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Architekturbiennale Tallinn, Ausstellung, Beauty matters, Space Popular, Evert Palmets

The Tallinn Architecture Biennale: Why Architecture Should be Beautiful

Why yet another architecture biennale  are there not already far too many? That may be; however, this year’s fifth architecture biennale in the Estonian capital of Tallinn (until 17 November) is something special. With an exhibition, a symposium, a competition, various architecture schools and a satellite program, curator Yael Reisner of London gets to the root of our experience of the beautiful. Aside from current approaches in international architecture, she deliberately refers to neurobiology, philosophy, poetry and mathematics as well. According to Reisner, “We cannot define beauty in simple terms. Nevertheless, we know its experience has a surprising quality.” Her proposition is that beauty is increasingly taking on meaning in a world of augmented and virtual reality, both as a subjective experience and as a form of cognitive intuition.

On the trail of beauty
There is no up or down in the installation designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto for the Biennale. Individual wooden blocks have been connected and layered to form a pavilion-like structure. They leave gaps and peepholes, densify into a walkable structure and are joined to a space that features an inherent aesthetic experience. Anyone who enters this space, which is called Open Cave, is equally sheltered and confused, for the usual spatial perceptions are no longer valid.
Sou Fujimoto’s contribution is part of the Beauty Matters exhibition at the Estonian Museum of Architecture; Fujimoto is one of eight invited and participating architects from various countries and continents. With experimental ideas and concepts, they all investigate the experience of beauty in home environments. The spatial installations can be seen in the exhibition rooms at the former Rotermann salt storage facility. Some of these have been created using simple means; others have been 3D-printed or conceived as a virtual experience with 3D glasses. In their contributions, Elena Manfredini (USA) and soma (AT), Space Popular (UK), March Studio (AU) and many others examine the question how human living space will change in the future and which experiences will thus become possible. The speculative results of this approach are not always “beautiful” in the formal sense, but that is not what it is all about. What is being explored here is the meaning of architecture as a discipline of the future that enables aesthetic experiences in everyday life. In the age of open-source design and robotic building, CAD-CAM systems and algorithms, this question is well worth consideration. After the death of the author in the 1970s, the authorial role as a creative generator of ideas who allows experiences to become real by means of digital tools is all the more important both today and for the future.

For a New Ontology of Things
The nature of the large framework for this context was discussed at the symposium that took place on the opening days. Graham Harman’s topic was the world of things and their ontological significance. For the man who devised Object-Oriented Ontology (“Triple O”), the opposite of beauty is not ugliness, but rather literality. Along with the philosopher, mathematicians, poets, neurobiologists and architects offered their thoughts on the experience of beauty at the symposium. The fact that the framework of the interdisciplinary discussion was opened wide here turned out to be a risk  a risk that at times remained unresolved and at times led to scintillating ideas. Ultimately, what counts is the courage to experiment in multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary ways, and always looking forward. This is one of the courageous approaches in Tallinn and is also the reason the architecture biennale in the Estonian capital is particularly special.

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