Manifesta 12 Research Studios: four visions for the future of Palermo

We asked the four European universities involved in the research project what is the “authentic condition” that Palermo should value.

Manifesta 12 Research Studios

It would be interesting to draw up an organigram of Manifesta 12, the itinerant art biennial which this year has come to Palermo. We would like to immediately be able to visualise its branches and the whole network of people involved. The aim of the event is to be a catalyst of energy and a mediator between the world of contemporary art (and a part of the world of architecture) and the city. An essential part of the dense network which has developed is the sensitivity and imagination of architecture students and researchers. Manifesta 12 Research Studios is an initiative promoted by one of the four cultural mediators for the biennial, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, which involves four European Universities – Architectural Association and the London Royal College of Art, Tu Delft and the University of Palermo – in the setting out of future scenarios for the Palermo area. As a progression of the publication Palermo Atlas, the workshops involved experts from the area, activists, artists and academics. The Research Studios bring together a combination of points of view which are local and knowledgeable, but which often run the risk of not examining problems with detachment or from an external perspective, one which is fresh and even naive. We asked each one of the four working groups which, out of a choice of tradition and modernity, local and global, folklore and innovation, is the “authentic condition” that Palermo should valorise in order to maintain its peculiarity in the future.

Architectural Association – Preserving Delay
Since its foundation, the AA Museum Lab focused its investigations on the metamorphic role of formal and informal cultural institutions. Within this framework, drawing close to the age of post globalization, Palermo offers unique new perspectives that subvert pre-established models of curatorship. The neglected condition of the Mediterranean epicentre – dilapidated by decades of unorthodox governance and innate resistance to change – led to a uniquely constructive State of Delay that at once enables the involuntary preservation of authenticity and subverts the traditional relationship between the city centre and the periphery. Evidence of the latter was presented by the AA Museum Lab students in occasion of the exhibition Preserving Delay at different scales: (S) Andrew Kwok recorded all abandoned votive shrines that punctuate the meandering streets of Ballarò to launch, on behalf of migrant communities, a new wave cultural appropriation of these miniature architectures; (M) Zhan Su questioned preservation paradigms by identifying designated dispersed rooms that act as immersive time-machines capturing for posterity the mesmerising current condition of the Sicilian capital; (XL) William Himpe analysed the pervasive phenomena of street art acknowledging its role in the city’s cultural scene and identifying its aptitude to counter the impending gentrification trends.

TU Delft – Radical Gardening
The design and research studio at the TU Delft university takes the “gardens” of Palermo as the testimonies of the city’s complex and rich history. The gardens have been analysed as both heroes and victims of the city’s mutations, revealing an authentic combination of different forms of uniqueness. The Studio approached different kind of gardens, while some have become the stage of the city’s political and physical transformations over years, some have evolved as the testing ground for new urban practices: from the Orto Botanico and its colonial origins, to the market of Ballarò as an expression of the rich Sicilian tradition rooted in migration, the Conca d’Oro and its latent Arab-Norman irrigation system heritage, as well as the Southern Coast and its relative toxicity, the aristocratic garden of Villa Tasca and its power for creativity, the Z.E.N. as a garden of seclusion… Palermo’s gardens have resisted and mutated recording the radical changes around them. Each of the analysed garden offer the possibility to discover under different lenses the unique history of the city. They are today an essential tool to understand the contemporary Palermo.

Royal College of Arts – Domestic Institution
Palermo, streets, alleys, squares and gardens act as stages for social performances, informal gatherings and territorial control. Rather than a place of circulation, the streets are a common territory where the urban and the domestic sphere, and their associated social institutions, encounter and merge. It is precisely in such a space where the idea of an alternative, non-regulated, form of collectivity is rehearsed. Occupation is casual, cohabitation is achieved through non-written laws and social pacts that constantly shift based on neighbouring needs and circumstances. It is, therefore, a place of dialogue and discussion, of consensus and dissent. A place where existent forms of social structures, economies and cultural institutions are continuously redefined, and that unfolds as an active forum for cultural dialogue, civic encounter and political representation across different communities and generations. Whether it being a street market, an improvised performance, an open outdoor dinner, a vendor moving cart, a soccer game, a political assembly or a prayer, the informality of the streets in Palermo is not just tolerated, it is rather nurtured as a constituting cultural component of the past, present and future of the city.     

Università degli Studi di Palermo – Augmented Palermo
Palermo is fluid. The city blends arts, traditions, architecture, plants, food and words into a powerful cultural solution, generating a storm of signs and languages. The dark days that saw its quality and identity plundered, when space was merely fuel for the voracious alliance between the Mafia, politics and economics, were those in which the city lost its fluidity, blocked by the constraints of cement and asphalt. In the projects by Unipa for the M12 Studios, we propose a new lease of life for the city centre, the port and the marine areas, which change their aspect, face and language. They experiment with tactics for renewal, social innovation and urban regeneration: the water once again laps at the old markets of Vucciria and Ballarò. The new lease of life for Kalsa is also fluid, fed by the opening of breaches in the walls of Palazzo Butera and Palazzo dello Steri, allowing for the flowing of the new cultural and creative life which animates the district, even invading, like a positive wave, the “inner lake” of the Magione, which a number of tribes seeking to form communities look out over. We imagine a liquid city which renders the ring road porous through ecological, cultural, social and productive functions for the spaces in transition. The projects directly involve the communities to be formed and cared for, because the “increased fluidity” calls for the participation of numerous side streams.

AA Museum Lab: Preserving Delay
Architectural Association, London
Unit master:
Giulia Foscari
Unit tutor:
Harikleia Karamali, Giacomo Ardesio
Vidhi Goel, William Himpe, Andrew Kwok, Linxin Li, Mingyi Lim, David Lin I-Chun, Sadia Rahman, Alexandra Savtchenko-Belskaia, Zhan Su, Jane Wong
ADS8: Domestic Institutions
Royal College of Art
Anna Puigjaner, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, Marina Otero Verzier, Kamil Dalkir
Jade Blanchard-McKinley, Teresa Ribeiro Boulting, Joel Cunningham, Ines Gulbenkian, George Allen, Tzen Chia, Sophie Williams, Cecile-Diama Samb, Josephine Devaud, Isabella Duffield, Samuele Paglino, Humza Hamid, Maria Saeki, Beth Fisher
MSc2: Radical Gardening
TU Delft
Chair professor:
Kees Kaan
Studio leaders::
Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, Paul Cournet, Giulio Margheri
Teaching assistants:
Mariapaola Michelotto, Fay Zafiropoulou
Andreea Visan, Danny Arakji, Efrain Fajardo Ibarra, Fay Zafiropoulou, Fi Thompson, Haozhuo Li, Hugo Bolsius, Jiao Chen, Jie Kai Woo, Jip Colenbrander, Lydia Polykandrioti, Maarten Limburg, Nadine Tietje, Nino Schoonen, Pavel Gorokhovskyi, Rebecca Lopes Cardozo, Sanne Beckers, Sara Perera-Hammond, Setareh Noorani, Venla Keskinen, Tymon Hogenelst
Hyper-City Studio: Augmented Palermo in the Neo-Anthropocene Age
Università degli Studi di Palermo
Maurizio Carta, Alessandra Badami, Renzo Lecardane, Marco Picone, Filippo Schilleci, Zeila Tesoriere
Agliata Elena, Bonello Federica, Macaluso Silvia, Ebreo Sara, Attardi Vittoria, Billi Rebecca, Sicomo Dalila, Bono Federica, Di Prima Sonia, Marchese Francesca, Pozzan Marina, Urso Federico, Giordano Gaetano, Cammarata Emanuela, Lo Cricchio Domenico, Sancilles Luca

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