Making use of more organic, inclusive, and responsible practices that are accessible to society, the 12th edition of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial, curated by Vanessa Grossman, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, and Ciro Miguel, proposes a reflection on daily life. It reflects on an architecture that is aware that its environment asks for solutions. Todo dia presents practices and projects ranging from construction to design, planning, photography, pedagogy, research, public policy, and activism, extending across different disciplines, scales, and boundaries.
Everyday is structured around three thematic axes: Everyday Stories, Everyday Resources, and Everyday Maintenance. Everyday Stories examines the countless ways architects and other professionals reinterpret everyday life, telling real or fictional stories linked to the production of space. It includes daily, poetic subtleties to reveal the violence, crises, and inequalities that strike people’s daily lives. Everyday Resources addresses the growing awareness and critical engagement of architects, landscape designers, and urbanists with productive processes and daily resource uses in urban and rural contexts in the Anthropocene era. Everyday Maintenance explores the maintenance of architecture and the city, a subject that has gained attention in theoretical debates and technological research worldwide, but that is still insufficiently incorporated into architectural production.
Everyday consists of two exhibitions taking place in two manifesto buildings in São Paulo: the São Paulo Cultural Center (SPCC) and the Sesc May 24th. The exhibition “Daily Architectures,” held at the SPCC, shows projects on architecture, urbanism and includes installations, photographs, and videos from more than twenty countries. It re-imagines how daily life shapes our world. The SPCC, designed by Eurico Prado and Luiz Telles, is a multifunctional public building that constitutes one of the city’s main architectural projects. Since its inauguration in 1982, it has been an important center for everyday life. About 2,500 users are seen daily rehearsing choreographies in front of their glass façades, playing sports in the gardens, studying in the library, talking in the restaurant, or attending one of the numerous workshops. An International Open Call for this exhibition was used to select 70 works from the 710 entries submitted.
The second location of the biennial is the newly opened Sesc May 24th designed by Paulo Mendes da Rocha and MMBB. As a city within a city, the building not only supports but amplifies the unpredictability of daily life in downtown São Paulo. Daily, about 10,000 people go up and down the ramps in the building to eat, play, dance, walk, swim, run, play, talk, use the bathroom, go to the dentist, read, write, learn, teach, create, sunbathe, or simply sleep. Here, daily life is trivial, palpable, and engaging. The curators invited different teams of architects and professionals to talk with this building and explore the quotidian life of this urban machine. Each team was asked to develop a site-specific device: interventions conceived as new pieces of equipment or mechanisms performing the day-to-day functions of this urban machine. Ten projects were distributed in the building’s common spaces, including the ground floor, ramps, fire escape, living area, and pool.
In the last decade, the potential of daily life has influenced the practice and theory of architecture and urbanism.
Fluctuating between vulnerability and megalomania, architects and planners have long sought to design entire habitats, civilizations, and even the planet. However, in the current moment of geopolitical changes, revisions to the rule of law, and a scenario of unprecedented environmental transformations, architecture and urbanism professionals have once again recognized the fragility of their field of action. Faced with the challenges of an uncertain future and combined with the expectations of new automation technologies, architects are turning to the realm of everyday life. As a result, they reinvent their activity in a super-designed world from trite objects, daily routines, maintenance protocols, and the use of basic features.
The discrete power of everyday life lies in its ability to translate the way we live, use natural resources, and maintain space in common practices that make architectural and urban design a relevant and shared concern. The daily routines of human beings—regardless of where they come from, who they are, where they live, and how they live—can be reduced to the primordial needs answered by architecture and incorporated into space: a clean house, a hot meal, a running water bathroom, a well-lit street. These everyday needs refer not only to the body and the house but also to their extrapolation: the city and its infrastructure, the nation and its resource management, the earth and its conservation. The everyday appears.
As the first edition chosen through public tender, the 12th biennial seeks to reflect on the protagonist of everyday life in 21st-century architecture and urbanism. Thus, in line with its socio-educational actions, it seeks to intensify and broaden the discussions around architecture in the human dimension of the city. There is no way to treat everyday life in a universal, generic way. Its infinite possibilities, with different forms, encourage our reflection and practice on the built environment to return to the urgencies of urban life and to prioritize situations of greater vulnerability.
Ph. André Scarpa
DATE 10 September – 29 September 2019 / CHIEF CURATORS Vanessa Grossman, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes and Ciro Miguel, selected from First International Competition for Curatorship / ORGANIZER São Paulo Department of the Institute of Architects of Brazil (IABsp) / SITE Sesc May 24th and São Paulo Cultural Center (CCSP) / TEXT 12th edition of the International Architecture Biennial of São Paulo website – edited by Ness / PHOTOS Courtesy of Javier Agustín Rojas and Ciro Miguel