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The Venice Biennale kicks off next week and I caught up with Hani Rashid, co-founder of experimental architectural collective Asymptote, right before he left New York for Europe. Asymptote has put together a piece to be shown in the International Architecture Exhibition. It’s hard to get a good sense of the exhibit from the photos (above), but Hani, whose firm is responsible for the design of structures such as the World Business Center in Busan, South Korea and a flagship store in Manhattan for Alessi, explained that the three large fiberglass pieces propose an antidote to the “urban cacophony we’ve formed in the modern world.” Their investigation is no less than how to be at home (and at peace) in the 21st century, and how we should think about technology and harness it to our advantage. Certainly, he argues, a retreat from digital innovation isn’t an option.
“We are in a digital reality. There’s no way around it and you can’t escape it,” he said. “Digital tends to be demonized or come across as dehumanizing, but we believe there’s a way to tame the beast and move it into alignment with the natural order and with nature. Pundits of the green or “back to nature” might profess that you can retreat to the forest, but they have Blackberries in their pockets as they do so.” The green bandwagon will soon come off its wheels, he says. “It’s become a marketing strategy more than anything else, but it also doesn’t give us the big answers about the human condition which ultimately we have to consider. We have to progress and figure out ways to remedy the ills and problems we created.”
This piece for Venice, then, is no less than "a look into what we see as a utopian future symbiotically tied to technology. Tech will help us think about, manufacture and create these worlds. We’re producing a glimpse into the future of human habitation and architecture on the planet."
You're an optimist! I accused. Hani laughed. "The core of being an architect is that you have to be optimistic," he said. "We spend all our time trying to produce the future. Any architect who's not optimistic should go into another discipline." He added wryly: "Maybe film making?"
Images: "Prototyping the Future: Three Houses for the Subconscious"
Installation for the 11th Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice, Italy, 2008. (c) Asymptote: Hani Rashid + Lise Anne Couture
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