Will we ever get a British Quora?

The city of the future full of Tinder and Amazon

The waitress has just taken the order and typed it into the system on the tablet. Maybe Escargots de Bourgogne and then a Coq au Vin with a glass of Chablis, who knows. The Café du Soleil on the Upper West Side is one of the best French restaurants in the city and - like many other New York restaurants - unceremoniously banished its al-fresco guests to transparent plastic bubbles last fall to protect them from the virus. Clever? Dystopian? Or just a little foretaste of the future of all of us?

"As a result of advancing digitalization, we have lost the city as a public socialization stage in recent years," say Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer. "The global corona pandemic and the associated precautionary measures have made the question of the future of our coexistence even more relevant. Will we ever regain the lost urban space?"

This is exactly the research quintessence and core message of the two curators and architectural theorists who run the Center for Global Architecture in Vienna and London and who were chosen as a commissioner duo by the then Minister of Culture Gernot Blümel (ÖVP) in 2019. Together they are designing the Austrian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, which should have taken place last year. In four weeks, on May 22nd, the Giardini should finally open their doors.

"The city becomes invisible," says Mörtenböck, the somewhat shorter-haired of the two art twins. "Grown urban structures, public institutions and familiar forms of social organization are coming under increasing pressure. The digital platforms on which we network are essential because they offer comfort, efficiency and determination and thus form a virtual substitute for the real one , built city in which we have so far socialized - whether that is Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Quora, Google, Tinder or Grindr. "

Farms on the outskirts of the city

There is hardly an area left that is not affected by digitization and capitization: consumption, leisure, sport, entertainment, education, knowledge exchange, healthcare, mobility, job placement, food supply, services of all kinds, even love and sexuality are being integrated into digital space outsourced. And with the bits and bites, not only are the socio-analog interactions decreasing, but also delivery vehicles, logistics centers and sealed off server farms on the outskirts of the city are increasing at the same time.

"We don't just want to watch how we lose the common urban space, but rather participate in the design of the new urban platforms," ​​says Mörtenböck. "And perhaps the task of urban planners and architects will change in such a way that in the future we will also have to help design these virtual urban spaces instead of leaving the programming to the large corporations and tech companies alone."

In order to take this pseudo-urban game of thought to the extreme, the two curators invented the term platform urbanism. In the Austrian pavilion in the Giardini, this urbanism, which has been researched and documented over the last 24 months, is to be manifested - in the form of a multimedia exhibition with images, text, sound, film and stage. In addition to the two curators, around 50 bloggers and thinkers from all over the world will have their say.

"The distance between my lips and my next text message depends on the Apple facial recognition algorithm and a smile," says British artist Ofri Cnaani. Your blog entry should be made readable, audible or perceptible on another sensory level in the exhibition in a way that has not yet been officially defined by the curators.

And Pedro Gadanho, Director of the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) in Lisbon, says in cynical but perhaps not so unworldly words: "Platforms? A couple of unfortunate one-night stands from a pandemic! A flat cityscape without." The excitement of a chance encounter. The purest zoo-urbanism of an illusory e-connectivity, everything in technical language, everything in formulas, everything on demand. And never leave our 7.5 square meter apartment again! "

In all likelihood, this fairly digital, fairly virtual Biennale contribution is to be supplemented by an interactive forum on which - certainly not now, but maybe in a few months - real discussions and debates are to take place in face-to-face mode. It is difficult to predict which content can be expected in concrete terms. The two curators are too covered for this. What is clear, however, is that the question of how we want to actively help shape our environment in a collateral broken city reality has become so urgently topical with current events that Mörtenböck and Mooshammer's view of the global crystal ball is downright shocking.


"Ideally, platform urbanism will make our lives easier, reduce bureaucracy and empower us to communicate and organize," says Helge Mooshammer. "Ideally, the platforms are a spatial and cross-border service, and we have the opportunity to get involved as co-designers and co-curators." Ideally.

"In the worst case, however," says Mooshammer, "we will be degraded to obedient citizens who do not have a say, but have to work off our debt to the political and capitalist systems in the form of money, time and data. In the worst case, we will we to small variables of a large credit point society in which our citizenship model is replaced by a membership model. " Many questions. Many critical comments. We can look forward to the answer. (Wojciech Czaja, April 25th, 2021)