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Culture & Press news – Embassy 9 – June 2008

The Embassies Project

It started with anonymous, intimate sexual confessions whispered inside the Residence of the Ambassador of Argentina – all in the name of installation art.

In 2006, the Argentine Cultural Counsellor Javier Pedrazzini came up with the idea of hosting an avante garde exhibition in the Ambassador’s elegant Belgravia residence for London’s Open House festival. Ambassador Federico Mirré agreed to hand his house over to the artists and Casa Abierta was born. It was an overnight success. So extraordinary were the works – made even more extraordinary by their context – that the queues to see the exhibition stretched around the block. One of the visitors was Peter Murray, director of the London Festival of Architecture. He was enthralled – and immediately a seed of an idea was planted to invite the capital’s embassies to do something similar for the London Festival of Architecture.

And so the Embassies Project came into being. Over 25 diplomatic missions in London took up the challenge to erect installations according to the theme Fresh! The exhibits are all highly original variations on the theme. Here we sample a fraction of what’s on offer – so do venture out there and explore for yourself.

For info visit www.lfa2008.org/embassies.php

 Argentina – ARDI in London

Curator: Daniel Silberfaden and Ricardo Blanco
Venue: The Argentine Embassy
56 Brook Street, W1K 4AH
Date: Until 18 July
Time: 10.30-16.30
In 2000, the Argentine economy was plunged into crisis, paralysing the design industry. But necessity is the mother of invention and this exhibition shows how young Argentine designers and architects have put new wine into old vessels, reinventing old buildings and structures and creating a fresh collaboration between architect and interior designer.


Austria – More Opportunities

Curator: Barbara Holub
Austrian Cultural Forum
28 Rutland Gate,
Until 29 July
Artist, architect and urbanist Barbara Holub looks at the rundown Plymouth dockyards and the city’s attempts at urban regeneration by weaving archive footage of the dockyard strikes with recent strikes over the privatisation of the naval yard.

Brazil – Raw

Curator: Ricardo de Ostos
Embassy of Brazil
32 Green Street, W1K 7AT
Here ‘Fresh’ is interpreted as that which is raw and unprocessed in Brazilian architecture. The installation presents experimental designs that challenge the way Brazilians live. It also explores the part architects play as agents of social change. All the works echo Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica’s idea of the ‘parangole’ – a work of art that challenges people’s assumptions of reality.

Canada – Vancouverism

Curators: Trevor Boddy and Dennis Sharp
Venue: Canada House,
Trafalgar Square, SW1Y 5BJ
Hours: Weekdays from 10.00-18.00
Vancouver is Canada’s Pacific portal and the Westcoast architecture reflects the openness and experimentalism that comes from being on ‘the edge’ – it is green, global and futuristic in spirit – look out for the stunning sculpture made from sustainably harvested British Columbia wood.


Colombia – The Revival of a City

Venue: St Columba’s Church of Scotland,
Pont St SW1X 0BD
Dates: 16-25 July
This exhibition charts the transformation of Bogota from a paranoid, inward-looking city with privatised public spaces to a city with a vibrant civic culture – thanks to clever public management.

Costa Rica – Selected Projects

Curators: Diego Vanderlaat, architecture students from Veritas University and Juan Carlos Sanabria
Venue: Bolivar Hall, 54-58 Grafton Way, W1T 5DL
Dates: Until 30 June
How do you cure a city’s ‘car-o-holism’? Students from Veritas University have put together a 12-step programme to cure San José of its addiction to the automobile. This is just one of the offerings from the Embassy of Costa Rica.

Cyprus – Post Utopia – Recycling Plato

Curators: Eraklis Papachristou, Maria Papacharalambous and Achillaes Kentonis
Venue: Hellenic Centre,
16-18 Paddington Street, W1U 5AS
Date: Until 27 June
Can nature, architecture and ‘socio-artistic technology’ combine as a way to capture, store and recycle happiness, hope and positive energy? A deeply philosophical look at architecture and its impact on wellbeing.


Czech Republic – Benelon

Curators: Vendula Hladikova, Bernard Stroch and Stepan Toman with input from Eva Jiricna
Venue: St Olave’s School, Tooley St, SE1.
Dates: Until 20 July
A tale of two cities – a clever and provocative project by Agents, a group of young Czech architects who have lived and worked in London. Benelon examines the connections and interrelations between two places: London and Benesov, a small town in the Czech Republic. Agents have created the virtual town of Benelon, taking fragments of reality from both places and letting them interact together.


Denmark – Sus-DANE-able

Curator: Vibeke Grupe Larsen
The Royal Danish Embassy
55 Sloane St, SW1X 9SR
Until 12 July
This exhibition looks at the concept ‘sustainable’ – beyond the carbon-neutral building; it’s a structure that respects the physical, social and cultural context. Some talks and tours take place in the Danish Embassy, itself a masterpiece by acclaimed Danish architect Arne Jacobsen




Curators: Danish Architecture Centre
Venue: St Olave’s School, Tooley St, SE1
Dates: Until 20 July
Co-Evolution tells the story of how a new generation of Danish and Chinese architects are creating visionary yet practical proposals for development of sustainable cities in the 21st century.


Finland – Learning Environments

Curator: Mr Matti Karjanoja
Venue: 33 Portland Place, W1B 1QE
Date: Until 20 July
Time: Daily, 11.00-18.00 (except Mondays)
Why is the Finnish schooling system one of the best in the world? Could it have something to do with the open, flexible learning environment of Finnish schools?



Refreshing Architecture

Venue: Bolivar Hall,
54 & 58 Grafton Way, W1T 5DL
Date: Until 20 June
This exhibition looks at an innovative approach to post-emergency reconstruction. Architect Eduardo Aguirre was invited to rebuild some of the worst affected areas by Hurricane Stan in Guatemala. Sensitive reconstruction involving the local Mayan community has prompted a renewal – and the discovery of an archaeological site will help boost tourism.



Scattered House
Venue: Hungarian Cultural Centre, 10 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7NA
Date: 4-6 July by appointment only
What is home in a networked world? Is it real or virtual? This installation consists of 20,000 gadgets in locations across London and Budapest, and looks at the “scattered” identity of contemporary citizens: across nations, disciplines, interests and attitudes.


Romania – New Bucharest Market

Venue: Romanian Cultural Centre,
Dates: Until 20 July
Times: Mon-Fri 10.00-18.00
Bucharest is a muddle of history: faded aristrocracy, uniform communist slabs and unbridled post-modern redevelopment. It’s a city badly in need of a vision. The TUB (TranscentralUrbanBucharest) project involves 14 architects searching for a new identity for the capital. This playful installation includes ironic works by young Romanian artists: Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor present the Infobox project, a model of a typical Bucharest apartment; Vlad Nanca turns one of Bucharest’s famous covered cars into a gigantic beanbag; and Daniel Gontz plays Tetris with communist bloc apartment blocks.

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