Points de vue et Critiques
Statements by producers
|The goal of Garagem Sul as an exhibition space is to foster a public awareness
of architecture and to communicate current research in this field to a wider
audience. We seek to achieve this by stressing that architecture is a matter
of construction, involving building practices that shape our social relations
and mediate the human impact on the planet. The exhibition Agriculture
and Architecture offered a powerful contribution to our mission. Its
favourable reception has led to the significant recognition of Garagem Sul
as a space hosting discussions that matter to everyone, a place where the
liveliness and opportunity of its contents underline how architecture can
play a key role in organising society.
The synthetic rationale behind the way in which the exhibition materials were organised — timelines, cards, films, scenarios — enabled visitors to find their way through a complex puzzle of references and ideas. The exhibition’s cartoon-like narrative content appealed to younger audiences, while the wealth of visual historical references engaged in a dialogue with the colourful representations on the cards of contemporary projects, the voices of actors and scholars enlivened visitors’ perceptions of the materials, and the prospective scenarios helped them to understand the consequences of our human activities for the planet’s future. The exhibition catalogue made it possible to delve deeper into all the questions raised during the shorter or longer visits to the exhibition, also expanding the content circulation and a long-term reading support.
Amid all the doubts and certainties, a lively debate was promoted by the ideological bias of the exhibition Agriculture and Architecture about permaculture as a way of dealing with our environmental predicament. The exhibition provided an original, exhaustive and accurate background for such a debate, nurturing an awareness of how architecture can play a fundamental role in social discussions. As an exhibition gallery, we look forward to the future continuation of this ongoing debate.
André Tavares, Centro Cultural de Belém / Garagem Sul, Lisbon
This exhibition aroused in Archizoom an enthusiasm and a particularly active participation of the public, probably thanks to its very clearly stated purpose in three parts: to ask a fundamental question, to bring elements of understanding, to propose an open space for discussion.
The question posed around the ‘metropolization of the world’ is very topical, but it is formulated here in a new way. It disturbs our way of thinking. A rich and complete documentation was therefore needed to provide visitors with a few keys to reading. However, a visit to the exhibition is not constrained by a rigid and linear plan. The organization of the information allows a free course, at different rhythms. A very varied public, especially students, greatly appreciated this generous and explicit invitation.
Taking The Country’s Side is also a courageous exhibition that dares a point of view and provides answers. It avoids the hermeticism of a disciplinary debate reserved for a group of specialists who think in unison. On the contrary, it invites architects, designers and urban planners to rethink the multiple dimensions of their practices.
I am convinced that this exhibition will be a landmark, because it allows everyone to change their perspective on our new relationships with the environment and living things, in a period of doubt about the models that have brought us to the present situation.
Cyril Veillon, Archizoom director, EPFL, Lausanne
Taking the Country’s Side is an important, wide-ranging and timely exhibition that addresses the often overlooked, yet critical, relationship between city and country. By recognising the crucial role played by the countryside in shaping past and present civilisations and the degree to which it has often been relegated to an invisible, silent partner in an unequal power dynamic with the city, the exhibition reveals the hidden levers that will ultimately determine our fate during an age of unprecedented ecological pressure. Offering solutions as well as revealing the underlying social, cultural, political and economic forces shaping the urban-rural relationship, 'Taking the Country’s Side' is an exhibition of urgent global relevance.
Carolyn Steel, architect and writer, author of Hungry City (2008) and Sitopia (2020)
Sebastien Marot’s invitation to participate to his exhibition Taking the country’s side has been one of the most fruitful intellectual challenges of my life. As an agronomist I am enthusiastic for the growing interest for agriculture among architects and urbanists, while agriculture teaching is regrettably focusing more and more on details, loosing the broader picture of landscapes and ecosystems. Taking the country’s side is leading us a step further in time and space. It gave me a broader understanding of the common roots of urbanism and agriculture which are in all cultures bound by common representations of space, society and values, as well as the similarity of the debates on the current industrial model. As often with history, the understanding of their twiddly evolution up to the present time sets aside any kind of simple determinism and opens largely the possible futures. A mind-opening exhibition, a public good!
Matthieu Calame, agronomist and author, director of the Fondation Charles-Léopold Meyer pour le Progrès de l’Homme (Fph), Paris and Lausanne.
I think of this exhibition - and even more of the catalogue - as an enormous and important intellectual and timely achievement. For me, it has revealed a shameful amount of blind spots.”
Christophe van Gerrewey, assistant professor in Architecture, Criticism, History and Theory, Epfl
Taking the countryside is a wonderful “exploratorium”. What happened? What has been the history of human settlements and of their relationships with adjoining and remote rural communities? What happened meantime? What have been the proposals in different cultures and times for ideal or improved rural-urban relationships? What now? How could we do better? The exhibition provides a very carefully designed, but open non- prescriptive, space within which to explore these questions. Within it visitors can roam to better understand how we ended up where we are, and to consider personal and social options for moving on. It is also visually enormously rich with an extraordinary juxtaposition of images and texts from past and diverse cultures.
Colin Moorcraft, critic and writer on design and environmental issues, author of “Designing For Survival” (1972)
While the diverse impacts of the crisis facing civilization have been building for centuries in the rural and remote hinterlands, the urban heart of civilization is increasingly threatened by the manifold expressions of the Limits to Growth that were so clearly articulated 50 years ago. Most dramatically highlighted by the global pandemic, the very design principles of civilization in urban industrial modernity are being challenged by energetic, ecological, and microbiological realities that arise in the abused and exploited hinterlands.
In tracing the symbiosis, estrangement and reunification of Architecture and Agriculture through history, Sébastien Marot and his team have done far more than describe the crisis. They have tracked and connected the diverse threads of concepts and practices that have sought to revise, reform and redesign the living relationship between society and nature. In the process it becomes crystal clear that the reunification of architecture and agriculture is central to our survival.
This exhibition is at once a harsh critique of the design professions for having “fiddled while Rome burned” and simultaneously, an invitation to join the radical expressions of design thinking that have for decades been pioneering ways of habitation and husbandry in keeping with the Limits To Growth.
The struggle for the soul of architecture in this exhibition is part of a larger conceptual struggle between the hubristic hopes of technophilia and the ecologic humility of permaculture and kindred concepts to chart paths down from the dangerous peaks of the Anthropocene, to the safety of valleys where we must create new (agri)cultures of place and belonging. While society at large and ordinary citizens in their humble households increasingly navigate the practicalities of “energy descent futures”, this exhibition is a significant contribution to providing meaning and purpose along the way.
David Holmgren, author, co-originator of Permaculture, Melliodora, Australia
Press review excerpts
“The exhibition is a container of sacred knowledge, in which the visitor mines existing stories for new meanings and coded messages. The proposition here is that from the heterogeneous material of the past, it becomes possible to see how to proceed in the future and to understand the agency of architecture in climate crisis.”
Jessica Ngan, “Let Nobody Enter Here Who Is Ignorant of the Scale and Proportions of Our Biosphere”, The Avery Review, December 2019
“Now we come to the exhibition that should rank as one of the most important of our times, anywhere. ‘Architecture and Agriculture: Taking the Country’s Side’ (...) is in the Garagem Sul. Seeing the long basement box of this ex-car park as ‘a bit like a cathedral’, Sébastien Marot arranged the show accordingly. At the start, big blown-up pictures that include Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s fresco Effects of Good Government (1339) define an ante-space, like a narthex. The heart of it is a grid of 42 double- sided hanging banners, which although generous with imagery, are so dense in information that it is more analogous to a data bank server than a nave. It charts the role of the countryside and evolution of rural planning, with many surprises such as the architectural proposition that the temple is derived from structures to protect granary stores. Through industrialization and the 1960s Green Revolution (which spread pesticides and mechanization globally), we are taken towards today’s emerging eco-awareness marked with Colin Moorcraft’s 1972 essay ‘Designing for Survival’. Along a wall runs a great timeline, illustrated by Gaëtan Amossé, spanning from the first humans, through the first technical revolution of fire, right up to today’s explosive urbanization and thoughts from the like of Rem Koolhaas and Elon Musk. The choir is a ring of four great new drawings by Martin Étienne, illustrating the possible future approaches – does the city incorporate the countryside, negotiate with it, let it infiltrate or secede to a living, non-urban landscape? Something has to give, and with its intimate entanglement with the climate emergency (not stressed in the show), the issues of city and countryside are profound. It’s a shame that the Koolhaas show ‘Countryside: The Future’, opening in February at the Guggenheim in New York, will steal the limelight. Marot’s should tour worldwide.”
Herbert Wright, “Lisbon Architecture Triennale 2019”, Blueprint n°368, January 2020
“What becomes of a great architecture event when it’s over? Hopefully, we are influenced by revelations and provocations, and usually there is some sort of legacy catalogue. In the case of TAL 2019, there is a collection of crisply attractive white paperbacks. The Triennale’s exquisite graphic design by Marco Balesteros of Letra lives on these books, and each is a super-cool memento for a show. But Marot’s is more than that – it’s an invaluable handbook to the urban/rural design story, and a wake-up call!”
“Last winter saw a battle of the giants. While the long-awaited Rem Koolhaas/AMO Countryside, The Future exhibition in the New York Guggenheim Museum was still under preparation, Sébastien Marot and his team were able to open Taking the Country’s Side in Lisbon as one of the main Lisbon Architecture Triennale exhibitions.”
Christophe Catsaros, intro to “Taking the Country’s Side: Common Trajectories in Agriculture and Architecture”, Volume/Architecture d’Aujourd’hui, April 2020 (http://volumeproject.org/taking-the- countrys-side-sebastien-marot-christophe-catsaros/)
“It is not surprising that the French philosopher and historian Sébastien Marot, initially a member of the AMO team for Koolhaas’s exhibition, stepped down because of differences of opinion on content. However, Marot is mentioned in the colophon, and his publication is shown in a showcase by Countryside, The Future. In 2019 Marot produced the (counter)exhibition and catalogue Taking the Country’s Side: Agriculture and Architecture, as part of the Lisbon Architecture Triennial. He aimed for ‘a side contribution, an extensive footnote and a transatlantic counterpoint’ to the much less humble exhibition in the Guggenheim. Nevertheless, Marot immediately sharpens the divisions in content: he uses Charles Manns’ distinction between ‘wizards’ (among which Koolhaas can be counted), the ecomodernists and pragmatists who believe to bypass the limits imposed by the planet for the umpteenth time by means of new technologies, and the ‘prophets’ (to which Marot counts himself), who acknowledge these limits and take them as a starting point to make a liveable future on earth possible.
Marot’s exhibition, divided into six chapters on agriculture, urban design and urbanisation, and accompanied by incisive texts, does present concrete scenarios for the future, in contrast to Countryside. Through De Architectura by Vitrivius, among others, Marot shows how architecture has traditionally played a role in the management of the environment and raw materials, thereby helping to shape the agricultural landscape. He shows what lessons designers and architects can draw from that history, full of forgotten advices and warnings. For example, he presents permaculture, the science for designing the human environment in an ecologically sustainable and economically stable way, as an important counter-model
Permaculture has been systematically marginalized by industrialized
agriculture, and never really became popular, according to Marot, because
it does not involve a profitable strategy. But as a philosophy and as an
ethical system, permaculture could be the basis for an ‘alter-functionalist’
This reveals a vision of the future for the relationship between architecture and the countryside, which in Taking the Country’s Side, however, is also confronted with different and conflicting visions. At the end of the exhibition Marot presents four scenarios to the visitor: ‘negotiation’ (agriculture becomes an integral part of the suburbs); ‘infiltration’ (agriculture and horticulture penetrate the city); ‘secession’ (resilient, autonomous agriculture separates from the city); and ‘incorporation’ (the capitalist city absorbs agriculture). With the latter category, Koolhaas’s vision suddenly becomes clearer, but - more importantly - it concerns scenarios that show how architecture can not only help to understand and admire the bustling countryside, but also change it.”
Laura Herman, “The Bustling Countryside : Countryside, The Future in Guggenheim, New York”, De Witte Raaf – 205 / May-June 2020.
“[There] could be an opportunity to collaborate with Sébastien Marot, whose exhibition Taking the Country’s Side is somehow linked to ours. Sébastien was part of the Harvard studio teaching effort in Rotterdam. We were always considering that the two projects could eventually merge.”
Rem Koolhaas, in conversation with Christophe Catsaros, Arjen Oosterman & Christophe van Gerrewey, Volume/L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui, July 2020
«For twenty-five years, Sébastien Marot has been surveying a field of research neglected by the theorists of architecture and urban planning: the temporal thickness of inhabited territories. For him, temporality is understood in a way that is both retrospective and prospective, in the course of a thought that is both genealogical and in-depth. His favourite subjects - the alteration of constructed situations, the material anchorings of memory, the history of the environment, the use of energy - harness the metaphor of the palimpsest to envisage landscapes. Since his reflections on «landscape as alternative» and «the art of memory», he has been interested in the factors of accumulation and acceleration of these processes, examining «the evacuation of the focus of architecture» and then «the imprint and background of the urban and metropolitan worlds», while exploring the motives of an «art of hope».
In 2019, with the exhibition «Agriculture and Architecture: Taking the Country’s side», he questions the relationships between three technical disciplines that shape our places and lifestyles on a large scale: agriculture, architecture and urban planning. Hybridizations over thousands of years have been followed by phases of accelerated industrialization. Everywhere, spatial planning has disrupted the prior balances and measurement relationships that perpetuated environments. The observation is severe: the technologies of industrial concentration have so well invested the fields of spatial design that many vital resources, starting with agricultural soils, are being exhausted.
The environmental impasses, the full extent of which we are still struggling to grasp, are weighing on our imaginations. On what scales can we renew our collective power to act? What can we hope for when it comes to landscapes?»
Olivier Gaudin, in “Paysages alternatifs”, Les Cahiers de l’École de Blois, n° 18, September 2020
On the occasion of the publication of this book, and the associated exhibition, which was a part of the Lisbon Architecture Triennale of 2019, Sébastien Marot gave a talk that positioned his work about the Country’s Side in relation to Rem Koolhaas’s almost contemporaneous Guggenheim exhibition, Countryside. Marot was intended to be a collaborator on Countryside, he previously contributed to Koolhaas’s Fundamentals at the 14th Venice Biennale, but he decided to step away from Koolhaas’s project in order to set out his own, subtler and more considered position, based on his substantial and longstanding engagement in the subject. Whereas Koolhaas’s manages, as usual, to combine the rhetorical with the apolitical, describing the ‘interesting situation’ whereby the networks of late capitalism inexorably expand until they eventually cover the surface of the earth, Marot’s argument is more nuanced, avoiding rhetoric and laying out the various routes available to humankind as it negotiates a way in the Anthropocene.
The thesis of the book, one that has informed Marot’s teaching and writing for many years, is ‘that no sound reasoning will develop on the future of agriculture and architecture, which both emerged as the twin fairies of the Neolithic revolution unless those two fields of concerns, and their associated modes of living, are reconnected and fundamentally rethought in conjunction with one another’. When humans became sedentary, and started to cultivate the land, the structures they built to store grain, were the first architecture. In 42 short sections, Marot sets out the histories and implications of these common origins, describing the long trajectory from a common purpose at the start of history, to the situation we find ourselves in today, where late capitalism has severed any balance within, and interconnectedness between these two crucial forms of spatial planning.
The sections of the book are based on the panels of the exhibition, which have been transformed into short chapters that vividly combine text, with captions, illustrations and a few, carefully chosen footnotes. The breadth of subject matter, and the ways in which it weaves different disciplines and times together reminds me of texts by Bruno Latour, managing to implicate the enormous complexity of our times into a narrative whose coherence is allowed to exist alongside stories and situations that cannot be easily reconciled. The argument employs a dizzying range of references that are gripping, witty and informative.
Unlike Koolhaas, the perpetually aroused observer, Marot not only lays out the situation, but also mercifully, comes to some conclusions. The core that underlies the project is Permaculture, the idea that agriculture and architecture both have to be designed, in an integrated way that acknowledges the finite resources of our planet, in ways that balance the social and the material. These ideas have been most clearly written about, and practiced, by Su Dennett and David Holmgren in reference to Melliodora, their settlement in Australia, whose influence Marot has long acknowledged. The final part of the book sets out ‘Four competing narratives on the future relationship of city and country’. In a contemporary spirit, these narratives, while very different in ideology and consequence, are not mutually exclusive, they could all happen in different places, the one does not make the other impossible. Their fundamental difference lies in their attitude towards growth. The first, Incorporation (the highly capitalistic metropolis absorbs agriculture) presupposes technological fixes that will enable growth to continue into the future. The second, Negotiation (agriculture becomes an integral component of urban extensions) is not so different, perhaps the new technologies can be less brutal, but the earth’s surface becomes increasingly occupied by a continuous landscape urbanism. Infiltration (agriculture and horticulture invade the city) is a more pessimistic prognosis, that of agriculture finding place to take root in the hollowed-out fabric of cities, like Detroit and Havana. Finally, Secession (il faut construire l’hacienda) is the vision of permaculture, that one accepts lower, and eventually, no growth, but this does not have to arrive through catastrophe, but can rather be managed incrementally, building political and social support on the basis of early successes. Although he does not say so, this I believe is Marot’s preferred direction, and armed with the concise resource of this book, with its intelligent references and footnotes, the reader is able to start to make their own ways towards this hopeful future.
Adam Caruso, in “Sébastien Marot’s Taking The Country’s Side (2019): Review & Excerpt”, Drawing Matter, 19th april 2021.