The Urburb: Patterns of Contemporary Living
Venice Biennale 2014
Curators / Exhibitors: Roy Brand, Ori Scialom, Keren Yeala-Golan
Associate Curator: Edith Kofsky
The Urburb – a neologism referring to the mesh of the urban and suburban – characterizes the great majority of residential areas in contemporary Israel. As a repercussion of one hundred years of modernist planning, the Urburb is a fragmented mosaic composed of the early-20th century garden-city and rural settlements, mid-20th century social housing, and the generic residential typologies of the past two decades.
This hybrid manifests the conflicting demands of the modernist machine functioning in the old-new land: to create small egalitarian communities while accommodating a large and diverse population; to spread throughout the country while converging and closing-in; and to reconnect to the land via a top-down planning system that treats the surface as a clean slate.
In order to explore these dynamics, the Israeli pavilion is transformed into a contemporary construction site furnished with four large sand-printers. The site and the sand-printers delineate the story of one hundred years of modernist planning in Israel, in diverse
scales shifting from national master plans to those of the single building. The printers
are accompanied by a video and sound piece that transforms the Urburban patterns and plays them like a music box.
In the endlessly expanding Urburban environment, new residential communities continue to pop-up, separated by large expanses of open land, locked-in and dislocated. The installation, like the Urburb itself, is uniform and consistent. It conveys the experience of life in a modernist machine, under the signs of automation and the promise of utopian redemption. As rapidly as the schemes are impressed into the sand, so are they wiped away, emphasizing how these generic pattern-oriented plans are ”printed” from above in compliance with changing ideologies and master plans.
The Urburb is more than an architectural phenomenon; it is a state of mind and a form of living. Swinging between two parallel vectors – repetitive actions and fixed notions – the Urburb is the result of a particular modernist course, leading from an early emphasis on simplicity, compactness and equality to the inflated and homogenous neo-liberal formations of today.