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The Front Line of Architecture

Dinko Peračić’s project we need it – we do it will represent Croatia at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale.

by: Martina Domladovac

PHOTO: Tomislav Medak

At the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale, which will be held from May 28th to November 27th 2016, Croatia will be represented by Dinko Peračić's project (authorial team: Miranda Veljačić, Emina Višnić, Slaven Tolj, Dinko Peračić) entitled we need it – we do it. It was estimated that the piece fits best with the exhibition’s theme and the specific character of the task, which was chosen this year by the Chilean architect and theoretician Alejandro Aravena. The theme of the upcoming Biennale, Reporting from the Front, focuses on front-lines of battlefields where architecture battles with the acute contemporary social problems, and calls for specific suggestions from the practice of architecture that focus on the complexity of contemporary social processes and present examples that show architecture can still be truly engaged and efficient.

"There are several battles that need to be won and several frontiers that need to be expanded in order to improve the quality of the built environment and consequently people’s quality of life. We would like to present cases that, despite the difficulties, instead of resignation or bitterness, propose and do something. We would like to show that in the permanent debate about the quality of the built environment, there is not only need but also room for action", says Aravena, adding that he wants an exhibition that is not just a chronicle by a passive witness, but a testimony by active creators who really "live what they preach". In light of that, the proposal of the authorial team focuses on the content reconstruction of three buildings in Zagreb, Rijeka and Split that should become places of dynamic and intense social interactions, which is encouraged by the NGOs that are using these spaces. The authors have participated in and founded such organizations and cultural practices that work outside traditional frameworks and build their own work systems in changed conditions.

They work in various networks and numerous collaborative projects, and apart from cultural and artistic content, they also test and implement new forms of managing public infrastructure, based on cooperation, sharing spatial resources and collective decision-making. Dinko Peračić and Miranda Veljančić are co-founders and managers of Platform 9,81, Emina Višnić is the director of Pogon – Zagreb Center for Independent Culture and Youth and Slaven Tolj is the director of Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka. Through their own direct experience they therefore bear witness to the challenges of working on the battlefield of architecture and culture. They are also linked by the need to reconstruct spaces they were allotted for work – the former Jedinstvo factory in Zagreb, the former Rikard Benčić factory building in Rijeka and the Youth Centre in Split – and that needed to be reorganized in order to fit the planned use regimes and the projected events. Reconstruction of these allotted spaces is part of the effort to affirm new principles of acting and new organizational structures.

"We entered our project for the Biennale primarily because we felt the theme applies precisely to what we do: our architectural and community work engages us directly with social processes that create spaces for culture and we participate in them, which is exactly what the Biennale's director was looking for. He invited architects and projects that in some way leave their laboratory surroundings and go out into the real world, and in that real world they are not just designers but also protagonists of those events. We have been working in that way as much as we could for the past ten to fifteen years and we have supported the cultural scene that's been building these spaces in various ways. Slaven Tolj and Emina Višnić have been building this same story by creating programs, creating organizations, working hard and advocating these spaces of culture", says Dinko Peračić.

In their application, among other things, the authors state that the expanded architectural action they want to present at the Biennale speaks to and includes a wide audience and a great circle of users and participants. It is intensely geared towards the public domain and common interest, and is not preoccupied with individuals, but the collective.

"An architect is not just a person who makes blueprints for the materialization of a work", Peračić explains, "he or she is also involved in the project from the moment when there is a social need for it, and together with their cultural and social context, with the people who are involved and engaged, the architect creates the opportunity and the conditions for such a project to happen, which involves the reconstruction and erection of a building, as well as creating an entire way of using it, its audience and the processes that take place in it".

In addition to that, the application states that by participating in the exhibition the authors want to present architectural work as a wider social discipline that can, using different means and collaborating with participants-users, support and even inspire collective efforts, and build space that exists and is used for the common good. "We primarily want our appearance at Biennale to be participatory. We represent a wide net of organizations focused on a great number of subjects, and at this moment we have been given a chance to somehow structure and present this. We will try to define a clear message through collective effort, clear visual material and a coherent representation of the meaning of this type of action in architecture for culture", Peračić concludes.

Translated from Croatian by Lana Pukanić.

Objavio/la vatroslav [at] kulturpunkt.hr 28.10.2015