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Vague Terrain

location - Lisbon Architecture Triennale 2022, Portugal

type - proposed: installation, sculpture, video art

year - 2022

status - unawarded

people - Amy Evans

Due to fluctuating political, social, and economic conditions, our cities exist in a constant state of physical transformation. One consequence of these transformations is a residue of left-over spaces – neglected voids within the urban fabric which Ignasi de Solà-Morales has termed terrain vague. This global phenomenon results in a trail of inequalities but also possibilities for recycling, reusing, rewilding and reactivating.

            ‘Vague Terrain’ is an interactive installation where visitors are encouraged to shift and relocate sculptural elements, emulating the physical fluctuations on the earth’s surface. Instead of consuming more untouched terrain, how can we make better use of terrain vague?

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Ignasi de Solà-Morales described the concept of ‘terrain vague’ as, ‘external places, strange places left outside the city’s effective circuits and productive structures’, these spaces include, ‘industrial areas, railway stations, ports, unsafe residential neighborhoods, and contaminated places’. Taking on Solà-Morales’ concept of terrain vague, the exhibition ‘Vague Terrain’ presents the banality of these spaces, to celebrate and highlight their unique qualities, while representing them in a constant state of flux. The name of the project ‘Vague Terrain’ comments on both the unfamiliarity and the fluidity of this terrain.

 

Vague Terrain imagines planet earth, its buildings, cities, and infrastructure, as a field condition - mathematically and systematically structured, and constantly in flux. James Corner referred to this everchanging condition as terra fluxus, rather than terra firma. As such, the terrain vague resulting from these everchanging conditions is as much part of the field condition as are the inhabited buildings and utilised public spaces. Terrain vague is a global phenomenon presented as voids within our urban fabric. The phenomenon results in a trail of inequalities but also possibilities for recycling, reusing, rewilding and reactivating. If our urban fabric is in constant flux, how can we embed a circular life into the structures and places we build in our cities? And how do we connect these spaces back to the city and its communities?

 

To bring awareness to the continual fluctuations of the urban fabric, this exhibition asks its audience to interact with the installation, to recreate these fluctuations in an abstract way. The exhibition also showcases a taxonomy of terrain vague conditions from six different cities, presenting the condition and its surroundings in a series of models, drawings, and video footage.

Lisbon Triennale 2022 Theme: Terra
‘Vague Terrain’ is an exhibition and installation which relates to the predicament of ‘how new paradigms are changing our ways of place-making in a globalised planet’. Under the 2022 Lisbon Triennale theme ‘Terra’, ‘Vague Terrain’ is concerned with the physical and social fabric of our cities, questioning how we can recycle, reuse, rewild and reactivate terrain vague for place-making, building community and urban ecology. This exhibition presents the urban condition of terrain vague as a global phenomenon and an integral feature of our urban environments. The interactive elements allow visitors to engage with a system which is in constant flux, in order to bring awareness to the circular evolution of the built environment. The exhibition aims to contribute to the architectural discourse on terrain vague, and to raise questions about the possible futures of this condition.


The global pandemic has highlighted the critical necessity for adequate public spaces within our cities, while it has also exhibited the vast inequalities of access to these spaces. Terrain vague can be classified as disused spaces within our cities. These spaces, while often neglected and broken, also represent an opportunity to address a necessity for new types of public space. This project relates to the sub-theme ‘Communal by Design’ by raising questions about the future of terrain vague in our urban environments, and how these spaces might be connected back to the community.


In this exhibition visitors are encouraged to engage and contribute to the installation by rearranging sculptural elements within a ‘field condition’. The action of shifting these elements reflects the idea that the urban fabric is in a constant state of flux, while also highlighting the impact that individuals can have on their urban environment. This project relates to the sub-theme of ‘Cycles’ by encouraging visitors to question the circular evolution of our continually shifting and evolving cities. This exhibition aims to raise questions about the way we see our urban wastelands, and the structural, social, and economic forces that shape them. How can we reduce and build less by reusing and enhancing what is already there, whether it be structures or urban ecology? How can we embed the memory of past uses into the future of these spaces?
 

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The exhibition and installation have been designed specifically for the Sunset Room at Palácio Sinel de Cordes.

 

The exhibition, arranged in six vertical panels contains plans, video footage, and drawings, and documents a specific terrain vague condition from the following six cities: Berlin, Barcelona, Athens, Rome, Lisbon, and Melbourne.

 

The installation is a series of sculptures and gridded amorphous plinths. The grid, a common tool for organising cities, represents a simple field condition. The amorphous plinth arrangements represent terrain and its unruly growth. The sculptures are abstract depictions of urban wasteland features – arranged in a grid within the field. To represent ‘terra fluxus’, visitors are encouraged to shift and relocate the lightweight sculptures within the gridded field condition. Like a game of chess, there are specific ‘moves’ that each sculpture can make, commenting on planning policy constraints and the mathematical condition of the systems and structures which dictate our built environment. As the sculptures are shifted by the visitors, new voids are revealed in the grid, expressing our individual impact on the urban fabric of our cities. At the beginning of each day the sculptures will be reset in their gridded position. Throughout the day a time-lapse will reveal these fluctuations within the field.

Amy is an Australian Architect and Spatial Designer based in Berlin. Her work explores the intersection of art and architecture. Her site specific projects span exhibition and installation design, scenography, set design, and architecture - from concept to completion.

 

As well as research and design work, she regularly teaches design studios at both the University of Melbourne and RMIT

 

Amy was a recipient of the Marten Bequest 2020 for her ongoing project titled ‘The City Shaped’.

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