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Venice Beinnale 2006

Venice Beinnale 2006 - babylon:don

Venue: Itaiian pavilion at Giardini

Commissioner: RCA Architecture Department

Curator: Prof Nigel Coates

2006    Royal College of Art Architecture & Interiors, Architecture annual, Nigel Coates, Welcome to Babylon:don/ thriving on misunderstanding/ narrative springs from real encounters, pages 22 – 27

The idea that in London we all understand everybody couldn’t be further from the truth. And that’s the point. Badylon:don thrives on misunderstanding. It teeters, and opens itself up to all kinds of new phenomena. No one really knows whether these will be for the better or lead us to doom and decline, whether we’re living in a short-lived phase of decadence that signifies the fall of western culture. Perhaps we’re on the threshold of a social geometry that has yet to fit these new phenomena together, which is where the RCA/A comes in. We observe these many situations and project them; sometimes by foregrounding what is otherwise ignored, and sometimes inventing scenarios that could very well be key to the future. Such was one particular RCA project from 2002, which in retrospect appears to have set out our table.

Narrative springs from real encounters:

When Jason met Vicky is a project about conflicts and overlaps at Kings Cross. In it, Jason Scoot takes relatively invisible occurrences around the station and enlarges them to the scale of the station. This space is intended to rebalance the people that use it, including commuters and prostitutes who use it as a workplace. Currently, pimps, prostitutes and the homeless are protected by low-key surveillance system operated by newspaper sellers across the station forecourt.

To explore complex urban conditions of this kind, typically we use an elongated process of fact gathering and exploration of the culture surrounding the issue in hand. In Scoot’s case it wasn’t until he came across one particular subject, a half- dressed prostitute emerging from between two parked police vans, that the specific devices of his project became clear.

His design proposal has the temporary quality you would expect from a building site. Instead of the big planar surface that is likely to be built in front of the station he proposes what he calls a “community microclimate”. Its central feature is an inhabited landscape that incorporates facilities for the police, and promotes them as friendly locals there to help, not just to hinder. He has replaced WHSmith with a gas station cum supermarket and police housing units above. In terms of design it’s soft, hybrid and inventive, not at all like the neutral resurfacing that, in the name of improved public space, has levelled Trafalgar Square or exhibition Road.”