Joel Huffman, Principal of Vertu, was one of only four Americans invited to exhibit at Palazzo Bembo during the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale. The exhibit’s title “Traces of Centuries and Future Steps” was organized by the Global Art Affairs Foundation and featured fifty seven architects representing twenty six countries across six continents. Huffman’s project entitled “A New Architecture: Harmonic Morphology” was exhibited from August 29th to November 25th 2012. The project description follows:
Our contemporary societal situation is characterized by competing and often confrontational political structures. In many cases, there is a dominant Institutional framework, perhaps established over centuries, that becomes too rigid and dense to adequately respond to, or partner with, a more fluid and constantly evolving Public. This disjunction often leads to institutional failure and crisis. Examples of this can be seen clearly in such dramatic events as the Arab Spring and in other protest movements throughout the world where unyielding and cloaked totalitarian systems obstruct social change.
By extension, urban form is the cumulative physical embodiment of the historical political layers of a particular culture. A city’s perhaps once valid structure, characterized by stable hierarchical compartmentalization where political power is concentrated over a uniform public, is simply not relevant in today’s hyper connected world. Urban life can now be understood as the sum of spontaneous, non-linear interactivity that is in a constantly evolving and precarious state of overlap.
A new spatial organization, to be realized in architecture and urbanism, must be characterized by a flexible framework to foster dispersed, fluid and poly-nodal events that unfold in a continuously evolving process. At the core of this arrangement is finding a new relationship between the ordering system (geometry) and what is being ordered (figure/ground). This new condition, whereby a new baseline of agreement shall prevail, will not be a dialectic collision of opposites but rather a synthetic fusion that achieves a new Harmonic Morphology.
The proposal presented here is the continuation of nearly two decades of thought and experimentation. Ideas that originally germinated in urban proposals from the early 1990’s and further investigated in a series of installations, seem to be even more relevant and urgent today. Here historic layers, or traces, of urban form and their dense organizational structures are fused together to create a new fluid spatial system. Characterized by multiple nodes and spontaneous interconnections, this new diagrammatic arrangement may not be a “building” in its traditional meaning, however this process may serve as a universal model to approach how space may be organized for a variety of project types.
Architecture and urbanism has a specific and important role – as it is the mediator among people, systems and events. It is not to dictate and compartmentalize culture from the top down, but allow it to flourish organically and thrive on its own accord.