I met up with Benedetta Tagliabue during my preview visit to the 2021 Venice Biennale. It wasn’t easy to steal a few minutes from this famous woman, but it was also tremendous to see how many people were captivated by the installation she’s curating.
The installation comprises a series of framed images and designs displayed on wooden easels that illustrate the work of the Miralles Tagliabue (EMBT) studio for a project entitled “Plateau Central Masterplan and Housing at Clichy-Montfermeil, Metropolis of Paris.” I was struck by the exhibition design, and confessed to Benedetta that it actually reminded me a little of Banksy’s installation in Venice.
Benedetta thanked me, but told me that the idea actually predates the English artist’s since the displays are a reinvention of the ones created by Enric Miralles for the ARCO exhibition in 1996. Because of the global health crisis, this year the studio opted to base its installation on its existing resources and do it in a sustainable way.
And the result is truly spectacular, as confirmed by the dozens of people who stopped to photograph the installation during our interview. Nothing is left to chance. Each frame provides some extra detail of the project, so that you can easily reconstruct the genesis of the masterplan.
At the 2018 Biennale, the Miralles Tagliabue studio exhibit was entitled Weaving Architecture. It was an alternative idea for a subway station, located in the area covered by the Grand Paris Project, that transformed a gray, abandoned part of the city into a colorful plaza. Using colors inspired by Africa, and drawing on the eclectic roof designed by the studio in 1997 for the Santo Caterina Market in Barcelona, the project conveyed a sense of freedom and openness. This year, Benedetta has returned to the Biennale with the continuation of that beautiful project, which has become a masterplan.
“Yes, in 2018 we were here in the same hall, just over there,” she says. And, with the big smile she wore for our whole interview, she pointed out the place where the previous installation was. “But they put us near the entrance, and people didn’t see us,” she adds jokingly. “This year, we’re in the middle of the hall and couldn’t be happier!”
Miralles Tagliabue’s work on Plateau Central began in 2014, the year the studio won first prize in the competition for the Clichy-Montfermeil metro station and designed street furniture for the area. In 2016, Miralles Tagliabue EMBT started work on the feasibility study for Villa Medicis. Since 2017, when they won the first prize in the competition, they have been working on Centr’Halle, a community building and market project in Clichy-Montfermeil.
The title of this year’s installation is “Living within a market - Outside space is also Home” This title is meant to be a provocative invitation to participate in community life. It’s both an actual project and a specific goal – that is, to support the coexistence and integration of the residents of a multi-cultural and marginalized neighborhood.
BT: This local community already exists. [Benedetta points out some of the photos of people on display in the installation.] These shots were taken by young Instagrammers who live in the neighborhood.
TP: You found the photos on Instagram?
BT: Yes, but look at their faces. They’re all proud to belong to these places that are the backgrounds to each photo. We contacted the photographers to ask if we could show their photos at the Biennale. They were all very proud of their creations. You could see it instantly.
The masterplan comprises various structures, including Centr’Halle, a prototype housing development that encourages integration in the Parisian suburbs. The building provides housing for many families, but there are two special things about it. The first is that the entire ground floor is used as a marketplace – an open, flexible space that invites exchange between people. Then, the flat roof has gardens for the exclusive use of residents. In this way, the project isn’t closed in on itself but is open to the whole local community.
BT: You don’t read about it much. I have to tell my kids about it. But you notice it as you go from one installation to the next here: Outside is also Home. And that’s the subtitle of our installation.
TP: So, while back in 2018 you were working on the idea of creating “indoor freedom” in a subway station, your aim is now to expand that idea of freedom to the outdoors.
BT: Yes. Let’s say that this year we’re exhibiting the evolution of the masterplan, taking the concepts developed for the metro outside. This whole neighborhood is on the move. Our feasibility study for the Villa Medici project shows that. They’ll be calling that project Atelier Medici, where, instead of going to Rome, young artists will be able to come here to study the art of the suburbs.
EMBT is involved in a huge multisectoral project, which they’ve put on show here in this simple but effective installation, which still carries the hallmark of Enric Miralles. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of his death, and the Miralles exhibition is intended to commemorate all the aspects of the man as an architect, designer, photographer, educator, and artist.
BT: The exhibition is called Miralles to underline the fact that there are so many Miralleses – one for each facet of his character. These displays were part of an exhibition dedicated to Enric, a circuit that began at the Saló del Tinell, which was chosen because in 1956 it had hosted the first Antoni Gaudí retrospective.
TP: An architect who had a lot in common with Enric Miralles.
BT: We like to think so. That’s why we’re so committed to making Enric’s work and art more widely known. This exhibition will travel next to Barcelona and be staged at various venues there throughout the year.
Read more about MIRALLES: a tribute to great catalan architect Enric Miralles
TP: Will you come and visit us soon at The Plan?
BT: Anytime! Nicola and Carlotta often call me and suggest we get together.
There’s just enough time to steal a photo of Benedetta with her installation and say hello to the very kind staff.
Just a reminder that Benedetta Tagliabue – Miralles Tagliabue EMBT is also exhibiting at Future Assembly, the group exhibition staged by Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann from Studio Other Spaces in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini area. Featured are the Montserrat installation and the Lalita chair, both tributes to the ideas of Enric Miralles. The installation is based on a sketch by Miralles that studies the shape of Mount Montserrat in Catalonia. The Lalita chair is a seat for two, designed by Caterina Miralles Tagliabue and Fabio Andrico, whose form mimics the shape of the mountain.
Credits “Living within a market - Outside space is also home”
Benedetta Tagliabue - Miralles Tagliabue EMBT (Barcelona, Spain)
Project’s author and collaborators
An original installation by Benedetta Tagliabue (Italy, b.1963), Miralles Tagliabue EMBT
Including the following projects gathered in the ‘Plateau Central’ masterplan:
- ‘Centr’Halle’ Collective Housing and Market at Clichy-sous-Bois, Paris 2017 – in progress. First prize in competition, by Benedetta Tagliabue – Miralles Tagliabue EMBT with Ilimelgo.
- ‘Clichy-Montfermeil’ Metro Station, Paris 2014 – in progress. First prize in competition, by Benedetta Tagliabue – Miralles Tagliabue EMBT with Bordas i Peiro.
- ‘Villa Medicis’ Feasibility Study at Montfermeil, Paris 2016, by Benedetta Tagliabue – Miralles Tagliabue EMBT.
- Urban Furnishing 2014-2021, by Benedetta Tagliabue – Miralles Tagliabue EMBT.
Participant: Benedetta Tagliabue – Miralles Tagliabue EMBT
Project directors: Nazaret Busto Rodríguez, Elena Nedelcu
Design team: Julia de Ory Mallavia, Iago Pérez, Beatriz Mínguez de Molina, Victoria
Garriga, Marzia Faranda, Daniel Hernán García, Youssef Shabo, Nil Corominas, Jaime
Ruiz Pérez, Dimitris Stefanakis, Yi Shen, Giorgio Serna, Agnese Blanca
Communications: Arturo Mc Clean, Ana Gallego
Models: Gabriele Rotelli, Darragh Casey
With the additional support of Institut Ramón Llull and Acción Cultural Española AC/E.
Photos of the exhibition by Arturo Mcclean
Other credits in each individual photos