Venice 2016 – With the exhibition Our Amazon Frontier, The Peruvian Pavilion at Venice Biennale narrates how architects, students and experts are taking an unprecedented action to fight poverty and preserve the Amazon rainforest through education.
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The exhibition at Arsenale invites visitors to discover the Plan Selva project, a large-scale public program that reconstructs and rebuilds hundreds of schools scattered in inaccessible places without services thanks to a scalable and flexible prefab unit system. The initiative comprises also a new educational program that favors multiculturalism and rescues the native languages without imposing Western standards – Slideshow: Completed school “Madre de Dios”, photo by Veronica Lanza.
“In Peru the Amazon amounts to 61% of the national territory and is inhabited only by 10% of the population who speak 44 of the 47 country’s living native languages. Since the beginning of the 20th century more the 90 tribes were annihilated, from 10 millions to less than 200 thousand people today” explain curators Sandra Barclay and Jean Pierre Crousse “Plan Selva relies on architecture to restore dignity to a population that was historically relegated and offers a space for the balanced encounter between two apparently irreconcilable worlds”.
The PREFAB UNIT SYSTEM can be accessed through public acquisition and includes catalogs of infrastructure kits adapted to the education requirements and size of any specific community. The kits also adapt to the bioclimatic zone the community belongs to, as well as to its particular flooding condition, a common occurence in the Amazon.
The Plan Selva project is complemented by The FRONTIER BRIGADE, an institutional and intersectoral collaboration involving architects, researchers and architecture students. They team with local communities to find solutions to basic needs like water supply or sanitation networks.
Instead imposing a service top-down, the whole project is based on a participative approach. Both the design, the building techniques and the knowledge of the Amazon natural contest are shared in order to create architectural solutions that respect the environment, fulfil the needs of the local communities and that can also be easily replicated.
THE EXHIBITION – A suspended ribbon canopy accompany the visitors. Portrays of the Amazonian children by Musuk Nolte and the footprint of the jungle, the “Amazogramas” created by Roberto Huarcaya, lead visitors to a group of suspended tables and chairs brought from the Amazonian schools. The installation reveal the precarious and harsh conditions in which teachers and students interact today. A larger room hosts models, videos and pictures that explain the Plan Selva project.
Peru Pavilion brought home a Special Mention by La Biennale jury in the National Participations category “for bringing architecture to a remote corner of the world, making it both a venue for learning as well as a means for preserving the culture of the Amazon”.
Sandra Barclay and Jean Pierre Crousse comment “The Amazon is also the battlefront between the ancestral vision of its inhabitants and the modern vision that Western society has over this territory. If we were to learn from the indigenous knowledge, now endangered by hegemonic “western civilization”, we would open an unforeseen insight about medicine, nutrition, and the sustainable production of the rainforest. The dissolution of this last frontline would have global implications and it would even change the way we see our world”.
Watch the video The failure of domestication on show at Our Amazon Frontier exhibition.
Videos and images: courtesy of Peru Pavilion, Peru Ministry od Education and La Biennale di Venezia.