Alternate Presents Welcome will invite architects to reclaim fiction and narrative as sources of creative liberty and powerful antidotes to the fragmentation and dissociation that has characterised this decade.
Participants—exhibitors, visitors, and members of the public—will be encouraged to embrace the narratives inherent in all projective architecture. In the field of architecture, telling a story is not just a sales tactic – it is, and should be, a political tool; a means of cutting the gordian knot of dejection and frustration with the achingly slow pace of progressive politics and the process of building.
We believe that in order to restore faith in such common projects, citizens and those who work in the sphere of architecture must look to tools that are at once radical and rooted in history. Scenographic environments—the diorama, the stage set, and performative space—designed to be either didactic or distractive create full-scale jump cuts to another place and time. They connect the present to the past and to fantastical alternate realities. These devices, which render fiction with the conviction of spatiality, are among the most important tools at the architect’s disposal. It is about telling stories for stories’ sake.
Lisbon has cultivated and maintained a long, intimate relationship between urban space, festival, and public gathering. In the 18th Century, under King João V, this character became firmly established in the tradition of scenography – a method of projecting the authority of the crown but, more importantly, of integrating different social groups under a common idea. Against the backdrop of the city, these events—concentrated on large squares built around architectural symbols of power, such as Terreiro do Paço—became an instituted facet of public life. Seen as part of this narrative, the central exhibition will recall a Hollywood backlot – a collection of dramatic interior and exterior scenographies forming a square, or piazza. Each scenography will be accompanied by a “narrative” presented in written form, recorded as audio and filmed.
Participants will be denied plaques, captions or explanatory text. Authorship will be eschewed in favour of unity of approach, while focusing efforts on creating a highly immersive sequence of experiences. On all fronts we will actively discourage overwrought expression of thought that so often risks alienating audiences, advocating instead for careful consideration. We will encourage meaningful integration of theory into architecture, refusing to let it inertly tag along as vinyl on a wall.
A fundamental power of narrative is its power to inclusively dissolve and disperse theory to minds that otherwise be unwilling to receive it. It encourages us to welcome new scenarios and ideas; the sugar and the medicine bound inextricably. We should be threatened by rapidly developing isolationist attitudes; in light of this, Alternate Presents Welcome will be fundamentally inclusive.