Commissioner and Curator: CATHY LANG HO
Co-Curator: DAVID VAN DER LEER
Co-Curator: NED CRAMER
Curatorial Advisors: Michael Sorkin, Anne Guiney, Paola Antonelli, Zoe Ryan, and Erik
Project managers: Gordon Douglas and Mimi Zeiger
Exhibition Design: FREECELL
Communication/Exhibition Design: M-A-D
Courtyard Design: INTERBORO
The U.S. Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, organized by the Institute for Urban Design on
behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is
devoted to the theme SpontaneousInterventions: Design Actions for the Common Good.
The exhibit features 124 urban interventions initiated by architects, designers, planners,
artists, and everyday citizens that bring positive change to their neighborhoods and cities.
The selection was narrowed down after a search process that included an open call for
projects realized in U.S. cities in recent years, which yielded over 450 submissions.
SpontaneousInterventions captures one of the most compelling contemporary urban
trends, wherein individuals are taking it upon themselves to create projects that expand
the amenities, comfort, functionality, inclusiveness, safety, and sustainability of cities.
From parklets to community farms, guerrilla bike lanes to urban repair squads, outdoor
living rooms to pop-up markets, sharing networks, and temporary architecture, Spontaneous Interventions highlights viable citizen-led alternatives to traditional top-down
urban revitalization tactics. Together, these projects offer an opportunity to examine the
history of the American city, painting a critical and dynamic portrait of its most pressing
issues today and a vision of its future. At heart, SpontaneousInterventions is a reflection
of country’s complex attitudes towards civic participation, social justice, and the built
SpontaneousInterventions—curated by Cathy Lang Ho (Commissioner and Curator),
David van der Leer, and Ned Cramer (co-curators)—resonates on many levels with
the overall theme of the Biennale, conceived by director David Chipperfield, Common
Ground. The projects featured in Spontaneous Interventions are characterized by their
interest in collaboration, in serving the collective needs of a community, and in improving
the literal common ground— public space. The exhibition examines how urban actions
that originated as radical ideas have moved ever closer to the center, evolving from subversive tactic to increasingly accepted urban strategy.
For the first time, the U.S. Pavilion will feature an installation rather than a conventional
exhibition of projects. Brooklyn design studio Freecell, founded by Lauren Crahan and
John Hartmann, conceived of a lively system of banners to present an archive of 124
actionable tactics aimed at bringing immediate improvements to the urban public realm.
Sausalito-based communication design studio M-A-D, led by Erik Adigard and Patricia
McShane, designed a graphic system for each project that evokes the iconography of city
flags and a supergraphic floor pattern, which is an installation in itself. The intention was
to create an enveloping environment that places the projects of Spontaneous Interventions in a broader historical and cultural context of the evolution of cities, in the United
States in particular. Adigard is this year’s recipient of the Rome Prize in Design.
In a video installation by filmmaker Kelly Loudenberg, a cross section of exhibition participants share their
hopes, dreams, and concerns for the future of the American city. Attuned to the fact that it is an election
year in the U.S., participants were asked to speak as if they are running for office or advising their elected
Brooklyn-based studio Interboro, winner of last year’s MoMA/PS1’s Young Architects Program, has designed
an “outdoor living room” that will serve as the pavilion’s hangout and workshop space. The space, dubbed
CommonPlace, will feature movable components that allow it to be easily reconfigured to accommodate
various functions (informal conversations, lectures, workshops, and play space). During the three months
of the Biennale, the Pavilion will host a lively series of programs. (For details, see the separate release on
The Imagination Playground, designed by the New York–based Rockwell Group and featured in SpontaneousInterventions, will also appear in A Better World, a collateral Biennale event organized by Microclima
and Alfred von Escher/Studio427 at the Serra dei Giardini, a 19th century greenhouse recently renovated
into a café, garden nursery, and community space operated by the cooperative Nonsoloverde. A Better
World is an installation and a series of talks, shows, and workshops curated by Raffaella Guidobono with
Michela Intra and Paolo Rossa. The Rockwell Group is donating the playground to the Serra dei Giardini for
the community to enjoy.