Work Architecture of perpetual instability

Research

Type: research, design, installation, film
Theme: politics and space
Year: 2020 - 2022
Video is made in collaboration with Tanja Busking
Creative coding and AI by Soyun Park & Cailean Finn

Architecture of Perpetual Instability is an ongoing research on the various crises humanity is currently facing, with a special interest in political systems and the significance of democracy, including its Greek foundations. The project explores how this form of government was historically designed and how architecture supported and portrayed it.

With global power structures in transition, the role of international organizations in shaping societies has become crucial. History shows that crises such as wars, famines and pandemics have been associated with seismic political changes. Decision-making institutions are currently compelled to reinvent themselves to cope with issues of multilateralism and simultaneous fragmentation in the global political arena. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres has noted, this “is the greatest test that we have faced since the formation of the United Nations”.

There is a fundamental contradiction between crisis phenomena that ‘know’ no borders and a political system that reifies borders for defence. During the current pandemic, for example, migrants have been caught up in strained relations between municipal and national government. This highlights the need for deinstitutionalisation, informal decision-making and a greater variety of decision-making institutions. More than ever, citizens now want to understand and participate in governmental and parliamentary decision-making because many of the decisions affect them concretely and personally. I see this as an opportunity to radically enhance democracy, as many citizens feel disconnected from national and international – including EU – politics.

Emergence of data-based surveillance systems and other mechanisms to control COVID-19 are influencing the work of political structures and organizations. For the first time in history, an ‘invisible’, fear-based global power structure is growing beyond the control of political entities.

Since the founding of the League of Nations in 1920, it has often been noted that the functioning of such international institutions is jeopardised by the heterogeneity of their component parts. Project examines prospects for evolution of a network of international institutions such as NATO, the European Parliament, the EU Court of Justice and the European Central Bank.


Currently, buildings of international institutions seem to be perceived merely as containers for politics. Recently, NATO moved its headquarters to Brussels. Although the institution has an enormous impact on city and regional dynamics, its architecture and contextual integration were not the subject of a broad-based open discussion. Here, there is a key role for design thinking to mediate between political forces and the social realm.

The research on politics and space lead to the Prix de Rome entry 'No Innocent Landscape', which states that the current man-made struggle is inevitably embedded in the landscape.

The small mining village of Hrabove is a very apparent site for this, which all of a sudden became of national importance to the Dutch, irrespective of geographical borders, due to the MH17 tragedy. The place is gathering traces and fragments of the different forces at play: from the downing of the aeroplane to the illegal mining activities in the region. Here design can act as a spatial language revealing invisible processes and questioning a healing way forward.

Project

Biography

Lesia Topolnyk (StudioSpaceStation), raised within a constantly changing political environment and educated as an architect, explores how different realities superimpose in human behaviour and are manifested in physical space.

Through dialogue with different disciplines and mediums, spatial design becomes a language that gives shape to the crucial interaction of visible and invisible processes bringing together global and local concerns.

Founded to respond to the urgent societal and planetary issues, StudioSpaceStation operates across architecture, politics and art.

StudioSpaceStation is a satellite and invader simultaneously. It observes current and future affairs, manifesting resolutions through architecture as a solidified representation of dreams and ideas.

StudioSpaceStation provides a vessel for discussion, emergent from critical thinking through perpetual evolvement and experimentation.

Honors & Awards

2022 - Winner Prix de Rome
2020 - Talent Grant, Creative Industries, Netherlands
2020 - Young Talent Architecture Award, nomination (by the Fundació Mies van der Rohe and the EU Commission)
2019 - Winner Archiprix Nederland
2019 - Winner Archiprix International
2019 - Winner Tamayouz International Award

Selected Exhibitions

2022 - Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam
2022 - Architecture Triennale, Lisbon
2022 - New European Bauhaus, Brussels
2021 - Dutch Design Week
2021 - Biennale, Venice
2020 - Dutch Design Week
2019 - Biennale, Santiago
2019 - Archiprix International
2019 - Archiprix Netherlands

Clients & Funds

Atelier Rijksbouwmeester, Gemeente Rotterdam, Rotterdam Maritiem Museum, Creative Industries NL, Mondriaan Fund, Archiprix.

Portrait Prix de Rome 2022

'Lesia Topolnyk is an architect who focuses on a broader interpretation of her field. She is interested in the potential of her profession within our constructed reality – not necessarily in building things. 'It's about ideas that take shape during the research and design process which generate new typologies,' she says. For her, it's not enough to shape the world reactively, or in line with what already exists. She explains: 'Although architects are seen as people who design spaces, we also design relationships. Especially in these turbulent political times, it's necessary to look at how the world is designed to understand the larger context in which a project is taking place. I sometimes reflect on major problems at a global level, while other times I focus on the space inside someone's mind.'

Topolnyk grew up in Ukraine, and addressed the situation in Crimea with her final project at the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam. She created a proposal for a building that consisted primarily of corridors – places where discussions and interactions occur that ultimately have the greatest influence on the decisions being made. Continuous mediation of the situation was central to this concept. The architecture symbolised and supported the mental capacity of those involved. In this endless network of hallways, which reference the agora, visitors could have endless discussions which allowed for a continuous debate; politics is an ongoing conversation. Similarly, her own vision of architecture and her process of research and design focuses on conversation, contributions from different positions, and the involvement of people with a wide range of expertise. She therefore frequently collaborates with people who work in different fields. Because 'you can learn from others and they bring valuable insights and viewpoints...'

Her current research is focused on the various crises humanity is currently facing, with a special interest in political systems and the significance of democracy, including its Greek foundations. She is exploring how this form of government was historically designed and how architecture supported and portrayed it. 'It's about how we can shape change and how we can manage the world better together,' she concludes. Architecture can play a role in that by offering design solutions that support the decision-making process.'

Text: Vincent van Velsen

About / Contact