As the story of the Venetian lagoon goes, the little isles of what is essentially mud were often inhabited by people from the mainland who were seeking temporary refuge from vicious attackers. After a while, these forced settlers realised that they could establish themselves permanently by reinforcing these unstable grounds with wooden poles long enough to penetrate silt and mud, reaching the hard soil beneath. This ingenuity led to the development of a city that was no longer only the home of fish, reeds and mosquitoes but also a hub for arts, architecture and culture. When walking around Venice, I can almost feel this subtle human energy that lays in its foundations.
Last week, Rupert and the Lithuanian Space Agency (LSA) presented Julijonas Urbonas’ project Planet of People at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia. Planet of People is a hypothetical proposition to catapult humans into the Lagrange Point 2, assuming that due to the gravity of individual bodies, they would start weaving into a new celestial formation. The presentation of Planet of People in Venice is an attempt to figure out how this proposition could be realised and what resources we would need to create this human architecture, where we are both the architects and the fabric for it. I see an interesting parallel between Julijonas’ suggestion and the beginnings of Venice: perhaps their emergence is induced by insecurity or even fear, but it is definitely a metaphor for rethinking how we live together (this was also the question posed by Hashim Sharikis, the curator of this year’s biennial).
The LSA introduces a Planet of People prototype consisting of a 3D scanner and astrophysics simulations, based on extensive scientific research. Visitors of the pavilion are invited into the scanner and from there, their digitised versions are absorbed into the orbit of Planet of People and, eventually, the planet itself. At the end of the biennial, we will see how big this virtual planet has grown and know its approximate mass.
The concept of Planet of People also resonates with the actual architecture of the pavilion: plastic chairs and a table that, except for the table’s stainless-steel sides and core, have been recycled maybe a hundred times, living an eternal life in the cycle of use. Their layered textures remind me of a still-forming planet’s crust. The structure of the scanner and screens seems like a peculiar launch pad or a futuristic catapult to space. Finally, the deployable structures on each end of the installation, as Julijonas said to me, conjure up the image of parentheses for the whole project, indicating that this project is inherent to the quasi-real institution of the LSA.
One can look at Planet of People as a site for otherworldly imagination and architecture, and at the same time, it can function as a tool for introspection, emphasising questions of how we cherish planet Earth and our daily interactions with each other. For now, I will indulge in the fact that we have gathered in Venice after the prolonged wait for the biennial which was postponed a couple of times and that everyone is starting to feel a little safer in the eyes of the pandemic.
Alla prossima volta,
Meet the Lithuanian Space Agency’s team on their website, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook pages.
The LSA’s installation photos by Darius Petrulaitis