Context: The collective
Matri-Archi(tecture) is an intersectional collective, that is pro-African women, and looks at urban development and spatial education on the African continent. Matri-Archi is co-directed by two women of colour with architecture backgrounds who consider themselves spatial agents - Khensani de Klerk and Solange Mbanefo. It works with 12 young pluri-disciplinary creatives and is active in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Switzerland and California. It publishes multi-media research via its webspace; engages in built work through projects and exhibitions, and brings its members together through live events, workshops and initiatives.
In October 2018, Matri-Archi was invited to lead a workshop at the annual Africa Summit, hosted at Sankt Gallen Business University, Switzerland. This provided an interesting context in which the business-driven nature of the space and audience could be challenged. Echoing Amartya Sen, ‘development’ is intrinsically linked to ‘freedom’ and can be seen as freedom when enhancing the agency of those who have the potential to contribute to their cities and own livelihoods (Sen, 1999).
In response to the invitation, we decided to stage an interactive workshop in which those visiting the conference did not only receive information but were encouraged to experience it in an unconventional manner, challenging normative modes of information-delivery such as lectures and talks. Education in this context is considered a practice of freedom, ‘the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.’ (Freire, 1968). The event in itself, as well as the physical object designed and created by Matri-Archi is considered a prototype and titled the MA Pavilion Prototype 1 (MPP1). This prototype questions how we engage the challenges of our current context, a state of hyper-mobility engulfed in the endlessness of the fourth industrial revolution and transport mobility advancements yet in perpetual restraint through increased border control and nationalism. Often borders are thought of as passive objects or edges. However, a border exerts an active influence (Jacobs, 1960). Our approach looks to digital media as a portal in which we can comment and/or disrupt these borders to reveal and amplify our very humanistic incline to move and explore freely.
The MA Pavilion Prototype 1 (MPP1)
The MPP1 is a 2.5 m by 2 m timber frame structure with textured raffia fabric surfaces on two faces of the vertical prism-like space. The space holds up to two visitors. The timber structure requires no nails or glue joinery to stay erect. The timber joints, when arranged into a frame, give the piece its structural integrity and allow the piece to be dismantled into discrete elements, packed up and transported by a single person immediately. The form references the experiences of mobility that the main designers from the collective face as global local urban dwellers: Solange Mbanefo, based in Switzerland and Khensani de Klerk, based in South Africa, yet co-directing a single space across the globe. The raffia, having traveled from Cape Town through Dubai to Zürich, finally arrived for the first time in Basel, hoping to be integrated appropriately. The two elements, when attached, still maintain their unique tactile integrity but take on a new form and become a foreign object in the space.
MPP1 engaged approximately 300 business students and professionals at the Africa Summit. From the exterior, the viewer catches a glimpse of text in the middle of the triangular crevice reading “enter to scan”. Once inside, the alternate plane of the sign displays a QR code, which is then scanned by the visitor. This QR code is linked to a short experimental film displaying mobility in two cities: Milano and Cape Town. The unconventional and non-narrated approach provides a range of opportunities in which the viewer (here, the European viewer), is encouraged to question their (mis)perceptions of “cityness” in Africa.
The MPP1 does not signify a beginning or end but is rather framed to represent a place in which one can dwell (being physically held) yet concurrently move beyond the physical space through digital means. The MPP1 explores the interface between these two forms of existence, blurring the binary of being either ‘here’ or ‘there’ and introducing a new perspective of occupying both at the same time. In a hyper-mobile context, this dual occupation is expected to become the norm.
-Text contributed by Khensani de Klerk
Freire, P (1968) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1st edn., London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Jacobs, J (1960) The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1st edn., New York: Vintage Books.
Sen, A (1999) Development as Freedom, 1 edn., Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
All images by Matri-Archi(tecture)©
MPP1 film link: https://vimeo.com/295024010
Designers: Matri-Archi(tecture) - Khensani de Klerk, Solange Mbanefo
Film: Matri-Archi(tecture), Silvia Cipelletti, Massimiliano Marconi, Federico Muratori