#commoning

spring 2020

When we contemplate the existing structures of power - the infrastructures we exploit and the social cues we construct - we, as architects, are charged with acknowledging the long-term social and environmental impacts of our decisions. These choices often operate within a standard typology, which lend themselves to proliferating existing structures of power, failing to address our complicity in these systems of thought.

 

While we cannot solve all of the world’s problems, we can re-imagine the structures of a given typology and in doing so, actively transform social interaction and the dissemination of knowledge. If we then interrogate the traditional museum typology, its primary motive is to engage and educate a given public; however, its existing social structure is predominantly one-sided in authorship and ownership.

 

Therefore, if we deconstruct these disparate notions of producer and consumer (of art), we can effectively unravel these conventional social structures. Beatrice Leanza, the current director of the MAAT, recently revealed that #commoning will be a topic of engagement in the museum’s upcoming shows. By redefining traditional mechanisms of display and production of art, we can effectively change the perceptions of process and education within our public institutions. Therefore, this proposal interrogates several questions:

 

If we were to re-imagine this institution through this lens of commoning, how could collective workflows/social interactions begin to inform the organization or question the museum typology?

How could artistic workflows be informed or re-framed through circulation and the porosity of space?

As a public institution privately funded by an energy company, the EDP Foundation, the MAAT boasts a civic responsibility to disseminate knowledge, particularly a shared awareness for and contention with climate change. In re-framing the MAAT’s tectonic character through this lens of energy, mass timber minimizes the embodied energy from its sourcing, production, and transport to site. This is confirmed by examining a Portugal-based company, Carmo Wood, which owns and operates multiple production units within the country and sources wood from FSC-sustainably harvested forests that are located within three hours of the site.

Once sourced and produced, this timber would arrive to the north edge of the site by rail or truck. While the site’s proximity to the highway and train lines assists in the transportation of material, it also engages the pedestrian footpaths that follow the north and south portions of the site.

In its cultivation of artist collectives, the museum catalyzes clusters of people, encouraging gatherings and informal interactions on the ground level. These clusters span the waterfront’s existing pedestrian path, engaging those who frequent this route. This, in turn, generates interrelated networks of social interaction. To illuminate these moments of collectivity, we must also facilitate moments of porosity. By crossing between zones of activity, we begin to blend/blur the boundaries of the site and of the institution. Therefore, if we inscribe a new form of circulation on the site – one that generates both density and porosity – we can begin to understand the museum as a combination of interstitial spaces and the volumes/edges that define it.

Lisbon is experiencing a flux of Portuguese artists leaving the country and therefore, a lack of native artists exhibiting their work. By embracing a local and international diversity, this new MAAT looks to form new modes of artistic collaboration. Through the cultivation of artist collectives, it strives to capture these two scales of sharing by inducing broader networks of collectivity. Each collective’s set of personal spaces accommodate approximately 6-8 people. While each of these collectives naturally operates within a specific polemic, this topic would relate to the curator’s theme for that year. Once that year expires, they would host a show or exhibition to display all works generated within that time. These shows could be staggered to prevent any lulls in production or exhibition of work. Structurally, these repeated collective units work with one-way and two-way systems of mass timber. The upper level’s system of walls rest upon the lower level’s columns and beams to generate a thickened two-way system of stacking.

On the lower floor, the studio provides an open plan for each collective to personalize their space with projects, installations, furnishings, and gatherings of people. On this lower floor, the restroom acts as a semi-shared infrastructure (between the collective and patrons of the museum) while the studio and lift are personal to each collective. At the collective’s discretion, the studio - and therefore the production of work - is accessible to the patrons of the museum. By opening the large door at the rear, the collective’s studio bleeds into the open-programmed space that surrounds it. This exposure of production alters the visitor’s perception of the work in process, but also facilitates informal gatherings with neighboring artist collectives.

 

On the upper level, each gallery features a ticketed entry. In this way, alternating exhibitions can occur; if needed, this also permits each collective to temporarily close for renovation or exhibition installation. Art can be exhibited on the shifted walls within the gallery space, hung from the beams that span these walls, or arranged on the floor. While these gallery spaces formally allotted zones for each collective, the exhibition of art would occur across the entire museum.

Programmatically, the adjacent flexible zones offer alternative spaces for working, gathering, and exhibiting. Formally, the arrangement of these interstitial zones work off of the urban grid of the neighboring Tejo Power Station, appearing as green spaces within/around the institution and as incisions in the plinth that extends over the water.

The entry plaza acts as a shared territory of informal gathering, offering green space to host public art sculptures, performances, community events, and temporary exhibitions. These spaces are articulated by shallow benches, derived from the grid of the institution; the landscape is figured by the grid of the neighboring power station. These two grids collide within this shared zone of activity. This territory intentionally loosens at its edges, drawing pedestrians from the street and from the waterfront.


Two ramps – one on either end of the site – lead occupants onto the raised walkway. The ramp that engages the highway draws visitors from the Tejo Power Station (NW) while the ramp along the waterfront engages the existing pedestrian path (SE). Capitalizing on Lisbon’s temperate climate, the exterior circulation on the upper level is figured by the enclosed and semi-enclosed shared spaces. Much like a village, the atmosphere of circulating between, through, and across space allows for a cross-pollination of activity.

The preservation of the main urban corridor engages the existing pedestrian path along the waterfront; thereby, the institution hinges from this spatial artery. This corridor repeats on the upper floor, in the form of an elevated street. The ground plinth extends over the water, engaging with those arriving by boat, those delivering material, or those transporting artwork. On the upper floor, the programs shared amongst the patrons of the museum and the artist collectives interrupt the primary circulation. These spaces house workshops, lectures, gatherings, and other urban amenities. Held between the walls below and the volumes above, the interstitial zones serve as interior courtyards and urban amenities for the community. People gather around exterior sculptures while artists work in the spaces around them. In this way, this proposal blurs the division between the consumer of art and the production of art, engendering new modes of collaboration and gathering around artistic expression.

© 2020 sydney cinalli