EFFE Laureate - Tallinn Architecture Biennale
At first sight one might wonder whether the Tallinn Architecture Biennale (TAB) is a festival at all – or even about architecture. There is a great deal of debate and a big bundle of exhibitions throughout September and October but of concerts or theatre there is nothing announced in the programme. For Raul Jarg, the Director, that is beside the point. “We are exploring a creator's theoretical idea,” he says, inferring that this process in itself is artistic and quoting the ancient line, “architecture is too important to be left to architects.” TAB itself deliberately blurs the distinctions between designers, artists, architects, makers, philosophers and scientists, arguing that since they all shape our world through their vision the labels overlap. “And we do have performances,” Raul admits, “for example having a special dance piece as part of an exhibition”.
The Biennale spreads out across Tallinn, from its baroque centre to its Soviet-era tower blocks and gradually regenerating coastline. There is an installation competition for public constructions in open spaces and a vision competition for “proposals working at the intersection of architecture, computation and biology to redefine the Paljassaare Peninsula as a new urban prototype for the city of Tallinn.”
The principal vision behind the 2017 biennale is that of architect, urban designer and ecologist, Claudia Pasquero. She takes as her starting point a position which stands the usual assumptions of architecture blending in with the natural environment on their head. She examines, “what constitutes the boundary between natural and artificial realms. Rather than considering nature as a balanced system, that is perturbed and derailed by human action, [she] assumes that there is no nature... declares that ecosystems themselves are the product of an accumulation of catastrophic events, that give origin to new dynamic equilibria.”
Raul Jarg agrees that it is a statement made to grab the attention, “to find a way to discuss architecture from a new side. It is the intention not to be precise, to investigate the philosophy more than the practicalities.”
I suggested that TAB was in the process of inventing new Utopia's, visions of built environments that rarely turned out happily for those who had to live in them. Raul partly agreed but argued both that it was important to have a coherent vision when putting a city together, that the vision defined the age and that architects therefore carried a great responsibility not felt by others who create. “Architecture is a dangerous weapon. We are experimenting with society. We have to be careful because the feedback comes over a very long time. We only understand what we have built over generations.”
By Simon Mundy for EFA