Amaia Sanchez Velasco is an architect and educator, co-founder of Grandeza Studio, an architectural collective that operates between the fields of spatial practice, design, cultural production and pedagogical explorations.Their research and collaborative creative practice detects, denounces and challenges the transformative violence that late-capitalism practices apply over subjects, spaces and ecologies.
Their works have been exhibited and published in Germany (Bauhaus, Dessau 2013); USA (1st Chicago Architecture Biennial, 2015); Chile (20th Chilean Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism, Valparaíso 2017); Australia (Mildura Arts Centre, 2016; ‘Sustaining the Seas’ Conference at the University of Sydney, 2017; Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, 2017; Bank Art Museum Moree, 2018; Tin Sheds Gallery, Sydney 2018; ‘Australian Design Research Conference’ at the University of Sydney, 2018; and the Australian Design Center, 2018); Spain (‘Documentos (por venir)’ at the 14th Spanish Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism, Santander 2018); Italy (Australian Pavilion at the XXII Milano Triennale ‘Broken Nature’, 2019) and The Netherlands ( 'Landscape as Cult' at Bureau Europa).
Amaia coordinates the Communications undergraduate subjects. She also coordinates and teaches Design Studio both at undergraduate and Masters levels.
Sanchez-Velasco, A, Rodriguez-Casellas, M, Valiente Oriol, J & Valiente, G 2019, 'Australian national pavilion at the xxii milan triennial, 2019', ARQ, vol. 2019, no. 103, pp. 40-49.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2019, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. All rights reserved. As an ecosystemic effect of climate change, the largest living being on the planet – the great Coral Reef in Australia – started to lose its color in 2016. This episode serves as a lens to look not only at the way in which the heritage of humanity is affected by global warming but also at how governments deny this using false environmental protection strategies in parallel to the continuous promotion of fossil fuels.
Sanchez-Velasco, A, Valiente Oriol, J, Rodriguez-Casellas, M & Valiente, G 2019, 'Teatro della terra alienata, Australian national pavilion at the XXII Milan Triennial, 2019', ARQ, no. 103, pp. 40-49.
As an ecosystemic effect of climate change, the largest living being on the planet – the Great Barrier Reef in Australia– started to lose its color in 2016. This episode serves as a lens to look not only at the way in which the heritage of humanity is affected by global warming but also at how governments deny this using false environmental protection strategies in parallel to the continuous promotion of fossil fuels.
Byung-Chul Han describes violence today as "shifting from the visible to the invisible, from the frontal to the viral, from brutal force to mediated force, from the real to the virtual, from the physical to the psychological, from the negative to the positive, withdrawing into the subcutaneous, sub-communicative, capillary and neuronal space, creating the false impression that it has disappeared. It becomes completely invisible at the moment it merges with its opposite, that is, with freedom." What Han describes as 'micro-violence' crystallizes the so-called 'post-political' shift as the consequence of the hegemonic consolidation, from the microscopic to the global scale, of the neoliberal "common sense." The multiple scales of contemporary forms of neoliberal violence is the focus of two recent installations by Grandeza (one of them in collaboration with Miguel Rodriguez-Casellas, alias Bajeza): The Plant (2017) and Valparaiso Post-Liberal (2017). By analysing, describing, and narrating the material, discursive and representational qualities of these two artworks—understood as one-to-one scale architecture models that stage, perform, debate and challenge new geographies of violence—this account of a developing working practice aims to open Grandeza/Bajeza's developing methodologies to scrutiny. Both works establish links with previous and upcoming projects, all of which form an ongoing body of work that studies late-capitalist spaces and narratives to identify (through critical analysis) and neutralize (through political imagination) the mechanisms that veil and normalize neoliberal violence.
These two works depart from the critical analysis and research of diverse geographies of concealed violence, which are spatialized and revealed through architectural models that dislocate, decontextualize, and relocate objects and subjects. Props, authors and audience become part of an antagonistic and relational political arena where information is not just displa...
When it comes to defending national territories, there are operations less obvious than building a wall. For example, South Korea develops artificial reefs to delimit its territory and protect its marine resources. But these underwater infrastructures take the idea of frontier one step further: they end up zoning the seabed and, thus, they reconstruct biodiversity according to the commercial and geopolitical interests.
In the summer of 2016, the South Korean government installed eighty artificial reef structures along the Northern Limit Line (NLL) that extends the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into the Yellow Sea. These subaquatic constructions were equipped with hooks that were strategically designed to cut the fishing nets of Chinese commercial vessels operating in the area. Camouflaged as marine conservation and extraction devices, these reefs act as passive defensive artefacts, crystallizing the tensions between coexisting actors in the region.
Several circumstances have forced South Korea to project its future aspirations towards the oceans. The country's geography, increasing population, the reduction of fishing resources, the impacts of 1982 Exclusive Economic Zone agreements (EEZ) and the geopolitical tensions with neighbouring countries, have driven the South Korean government to situate maritime territorial planning as a national priority.
Since 1971, a constellation of artificial reefs has been deployed across 210,000 hectares of the seabed around the Korean coastline, expanding the country's urban condition into the underwater realm and mirroring its rapid inland urban growth. The implementation of reefs has followed an equivalent sequential process to that of urban development, with the traditional phases of planning, zoning and the application of construction guidelines.
Drawing on Neil Brenner's theory of Planetary Urbanisation, this paper examines South Korea's pioneering role in the development of reef urbanism in a global context. The construction of artificial reefs along the NNL is a paradigmatic example of Cosmopolitical Architecture, which illustrates the geopolitical and environmental implications of these subaquatic structures.
Valiente, G, Sanchez-Velasco, A, Rodriguez-Casellas, M & Valiente Oriol, J 2017, 'Post-liberal Valparaíso: 272 political postcards', ARQ, vol. 97, no. Value, pp. 112-119.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Within the framework of the XX Biennial
of Architecture and Urbanism of Chile,
the question about Valparaíso's heritage
could not be postponed. This installation,
designed in Australia, delivers an
unprecedented response: a new social
contract which, based on a land-trust
and a new 'city-brand,' takes advantage
of the bohemian character of the port
to exacerbate otherness and, ultimately,
generate a parallel State.
Sanchez-Velasco, A, Valiente Oriol, J & Valiente, G 2020, 'South Korean Reef Metropolis' in Probyn, E, Johnston, K & Lee, N (eds), Sustaining Seas Oceanic Space and the Politics of Care, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, USA, pp. 261-271.
Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, South Korea has faced permanent diplomatic pressure because of intricate relations with its neighbors, China and North Korea. In the aftermath of the war, a rural exodus prompted the exponential growth of its capital city. Nowadays, Seoul is a global metropolis, but because of the country's geographical and geopolitical confinement, it has struggled to expand both its urban fabric and its productive hinterland. As a consequence, South Korea has shifted its geopolitical agenda to focus on the oceans. This has not been in vain—the country has rapidly and strategically spread a myriad of maritime productive facilities such as artificial reefs, sea ranches, and marine forests, thus giving form to the nation's obsession of becoming a twenty-first century maritime pioneer.
An archipelago of artificial reefs extends the city into the seabed and expands the country's urban condition beyond the coastline in the form of a nature-culture continuum. These invisible structures host marine life and are designed to progressively degrade. Beyond their infrastructural role, they also perform as cultural, geopolitical, and architectural artifacts, organizing both human and nonhuman bodies under selective conservation, mass production, and defense premises across multiple scales.
Valiente Oriol, J, Sanchez-Velasco, A & Valiente, G 2018, 'New Geographies of Violence', Proceedings of the 1st Annual Design Research Conference, Annual Design Research Conference, The University of Sydney, The University of Sydney, NSW, Australia, pp. 479-492.
This paper examines the design research methodologies of Studio Grandeza by analysing the material, discursive and representational qualities of their two latest design research projects, The Plant and Valparaiso Post-Liberal.
Both installations were exhibited in 2017. This paper will describe them as one-to-one scale architectural models that stage, perform and debate new geographies of violence associated with late capitalism practices. Situated within the field of critical spatial practice, these works contrast the presence of spatial violence with the seduction of luxurious and excessive atmospheres, thus confronting the audience with an ambiguous magnetism.
Ultimately, the spatial interventions aim to turn the audience into performers. These onlookers are included into the core of the production of space and are invited to participate in the construction of new political narratives and to discuss the ways we can live together in a fast-changing world.
In this paper, we will make a close reading of the two projects and narrate how research, discourse and design have been articulated and juxtaposed in multiple ways. A multiplicity of meanings has been constructed at the intersection of uncertain realities and feasible fictions. In light of this, the narration of the events will take place at this intersection. Research material, political positions, design proposals and fictional readings of the works will help us to better illustrate the projects and our intentions.
None of the analysed projects started as self-directed enquiries, but as a discursive response to specific curatorial questions and commissions. As we will see in both case studies, the research questions formulated by the curators took us to the periphery of the research projects that we were working on. Being in this position meant that projects were simultaneously informed by that research and open to further study and poetic interpretation.
The projects presented in this paper articulate a ...
Valiente Oriol, J, Valiente, G, Sanchez-Velasco, A, Rodriguez-Casellas, M, Hankin, B, Valenzuela, M & Cappetto, L 2018, 'Rebel After the Curfew', ADR 18, University of Sydney, University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning in association with the Tin Sheds Gallery.
Valiente, G, Sanchez-Velasco, A, Valiente oriol, J & Rodriguez-Casellas, M 2017, 'Valparaiso Post-Liberal', XX Chilean Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, Metales Pesados, Parque Cultural de Valparaiso.
272 Political postcards printed in Metallic paper. A bureaucrat desk painted in gold and shot by a Chilean Investigations Policeman. 7 sqm of gloden reflective PVC floor and a 150x30 cm sky blue neon sign.
'Asymmetric Meta-Mapping' is a set of two complementary visual maps . that were developed during the workshop: Interpretive wonderings, that gathered Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal practitioners to re-map the Culpra Station, in southern New South Wales. Participants were asked to propose alternative mapping techniques that would challenge conventional cartography.
The documents aim to construct a critical narrative about social and technological dynamics occurred during the collaborative workshop we were invited to. The techniques applied to compile the information on site included: surveying, dissecting and depicting the actors, tools and technologies used to colonise, utilise and collectively map the territory. As part of the interactions between the participants, several conversations and storytelling sessions took place between us and Aboriginal elders and artists, both from Culpra and from other communities. These conversations and landscape description narratives played a key role in the construction of our maps, as they presented a landscape defined as relational networks of spaces, technologies and events.
The Plant is a term that refers to the ensemble of human, animal and technological actors involved in the tradition of moving stock across large and linear sections of territory. These paths known as Stock Routes trace the ancestral necessity to access pasture and water.
The technological revolution boosted by the post-fordist structures of production/consumption have transformed transport, communication and management technologies expanding the scalar and operational shape of stock routes across the globe. Shifting from a territorial to a planetary scale, linear and seasonal distribution of stock across time and territory operate now through 24/7 and 'single-season' operation logics. Trains, trucks, vessels, drones, cattle crushes, refrigerated chambers and supermarket trolleys are part of a broad and 'machinic constellation' of technologies that allow us to track an atomized 'Global Plant'.
A Cattle Crush is a technology that immobilizes cattle so that the animal can be safely and efficiently maneuvered. From the pre-industrial French device 'travail'(work), traditionally displayed as a public infrastructure, to the contemporary cattle crush, the design has evolved to adapt to current forms of mass production. Transportable, resistant, electronic, efficient, individualized, attachable, and 'invisibilized' from the everyday realm, the Crush distills the clues to unveil the immaterial infrastructure of the 'Global Plant'.
The Installation is a synecdoche. It is a selection of deconstructed technologies: Twenty foldable polyester 'Merino Chairs', a Cattle crush on wheels dressed up as a 'media machine' and a traveling cow-table called 'Margarita' (Daisy in Spanish). It is a performative staging set that contrasts pastoral and industrial imaginaries of rural landscapes.
'The Plant' is a transitory parliament that invites experts and general public to debate about the necessity of weaving new official narratives about the relation between humans, non-humans, technol...
Sanchez-Velasco, A, Valiente Oriol, J, Valiente, G & Rodriguez-Casellas, M, 'Teatro della terra alienata, Australian national pavilion at the XXII Milan Triennial, 2019', XXII TRIENNALE DI MILANO: BROKEN NATURE, Electa.
Teatro Della Terra Alienata responds to the recent mass coral bleaching events that rendered visible the plausible death of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The exhibition frames the decay of the GBR as a wicked problem that demands alternative political imaginaries and addresses the urgency raised by recent United Nations IPCC reports.
In 2018, the Australian government decided to partially outsource the preservation of the earth's largest living structure to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a charity supported by major mining and insurance companies, banks, and airlines. The current preservation of the GBR is driven by technocratic strategies in which a technological apparatus monitors and manicures the "natural spectacle." The exhibition portrays this technological arsenal as a theatre of distraction that conceals the biggest threats to the GBR's survival: the global dependency on fossil fuels and unbridled growth, and the impacts of a local economy devoted to mining, fracking, and intensive agriculture.
Inspired by the Xenofeminist Manifesto, the Teatro proposes the reappropriation and resignification of preexisting technologies and infrastructures of natural preservation and mineral extraction. It stages a fictional territorial alienation of the GBR and its catchment areas from the domain of extractivist capitalism and imagines its reterritorialization through an economic rationality centered on the notion of joy.
'Transhumance' (Multi-scale Strategies to Reactivate Transhumance in Spain) is a proposed architectural project that speculates about the possibilities of re-articulating traditional forms of territorial management to find new potentials in the contemporary manifestation of the Transhumance. Specifically, the project aims to reverse the impact that paradigmatic changes in agricultural production are inflicting on different levels of the Spanish cultural landscape.
Transhumance stands as a representation of knowledge gathered from a millennium of territorial management and animal husbandry. The practice of Transhumance is a form of semi-nomadic shepherding specific to the Iberian Peninsula that originated with the domestication of merino sheep along the Guadalquivir River. Initially, the shepherds followed the original migration patterns of the wild animals; developing agricultural techniques through observation of existing ecosystemic actions. Through centuries of evolution, the practice grew in both complexity and effect as the movement of millions of herds physically changed the ecologies, and culturally transformed the landscapes that they crossed. These paths still form a network of longitudinal public spaces that function as ecological corridors, and provide fluid systems that connect different landscape units, as well as reduce habitat fragmentation, desertification, erosion and fire risk.
Today the Transhumance agricultural practice is at risk of disappearing. The marginalization of this profession within contemporary Spain has discouraged a continuation of its uptake within the Transhumant families and communities, and subsequently led to a reduced transference of knowledge and skills specific to the profession. Further, the invisible nature of its role in the maintenance of ecosystems has left its agency largely unrecognized within the greater context of environmental practices. 'Multi-scale Strategies to Reactivate Transhumance in Spain' is an archi...