by John JervisMay 11, 2020
Architect Carla Juaçaba of the eponymous architectural studio in Rio de Janeiro, and Marcelo Cidade, a São Paulo-based artist, have collaborated to bring Ministry for All – a site-specific installation at the Storefront for Art and Architecture gallery - in New York.
The exhibition exposes the physical infrastructure of the gallery, where its concrete panels have been removed to reveal the inner workings of the building. While the construction materials like acoustic foam and plywood boards are exposed on the exteriors, its concrete covering on the other hand has been transported in the gallery interiors.
Ministry for All draws its title from the monumental civil buildings by architect Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) and open plan layout by architect Lucio Costa (1902-1998) for Brazil’s new capital Brasilia – the city built as a modern utopia between 1956 to 1960. Being the new seat of the nation, Brasilia exemplified social, political, and economic development where its central district came dotted with larger than life buildings and a series of colossal concrete edifices flanked its central avenue – all manifesting into an urban fabric that featured a distinct space for every aspect of life.
While the Niemeyer/Costa interventions were imbued with a sense of stability, the composition and nature of the ministries changed from one administration to another, controlled by those in political power.
The exhibition undresses the iconic façade of Storefront to comment on the social and political foundations of the built environment, and to acknowledge the theatricality and vulnerability of architecture.
Juaçaba reconfigures the concrete panels inside the gallery, creating new spaces, forms and interactions. Through simple gestures, the installation extrudes the façade inwards, and offers a renewed narrative of its panels that are no longer performing. Cidade intervenes in the gallery’s protective shell, which includes cracks, dirt marks, and graffiti, and repurposes them into a composition that alters the space – challenging the way we look at the inside-outside relationship of buildings.
The exhibition reflects upon the building foundations that frame identities of territories in which they are located, and though dug solidly into the earth, remain constantly in a state of flux by underlying systems of power.