolution, ruining major architectural projects – in this case Victor Gruen’s modernist master plan for Tehran? In the exhibition ‘Design as Politics’, visitors can experience the day-to-day struggles for the city through three-dimensional images.

Soundtrack to the urban conflict
Over the years, popular music has also added colour to urban politics, from Marvin Gaye’s ‘Inner City Blues’ and The Clash’s ‘Guns of Brixton’ to the Grime music that accompanied the London riots of 2011. Musical pioneers create sound that reflects urban politics. The ‘Design as Politics’ exhibition also highlights this ‘soundtrack to the urban conflict’.

TU Delft – Design as Politics
In alliance with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment’s Spatial Development Directorate and TU Delft, Design as Politics has established a number of research and design studios around the biennale’s theme of ‘Making City’, examining the relationship between design and politics. We take a critical look at the potential contributions of architecture and urban planning to the problems facing contemporary cities. We focus in particular on the export of Dutch ideas about planning and design to cities abroad and the value attributed to the application of these ideas. At the Biennale, the results of this research were shown in an exhibition in the recently transformed Hofbogen, the former Rotterdam Hofplein train station, and in the book entitled ‘Are We The World?’.

The Design as Politics exhibition run until  July 7th 2012. Book #6, ‘Are We The World?’, will be presented in the NAi auditorium (TBA). Both are  supported by the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR), Delft University of technology, Faculty of Architecture, Chair Design as Politics, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, Dienst voor Kunst en Cultuur, Gemeente Rotterdam; Crimson Architectural Historians and Hofbogen B.V. 

03 May 2012: article by Topos
30 April 2012: review by BD online
19 April 2012: review by Archined

More information

The 5th IABR has a curatorial team consisting of Henk Ovink  (Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment), representatives of the City of Sao Paulo, the University of Istanbul, the office ZUS in Rotterdam and Joachim Deklerck (Berlage Institute, Rotterdam). Other partners are the IHS and the faculty of Architecture at Delft University of Technology.