Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2022 opens its doors to the public
Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2022 explores learnings in architecture from food
‘Edible; Now, The Architecture of Metabolism’ opens at the 2022 Tallinn Architecture Biennale, exploring the relationship between food and architecture
“May TAB be an inspiration,” says Estonian President Alar Karis; “and a bit irritating too,” he adds, addressing a large crowd gathered at the launch of the festival’s sixth interpretation – Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2022. He is no doubt alluding to the provocative nature such events, although the ambition becomes clearer when he concludes: “May TAB engender a new way of thinking. The title of this year’s event is “Edible: or, the Architecture of Metabolism”, and TAB offers a packed program of exhibitions and symposia which organizers say will “transfer metabolism and experiential skills from the natural world – such as growth, decomposition, digestion and release of nutrients – to the realm of cities and buildings”.
Inside TAB’s main venue, Estonian Museum of Architecture co-curators (housed in a former salt store), Lydia Kallipoliti and Areti Markopoulou, delved into all things food and architecture . Markopoulou says the exhibition examines “from the fragility of the production process”, and therefore a very literal examination, “to the metaphorical implications of seeing architecture itself as food”.
She stands next to a curved wall of circular bricks that look like stacked cheeses. “These are already in production,” says the curator, who is also academic director at IAAC Barcelona, showing the eerily soft but strong shapes made from cultivated mycelium, the root system of mushrooms; “So it’s not speculative design,” she insists.
While not all speculative, some elements of TAB are certainly experimental and most certainly conceptual. The Metabolic Home section of the exhibition is made up of seven installations, each representing a room and a food process.
On opening night, an intrigued crowd watches as the mischievous performers pick leaves from a vertical robotic garden before transporting them to the “kitchen” installation. Here, Andrés Jaque (Office for Political Innovation) has created a highly sculptural contribution from scrap (and undeniably beautiful) scraps from the marble quarrying industry. The performative preparation and consumption of food continues through other spaces of this imaginary house to the “dining room” to ingest, the “living room” to digest, etc. Curiously, the “WC of Friendship” (Water Chandelier) at Cornell University’s Ecological Action Lab, a stunning cistern chandelier made up of hundreds of spouting glass bottles, is coyly attributed solely to “hydrating.”
If Metabolic Home is a space for a very convenient “curated experience” in TAB’s words, the two-day Edible Symposium is the festival’s platform for intense debate about the intersections of architecture, food systems and the regenerative design. In a dense and engaging program that is not lacking in audience participation, keynote speakers and panel discussions address topics such as “The Architecture That Makes Food” and “The Farm and the City” under the post-presence impending industrial development of two giant boilers in the former power station that is the Tallinn Creative Hub.
“Rather than architecture as a machine for living,” says Claudia Pasquero, director of ecoLogicStudio, from the podium, “we think of architecture as a machine for living”. TAB is the perfect place to showcase Pasquero’s research and practice, much of which centers around the use of biotechnology for the built environment.
At TAB, the meeting of architectural theory and practice with scientific research is palpable, with exhibitions and presentations based on quantities of data as much as visual considerations of design and function. And co-curator Lydia Kallipoliti (assistant professor at Cooper Union’s Irwin S Chanin School of Architecture in New York) is keen to highlight the experimental assignment TAB gave her: “A lot of the facilities started leaking.” , she says of what is obviously a tank-filled biennale this year, “and then some species of plants were dying in the museum,” describing the lab-like facility.
But for Kallipoliti, this research-based, trial-and-error approach was integral to the process: “It’s amazing to think of the exhibition boundary as something that’s a prototype for the world.
Stepping outside the metaphorical frame of the food lab/scientific kitchen that TAB has tried to promote this year, fellow curator Markopoulou emphasizes the marked urgency of the problem to be solved. “Food is crucial”, and does not receive enough attention according to the architect and researcher, and although “much is being done on the issues of climate change, health crises, economic and social crises”, she says that t’s amazing that food, the source of life, is often an afterthought when it comes to architecture and design.
“We need to be open to design possibilities in a much more dynamic way, including more species, more living organisms,” Markopoulou concludes convincingly. “How can we increase the quality of life, for all species? »
Despite an unmistakable nod to radical and speculative projects of the past (and Kallipoliti’s “The Archeology of Architecture and Food Systems” exhibition contextualizes this well), TAB 2022 is very much rooted in the present. Outside the museum stands ‘Fungible Non-Fungible’, the biennial pavilion, a live NFT project that seeks to bring communities and artisans together with ever-evolving public sculpture.
Perhaps deviating a bit from the Edible theme, this installation is however metabolic and hyper contemporary in equal measure. With its emphasis on research and its data-driven approach, TAB might have a lot to digest this year; but it will certainly provide more than enough food for thought for all visitors to Tallinn until the end of November. §