The City in Dispute
28 May 2024

The City in Dispute. Collective Experiments around Social Housing in Southern Europe (1945-76)

Curated by María García Ruiz and Moisés Puente
La Virreina Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona (04.03.2023 – 18.06.2023)

From the neorealist reconstruction of post-war Italy and directed settlements in Spain to the SAAL experiment in Portugal, this exhibition presents a review of social housing that examines the ways in which architecture and social conflict intersect.

This exhibition presents a review of the history of social housing in southern Europe through a series of unique experiments carried out at various times of crisis, and which, in their own way, reinvented the paradigms of modernity and the relationship between architecture and its inhabitants. Practices in which communities played a key role when it came to defining their place in the city, and in which architects took on the challenge of reinventing worlds from below. Moments, in some sense exceptional, in which there was an articulation of the poetic rigour of design, the staging of urgent problems against the backdrop of minimum housing and the incarnate desire of bodies situated on the margins of history until that time.

From the neorealist reconstruction of post-war Italy and the avant-garde proposals for directed provisional settlements in Francoist Spain to the housing experiments that arose from the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, this exhibition examines the ways in which architecture and conflict intersect. Violence—as Ignasi de Solà-Morales would say—is inherent to architecture since every urban operation always imposes one reality at the expense of others. However, the examples addressed here were also built on the basis of a pre-existing social conflict, which gives them meaning. Recognising the various manifestations of these social processes as a constituent part of the history of architecture is the first step towards providing restitution for bodies forgotten by the modern paradigm and its weighty legacy.

Architecture always, or at least cyclically, sits on a tremor, that of the agitation of communities seeking a place, some future forms. Therefore, this exhibition does not present architecture as a pacifying response to revolutionary impulses, as a mediator or as the ultimate solution to a given problem. Here, it is a matter of rethinking it—this time within the framework of complex city formation processes—and repeatedly taking part in and generating not so much (or not just) solutions, but new problems, with their successes and failures.

It is always about doing something again, a formula that, as Ginevra Bompiani tells us, refers to the creative capacity of children through repetition: doing something that is always the same yet different every time. Take “a handful of chaos and give it its small new form”, create, play with and challenge the city again (di nuovo, de nuevo, de novo).

Exhibition leaflet in PDF

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