Pulling for the Common Good

From medieval towers to modern sports arenas, societies have long raised flags to the rafters – marking the status of royalty by placing their symbols far above our reach.

For the US pavilion at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, design partners and RISD Architecture Critics Lauren Crahan BArch 96 and John Hartmann brought that symbolism down to earth, injecting it with eye-level democracy. In Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good, they created a kinetic system of color-coded banners, pulleys and weights that showcase 124 urban interventions for the public good – some by architects, others by everyday citizens.

The installation allows viewers to reach up, pull down a banner and learn more about each project, altering the space around them. As a banner comes down, a black square counterweight rises along the wall, revealing a possible solution to an urban problem.

“We’re asking the participants to do something, to change something about this gallery,” Hartmann told ArtInfo. The design earned his and his partner’s Brooklyn-based studio, Freecell, a Special Mention for innovative design by the biennale jury. “The point of the exhibition is that so many people invent or alter the urbanscape with their hands, without sponsorship.”

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