Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 – For 28 years, Germany has been united – exactly as long as the Berlin Wall existed from 1961 to 1989. The Unbuilding Walls exhibition at the German Pavilion in Venice seizes this parallel by showing how divisive structures and their eventual collapse shape minds, cities and societies. Curators GRAFT architects and human rights activist Marianne Birthler focused to start with the Berlin Wall as an example of social healing. On show also video interviews with people living and dealing with border-barriers worldwide.
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A game of perspective and reflections creates an infinite black wall blocking the view of visitors entering the pavilion but as soon as you walk in the structure unfolds creating a forest of black panels. On their back, multiple examples of urban rebirth and social change within Berlin’s former border zones.
“On the 9th of November 1989, the military zone left empty between two parts of a suddenly reunified country was an open wound. At the same time, it represented a unique opportunity to to shape the process of the growing together of the city and country both spatially and programmatically.” Explain the curators.
Berliners took over the areas once occupied by the ‘infamous’ border zone to create street art venues, squares, parks, memorials, urban orchards, nightlife meccas and more. “Where the wall and death strip used to be, the intention was to create free spaces. The approaches to dealing with those areas left behind are charged with ambivalent situations: East/West, separation/connection, prominence/integration, forget/commemorate, occupy/leave empty, win/lose, reconstruct/transform.”
“In the current climate of renew debate on nations, protectionism and segregation, our consideration of the experience of the inner-German border gains new relevance”. Two side rooms examine historical and current barriers worldwide. On show, video interviews with people living on both sides of the Israel/Palestine wall, the DMZ separating North and South Korea, the Us/Mexico border, the fence between Belfast Catholic and Protestant communities, the Greek-Turkish Green Line in Cyprus and the divisive construction between Spain and Morocco in Ceuta.
“I believe that the wall [dividing Protestant and Catholic communities] is more in people’s head rather then in the physical space” says in an interview Paula, a young Protestant woman from Belfast. “Will it ever fall? Of course it will – you know, nothing lasts for ever” says Josephine, an elderly Catholic woman. Their contributions are just some of the many different voices and opinion on show.
“The new walls that are appearing are, above all, an expression of socio-political changes and unwillingness or incapacity to enter into dialogue. But new dividing lines are rising in people’s minds. Such tendencies are a threat to free societies founded on pluralism, tolerance of diversity and mutual respect in interactions.” Conclude the curators.
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All photos by an Bitter – Courtesy of the German Pavilion.