Art of Consumption: Glong

Synopsis

A six week design-build studio with twenty four Chulalongkorn University INDA students in Berlin. The project was run in collaboration with Yarinda Bunnag and Carson Chan (Program e.V.), during the Berlin Art Biennial. The project culminated in the design, construction, and operation of a temporary restaurant in Berlin Mitte.

Studio Introductory Brief

For some, the advent of consumer culture in the 19th century gave birth to what we know as architecture today. Shopping, if nothing else, has helped define what we understand as public space.
Architecture has always had an intimate relationship to the economy. Indeed, the world’s most celebrated buildings were erected in times of wealth and plenty. The current economic downturn – a phenomena that paralyzed the world’s coffers, and in turn its construction sites – has already seen its first wave of architectural casualties: the “subprime” exodus of the American suburbs, the construction standstill in much of the Middle East, and even a decrease in the goliath rate of urban expansion in China.

Since the end of the Second World War, unlike so many other European capitals at the time, Berlin had never really regained the financial independence that once made it the cosmopolitan center of Fritz Lang’s or Walter Ruttman’s films. Relying financially on the neighboring German states, the Federal Republic’s capital now receives about 7-billion euros of aid annually. Yet, almost paradoxically, the city boasts one of the most thriving contemporary art scenes today: supporting over 600 art galleries, appointed as a “City of Design” under UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network, and host to many international art, architecture, and design events.

Economic recession has created voids in the already scarred city. Formerly occupied commercial shopfronts are now vacant and available for art to take over. Berlin’s streetscape alternates between retail and gallery spaces, blurring boundaries between shopping and gallery visits, consumer goods and artifacts. The consumption of art and the art of consumption becomes a part of an everyday “shopping” experience. The Berlin Biennial of Contemporary Art, one of the largest global art events, serves as the epitome of this urban condition, where art takes over the cultural and commercial spaces in the city.

Which of Berlin’s socio-urban strategies can we apply to other cities? Would it be possible to develop a tool kit with which to creatively encourage commerce, while commercially engaging creativity?