barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture

PROTEST/ARCHITECTURE: BARRICADES, CAMPS, SUPERGLUE

 

From September 16, 2023, to January 14, 2024, the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt, Germany, hosts the exhibition PROTEST/ARCHITECTURE: BARRICADES, CAMPS, SUPERGLUE. This showcase explores the intersection of protests, demonstrations, and the resultant architecture, as well as its role in disruption and effectiveness. As disturbances permeate public spaces, establishing a presence by blocking, defending, protecting, or conquering, protest architecture takes shape.

 

‘Protests are often seen as ephemeral events. Demonstrations pass by. The media briefly report on the Klimakleber gluing themselves to streets, and then the topic changes. But protests can also carry on, settle in somewhere, and cause changes,’ curator Oliver Elser tells designboom. ‘When protests ‘settle’ in this way, they produce protest architecture, like on Maidan in Kyiv or Tahrir Square in Cairo. When that happens, the place becomes a statement: ‘We’re not going away until…We wanted to find out more about the role played by architecture in this process.’

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture
all images by Moritz Bernoully,  courtesy of the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM)

 

 

Catalyst in Hong Kong: Seeds of PROTEST/ARCHITECTURE

 

The idea for the PROTEST/ARCHITECTURE: BARRICADES, CAMPS, SUPERGLUE exhibition at Deutsches Architekturmuseum (find more here) emerged during Olivero Elser’s trip to Hong Kong in 2019. The day he returned, protests erupted. ‘I was stunned to see what was suddenly happening in those places I had visited before. The whole city space was riddled with invisible protest calls as protesters had to constantly regroup to avoid the police,’ he shares.

 

As Elser explains, in 2019 Hong Kong, repression was so intense that temporary structures, reminiscent of the 2014 Umbrella protests, couldn’t be established. Protest camps became unfeasible. Nevertheless, the movement adopted minimalist barricades crafted from small brick gates, swiftly evolving into a new symbol and earning a design award in Japan.

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture
the show features a diverse array of exhibits, ranging from movie installations to suspended structures

 

 

protest camp documentaries, suspension bridges, and monopods

 

The show features a diverse array of exhibits, ranging from movie installations and photography to structures embodying protest architecture and intricate models. Among the highlights is the film Protest/Architecture by director Oliver Hardt which captures the essence of protest movements. Projected on a 4.5 x 2.5 m LED screen at the exhibition’s main area, the movie compiles documentary footage from eight distinct protest camps. Another standout exhibit is the Suspension Bridge, a Y-shaped structure with three 4 m arms suspended approximately sixteen meters above the ground in Hambach Forest until May 2023. Interacting with other bridges, traverses, and climbing nets, it formed the nucleus of a barrio named Oaktown. Originally erected by activists, the suspension bridge was dismantled by the same group following the clearance of the initial Oaktown barrio in 2018.

 

Also showcased at the exhibition is the top of a monopod sourced from Fechenheim Forest. Monopods, constructed from tree trunks reaching up to 10 meters in height, feature platforms at the top and are tethered to the ground with ropes. Serving as a form of delaying architecture, they are strategically designed to extend the resistance against the police eviction of a protest camp. Distinguished from tripods that stand on three legs, monopods depend on guy ropes. If a rope is tampered with, either loosened or cut, the monopod would collapse, posing a risk of injury to the person occupying the structure.

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture
detailed models hang from the ceiling of the museum

 

 

Exploring Protest Narratives at Deutsches Architekturmuseum

 

As Oliver Elser shares with designboom, numerous conversations were held with protest eyewitnesses, and their first-hand accounts are prominently featured as quotes on large A0 sheets of paper in the exhibition texts. ‘The DAM might be a good place to examine the overarching topic of protest in a different way, breaking with the framing of news reports and well-worn public opinions on the issue. From the special perspective provided by our ‘architectural background,’ we might be able to discover something new,’ he mentions.

Several of the protest movements shown at the DAM were able to achieve their goals, for instance, bringing down the government (Tahrir Square protests in the Arabic Spring, Cairo, 2011 / Maidan movement, Kyiv, 2013–2014), advancing the construction of social housing (MTST movement, Brazil, since 1997), or limiting an open-pit coal mine (Hambach Forest occupation, since 2012). ‘Architecture often plays a significant role in a protest achieving its goals. Maidan in Kyiv, Ukraine, was increasingly built up as a fortress during the two and a half months of often brutal conflicts. In contrast, the Brazilian MTST protest camps are delicate structures that can be installed in a single night thanks to precise planning and the work of thousands of people without homes,’ Elser explains.

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture
the show features a diverse array of exhibits, ranging from photography to actual protest architecture structures

 

 

The significance of materials and construction techniques in protest architecture lies in their alignment with the values and objectives of protestors. Protest architecture, as Oliver Elser elaborates, serves multifaceted roles: it claims space by occupying and defending it against opposition, embodying utopian ideals through attempts to live together in solidarity-based ways. It proves effective by utilizing whatever materials are at hand, often manifesting as daring, large constructions designed to offer protection or spaces for assemblies. The riskiness of protest architecture is evident in its bold structures, designed to resist attacks and eviction. Moreover, it assumes a defensive posture, acting as ‘delaying architecture’ opposing eviction or robust constructions withstanding assaults. Occasionally adopting a domestic tone, protest architecture includes elements like bathtubs and flower boxes, asserting normalcy in abnormal situations. Symbolically, each structure aims for media exposure, a strategy employed since the 19th century to win over more supporters for the movement.

In terms of contributing to dialogues on urban development, sustainability, and the utilization of public spaces, protest architecture engages with these themes by intervening in space and appropriating, blocking, marking, or defending sites. From the bodies of protesters forming occupancies and linkages to the strategic creation of concrete-built structures, protest architecture spans a spectrum of approaches. ‘The result are temporary architectural configurations that are as different in terms of expanse and shape as are the protests themselves: ad hoc approaches come up against carefully planned edifices; hand-crafted pieces alternate with engineering and prefabrication; attempts to create a home-like environment contrast with almost military tactics,’ Elser says. 

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture
photography and eyewitnesses’ quotes can be found all over the exhibition

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture
the suspended bridge structure on view at DAM

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clothes, models, quotes and posters fill the exhibition space

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture
‘the DAM might be a good place to examine the overarching topic of protest in a different way,’ shares curator Oliver Elser

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture
the eyewitnesses’ first-hand accounts are featured as quotes on large A0 sheets of paper

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture
among the highlights is the film Protest/Architecture by director Oliver Hardt

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture

barricades-camps-superglue-deutsches-architekturmuseum-protest-architecture-exhibition-designboom-full-00

close-up shot of a protest architecture model

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture
multiple detailed models of protest structures are on view at DAM

barricades, camps, superglue: DAM exhibition explores dynamics of protest architecture

 

 

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project info: 

 

name: BARRICADES, CAMPS, SUPERGLUE
location: Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt, Germany
dates: 16 September 2023 – 14 January 2024

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