Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber (Austria)

Plugged In, Fenced Out

The residential estate called Habitat 67 was planned and developed by a Canadian architect and city planner Moshe Safdie during the years of 1966 and 1967 for Montreal’s Expo 67. Habitat 67 became an icon of metabolism in architecture. This movement, which emanated from Japan, sought to plan cities and architecture as organic, constantly self-renewing, life-supporting structures adaptable to changing needs.

For a short moment and in the context of the urban metabolist movement, this architectural ensemble symbolized a “utopian” counterpoint to modern concepts of the functional separation of life and work, of dwellings, recreation, transport and traffic. (…)

The “Plugged in, Fenced out” series focuses on present-day processes of urbanization – processes determined by the logic of utility, flexibility, effectiveness and mobility, as well as by the neoliberal enclosure and privatization of a city space. This work no longer poses the question of urban utopias, but rather directs our focus to the inconspicuous, marginal, and the everyday and spectacular forms of contemporary “metabolic” processes (e.g. EURO 08 in Vienna) and asks about the effect that these forms have on our urban experience.

And this – alongside architectural, social and political issues – has always been an aesthetic question: what images and conventions of viewing mediatize and legitimate these dystopic spaces? What underlying conditions of their production are hidden, what processes of cooptation and dispossession are made visible in the present “images of space” and space-productions? Can other possible urban worlds be imagined? Or, in the words of Siegfried Kracauer: “Images of space are the dreams of a society. Wherever the hieroglyphics of this or that spatial image are decoded, there we shall find the fundament of social reality.”

Siegfried Kracauer, Strassen in Berlin und anderswo, Berlin, 1987

<<< back