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Periple Duet: a LINA European exchange via Lisbon
A conversation with LINA fellows on their collaboration with the Lisbon Architecture Triennale.

Travelling becomes the raw material of an exercise in observation: experiencing territorial diversity, reducing distances and extending limits. In Periple Duet—a cycle of residencies on-the-move—the Lisbon Architecture Triennale convenes two emerging figures from the network of the European Platform LINA, Fellows Ajda Bračič and Tevi Allan Mensah, to create and undergo a thematic itinerary that unites Lisbon with the rest of Europe. In this interview, we talk about the experience of travelling through more than 20 cities, their reflections on language, landscape, territory and architecture and how land mobility can offer different lens to better understand contemporary urban challenges.

"Universally Specific" by Ajda Bračič

Universally Specific is a series of fragments written on the train journey from Ljubljana to Lisbon. Focusing on correspondences between language and space, it examines how words and architectural ideas have always migrated and travelled, disregarding borders and creating continuously overlapping identities. As much an exterior travelogue, Universally Specific is also an intimate itinerary of an interior journey towards an idea of respectful curiosity and connectedness.

"Around the day in 80 worlds" by Tevi Allan Mensah

From a collection of artefacts and images gathered during his journey, Allan Mensah builds a reflection that appropriates the title of an anthology of short stories by Julio Cortázar. Questioning what it means to go from one place to another, on his way he encounters immanent objects, heterogeneous landscapes and borders to cross in order to address what these produce or inhibit: displacement.

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KOOZ Developed within the context of the LINA programme, Periple Duet is a cycle of on-the-move residencies which convenes two emerging figures from LINA network to create a thematic itinerary that unites the city where they live with Lisbon. What prompted the project? What questions does the project seek to raise?

LISBON ARCHITECTURE TRIENNALE Being a LINA member is an opportunity to involve new talents and boost the circulation of people with diverse backgrounds. That is our intention with Périple Duet: to challenge established models by creating an on-the-move residency format where we invite fellows to undertake a solo journey that serves as the basis for a reflection on architecture and landscape framed by notions of border, fluidity, displacement, or heritage (both tangible and intangible). The main rule is that their means of transportation cannot include aeroplanes. As the Triennale is based in Lisbon, on the edge of Europe, we also want to question the embarrassing situation where Lisbon lacks long-distance train connections with Spain—and therefore the rest of the continent. This exercise underscores and advocates freedom of circulation and mobility in European territory.

“The on-the-move residency format serves as the basis for a reflection on architecture and landscape framed by notions of border, fluidity, displacement, or heritage.”

- Lisbon Architecture Triennial

This exchange responds to the mission of a shared plural, free, and open space. The trans-European itinerary carried out exclusively through land transportation provides ample room (and time) to reflect on architecture, territory, and diversity, along with the geopolitical issues such as migration and climate change repercussions in transnational policies.

KOOZ Ajda, your residency weaved together the geographies between Ljubljana and Lisbon with a strong focus on the relationship between language, territory and architecture. How does residency explore and challenge the very notion of borders today? To what extent do these exist as strict nationalistic agendas as well as lose territorial and architectural morphologies?

AJDA BRAČIČ Before embarking on this journey, my working thesis was that language, territory and architecture all transcend borders, that they are continuous cultural substances in a constant and almost uncontrollable state of flux. My experience, subjective and limited as it might be, proved this to be true. There are no clear cuts throughout Europe, we are all very intertwined, and dialects, architectural typologies and landscapes seamlessly merge one into the other. There is a connectedness that permeates the continent. However, the small and large distinctions within this kinship are what make us diverse, and these distinctions are important points of identification for individual nations. Therefore, borderlands can often be areas of tension where intensive nationalistic movements arise as a result of a sense of threatened identity. One of the goals of my travels—a research agenda as well as a personal fascination—was how to marry these two aspects of similarity and difference, of universality and specificity, and how to retain a sense of belonging without feeling threatened by other belongings. It is a tough one, but perhaps one of the perspectives this journey offered was to view borders as areas of meeting and exchange instead of dividing lines or even lines of conflict.

"How do place-words and architecture-words, as well as traditional and contemporary architectural typologies interact today? How can one trace the travels of something so effervescent, so mercurial as an idea?"

- Ajda Bračič, from the "Universally Specific" travelogue.

KOOZ In attempting to narrate a travel experience in the context of architecture, what were your discoveries? How has the voyage informed the way you understand the evolution of vernacular architecture from Roman architecture to today? How has it informed your ongoing research on the theme?

AB At a certain point in the process, it started to feel more honest to opt for a relatively lyrical and subjective essay instead of aiming for a more scientific or methodological approach. The text is narrated quite associatively, drawing attention to a few select architectures and concepts instead of forcefully trying to adequately cover the vast ground of the history of language and vernacular architecture between Ljubljana and Lisbon. As the topic is so rich and complex, it could be a life’s work or at least a PhD thesis. Somewhere along the line, I also realised that travelling itself is an architectural experience, and that perhaps it makes sense for me to try and observe my own travelling self as well as the surrounding landscapes and architectures. It seemed important to convey this feeling of being embodied at a certain point in space as well as in history, which I think is innately connected to travelling on the ground. Being somehow taken out of my own everyday life, but at the same time extremely present in time — extremely aware of history, of other travellers before me — is perhaps one of the greatest new experiences this journey has given me. It has also impacted the way I see vernacular architecture.

"This solo journey proposes a rather special task: to bring 80 worlds to Lisbon. Writings, photos, objects and collages accumulate to form the abstract outline of a journey through unclear territories."

- Tevi Allan Mensah, from "Around the day in 80 worlds"

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KOOZ In the brilliant The Railway Journey: The Industralization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century, Wolfgang Schivelbusch explores the ways in which trains changed their passengers’ perceptions transcending time and space and thus the material world altogether essentially leading to one’s disembodiment. Onboard these projectiles, which were being shot through the landscape, Schivelbusch referred to the traveler as seizing to be such in favour of becoming a parcel. To what extent could one state that our progressive detachment from the act of walking which enabled everything to remain connected has reinforced rather than diluted the notion of borders?

AB I believe it is definitely much easier to get a profound sense of your surroundings and of their real measure when you are travelling on foot. When walking, the border is invisible, one crosses without even realising it. The very act of travel gains in gravity as the body is exposed to the elements and the passing of time, which on a train, and even more so on an aeroplane, is almost completely eliminated. In a sense, the travel itself becomes some sort of a border between A and B, demanding attention for the in-between, which in faster modes of travel is reduced to a minimum. However, these musings are probably only true for the privileged traveller, for the casual hiker, for the tourist. In the case of economic and political migrations, like the ones we have witnessed in Europe in the last decades, the border can be quite visible and impenetrable even when you are walking.

"The only way to truly see and recognise something as autonomous and to value it is to see it as specific, but instead of rejecting it as alien or unfamiliar, we must find in it a trace of the universal."

- Ajda Bračič, from the "Universally Specific" travelogue.

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KOOZ For Periple Duet, travelling becomes the raw material of an exercise in observation: experiencing territorial diversity, reducing distances and extending limits. What are the ambitions and hopes for the project as it unfolds in the coming years through the diverse and unique perspectives of the fellows and across diverse geographies?

LAT The Lisbon Triennale is committed to challenging established models by exploring new formats that can expand our perspectives on the constructed landscape. Our goal is also to define a concept that can be developed through different chapters, in order to construct a collection over a three-year period. This on-the-move residency format responds to that, articulating emerging views of the European geopolitical contemporary context.

One of the aims of this programme is to encourage land mobility that responds to the environmental challenges, better using the existing infrastructure, and showing what could be optimised; accessibility and inclusivity are also issues of interest. Materialising these first-hand observations can be useful for future urban planning and territorial management and the cultural shift sorely needed.

"One of the aims of this programme is to encourage land mobility that responds to the environmental challenges, better using the existing infrastructure, and showing what could be optimised."

- Lisbon Architecture Triennial

The output is a learning tool with a long-lasting effect that can be shared and spread inside and outside European frontiers. We hope to inspire action in favour of a diverse region of peace, movement freedom and free expression.

We want to collect experiences voiced from diverse backgrounds with a critical view on architecture and European territory, to have a plural compilation of essays oriented for a wide audience. That is why we look out for curious people whose previous work or experience tackled these topics.

We are thrilled with the positive reactions triggered by the first round and are already working on expanding the anthology for a second round that adds some more complexity by having on board another LINA member. For the sophomore iteration, we’re collaborating with Dai-Sai (Croatia)—merging parts of both our programmes within a broader view and giving a greater consistency to the outputs. We will explore new ways of concretising this concept and support this experimental and performative experience joining new mentors from other artistic and geographic areas.

On the other hand, we also approach these on-the-move residencies as performative actions and therefore artistic expressions per se. As Pedro Tropa,an invited speaker for the first iteration’s presentation, mentioned: “walking and land crossing can be understood as an act of drawing" and defining the territory by drawing can trigger important changes at several policy levels.1

Bio

The Lisbon Architecture Triennale is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to investigate, stimulate and promote thought and practice in architecture. Championing spatial research, encouraging architectural discourse, and inspiring transformation through global engagement has been the mission of the Triennale since its inception in 2007. Evolving from its namesake festival, it has grown into a continuous programme transcending geographic and disciplinary boundaries. Its upcoming 7th edition aims to open up a public space of curiosity, inquiry, debate, delight, outrage, speculation, transgression, imagination, and action about the possible futures of cohabitation. Three open calls will be launched for a wider participation: Independent Projects can become part of the official programme; students and researchers worldwide can apply to the Universities Competition; and young practitioners can win the Lisbon Triennale Millennium bcp Début Award.

Ajda Bračič is an editor and cultural critic in various media, whose research focuses on the intersections between architecture, identity and language in different communities' practices, techniques and knowledge. In 2021 she founded Kajža, an NGO dedicated to rehabilitation and sustainable vernacular practices and in 2022 she co-edited the book Super Vernaculars! and made her debut in fiction writing with the publication of Leteči ljudje, a collection of short stories.

Tevi Allan Mensah investigates imaginaries of border territories. His practice that intersects artistic creation and architecture to interrogate the role of this discipline as a means of collective communication. Allan Mensah co-founded in 2019 the collective frontières* dedicated to publishing in architecture, in 2022 he co-created a micro-festival of architecture, Balthazar, and currently teaches in the master chair Utopie/Dystopie at ENSA Lyon.

Federica Zambeletti is the founder and managing director of KoozArch. She is an architect, researcher and digital curator whose interests lie at the intersection between art, architecture and regenerative practices. In 2015 Federica founded KoozArch with the ambition of creating a space where to research, explore and discuss architecture beyond the limits of its built form. Parallel to her work at KoozArch, Federica is Architect at the architecture studio UNA and researcher at the non-profit agency for change UNLESS where she is project manager of the research "Antarctic Resolution". Federica is an Architectural Association School of Architecture in London alumni.

Notes
1 Pedro Tropa's artistic practice questions the notion of landscape and the universe of mountain territories from the Himalayas to the Alps. The rough and rarefied nature of these places, sensorially explored on a journey through walking or climbing, is the subject of works in video, photography or drawing. The embodied experience in loco is then revisited in the studio in a synthesis between perception and memory.

Published
08 Sep 2023
Reading time
10 minutes
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