Zenovia Toloudi / Studio Z, Technoutopias, Dartmouth College
Jaffe-Friede Gallery & Strauss Gallery
Photos: Jerry Auten

Technoutopias Lecture

So grateful to share the artistic theoretical research that led to Technoutopias exhibition. 
Million thanks to collaborators, colleagues, students, family, and friends for their presence one way or another. 
(Photograph credits: Tian Yang).  




The Realism of Utopia

The Realism of Utopia
Ioanna Zymariti

Zenovia Toloudi, architect and visual artist, envisions the city of the future as a museum of Mediterranean plant species, a seed bank where citizens will be sharing the goods equally.

Zenovia Toloudi founded Studio Z in 2000, an Architectural and Art Research Office, whose art installations have been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Harvard, Dartmouth, MIT and the Byzantine Museum of Athens. "I am interested in creating an architecture detached from the concept of a private customer. I'm looking for ways to implement architectural ideas that I feel are necessary for a better lifestyle." We met her at the "Tomorrows" exhibition shortly before returning to America, where she works as Assistant Professor of Architecture at Dartmouth University, and she revealed to BHmagazino the world of her installation Silo(e)scapes.

"My interest in the relationship between food and architecture stems from my research, through creative work and teaching on the ephemeral and the temporal in architecture, but also on the subject of metabolism in buildings and structures. There is a great deal of interest in the relationship between architecture and nutrition systems that has not yet been analysed adequately. Digestion takes place in our body, and waste disposal takes place via a building's infrastructure. Similarly, water supply is provided via hydraulic systems. Today, as the future of food systems is changing rapidly (eg pill-based food, insects consumption, meat consumption, GMO, agricultural/organic, etc.), Architecture must incorporate this change."

"I am concerned about the role that Architecture can play in major issues of the humankind such as democracy, social inequality and other. This particular work, Silo(e)scapes, which is presented for the first time, addresses the issue of food inequality, one of the principal global issues, through an evolution of typology of architecture in the future, which also borrows data from the past. It is a typology of buildings that promotes collectivism and a sharing economy through housing accomodation. Similar actions and organizations exist isolated in various locations on the planet, but this artwork enhances them with a physical manifestation; it promotes them by proposing a particular Architecture, which is communal. The work sees the Seed Bank as a library of the future. Silo(e)scapes in other words, envisions the creation of a new building typology, which is a hybrid between a Seed Bank and a Museum of plant species, owned by citizens, who share valuable goods on equal terms."

"Beyond addressing the equitable management of valuable goods, the project also underlines the disappearance of biodiversity due to natural disasters, but also due to controls, standardizations and private interests. At the same time, it proposes maintaining biodiversity as well as autonomy. Not only does it provide through architecture a physical manifestation of the issue of biodiversity, but it also exposes and venerates it through the creation of seed-silos. The work borrows many elements from the architecture of the window (which overwhelmingly exists within commercial architecture), whose transparency has been historically associated with democracy (transparency in processes/procedures) and control (through technology)."

"In general, a number of creators predict increased technology dependency in the future. There is a need to envision methods of resistance and ways to stop our association with it. More generally, I'm interested in the possibilities that arise from the connection of technology, art, and architecture, but not by means of the latest gadgets. Considering the etymological connection among the notions techne/τέχνες (art), τίκτω (build), and αρτιότητα (completeness), I try to implement projects by offering a proposition on a given moment, with a critical look - with Art being used to question rather than beautify or impress."

"In Silo(e)scapes, viewers are watching the futuristic microcosm through a panopticon structure that extends to infinity. It is a "wearable" room, a portal between reality and imagination (not by means of a technological tool): Viewers enter with their head into an opening to observe the endangered species, the Bank/Museum and the sharing economy of Lilliputian residents. The seed columns of the infinite space, the kaleidoscope of mirrors and agrarian sounds create a perception of space, which is neither real nor an imitation. The kaleidoscopic experience of Silo(e)scapes functions as an escape machine, but also as a deceptive mechanism that transports viewers into a parallel, threatening, and seductive universe in which they need to act upon in order to obtain a positive environment. The theatrical and voyeuristic experience in Silo(e)scapes awakens memories, and creates a process that empowers viewers to disrupt the sequence of events instigating the disappearance of such species."

"I support the issue but with a strong dose of optimism, which I consider to be an integral part of architecture. I am interested in the realism hidden by utopia. The differences between realistic and unrealistic visions are not easily measured. But Kisho Kurokawa portrayed this delicate difference by comparing the approach of the Japanese Metabolists to that of the British post-war, avant-garde Archigram. According to Kurokawa, while Archigram is disappointed by reality and is trying to visualize the future as something with more potential, Japanese Metabolism tries to imagine reality by planting seeds of the future on Earth as it is today. I am especially interested in how such a vision is linked to a particular identity through integration of historical and cultural elements."

“The seeds, as well as the way by which one enters the structure, symbolize the need for something new to sprout, but not necessarily homogeneous. Biodiversity is very important, and so is diversity. They are basic elements of this collective society. The seed-columns, seed-silos symbolize the foundation of a sharing society. The column in Architecture is of great importance, and Architects have invented multiple reincarnations of it. I wanted the installation to have this simplicity, perhaps Doric-ity, but above all a public character of similar structures, such as the architecture of the stoa, or the ancient temple with its columns. This multiplicity of columns, based on a single small element, re-establishes social space and Architecture. Antoine Picon had examined the role of such an element, that of the independent column, in the religious architecture of the eighteenth century. According to Picon, this architectural mechanism, acting as (cultural) mixture of dissimilar objects, offers heterogeneity and allows social imagination.”

“From the Greek Culture I would maintain the Ingenuity, the Spirit of Freedom, the Critical Vision, and the Pride. Correspondingly, from the American Culture, I would maintain the Spirit of Cooperation, the Efficiency, the Positive Attitude, the Civic Participation, and the Volunteering. In Architecture, from the Greek reality I would keep the relationship of the building with landscape and locality, the public space structures, elements of informal urbanization, and the existence of the small architectural office. From the American reality, I would maintain the decision making processes about architecture, and the system of production and construction that offers an architect a more respected role in the process.”

"I am interested in creating an architecture without the concept of a private customer. That's why I create these installations. I'm looking for ways to implement architectural ideas that I feel are essential to the society aiming at a better lifestyle. Creation of such works cannot take place without intervention by those who believe in my ideas and work, and contributed to their implementation with ingenious construction solutions. It is of great importance that such people come from a small town, such as Alexandroupolis. And their action and contribution has been reaching not only Athens, Greece, and Boston, MA, but also a quaint Hanover, New Hampshire. I refer to my collaboration with the workshop of Panagiotis (Takis) Stamboulidis, which was initiated by the personal bond between my father, Georgios Toloudis and the workshop owner, Mr. Takis. Implementation of ‘bottom-up’ visions through solidarity, faith, and contribution of such people is a key element of an ideal society."

The above text is an English translation from my interview by Ioanna Zymariti on Silo(e)scapes, that took place during May 2017, in Athens, Greece

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Tomorrows @Nantes


metamaquettes graphics

Graphics by: Panharith Ean





Between the Lab and the Site

Metamaquettes: Between the Lab and the Site exhibition presents a body of works exploring subjective perceptions of space and user’s engagement. Metamaquettes (projects) are installations, models, and mock-ups that question their own nature yet create playful spaces in which to explore cognition/perception, scale, light and (im)materiality, while investigating subjectivity, neglected notions about sensory experiences, communal habits, and the ordinary and vernacular elements of culture. Being a composite word that derives from the Greek μετά/meta, and the French maquette, Metamaquette literally translates as after/post/among/beyond the models. Swinging between the real and its representation, Metamaquettes (projects) occupy the liminal space of laboratory-cum-site, becoming simultaneously both experiments and experiences. As Bruno Latour claims that science experimentation has now moved outside the laboratory, to the world wide lab, where we all engage in a series of experiments collectively attempting to survive, Metamaquettes presents new states for projects, where the laboratory and site merge into one: Models and experiments alter to spatial, and public spaces (also galleries and lobbies) turn into opportunities for experiments - in these we all collectively participate to test an idea, witnessing its appeal and prospect. By positioning installations as meta-spaces that depart from the service model of architecture practice, Metamaquettes exhibition lends a fresh perspective on the influence of installations in contemporary architecture. The minimum quality of 
this architecture is subjected to specific costs, materials, and other resources and conditions. However what in Metamaquettes appears as experimental and innovative, will soon become integral part of the new traditional.