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REACTIVATE!!
Regine Debatty, 5 Aug 08

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As announced two days ago, here's a lengthier report about REACTIVATE!! Espacios remodelados e intervenciones mínimas (Remodeled spaces and minimal interventions), an exhibition which takes place until August 31 at the Espai d' Art Contemporani de Castelló, an hour away from Valencia.

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View of the exhibition. Image courtesy of the Espai d' Art Contemporani

Curated by Francesca Ferguson in collaboration with Pepe Ballesteros, REACTIVATE!! is merging two exhibitions organized last year by the Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel (S AM). The resulting show brings together a cluster of recently-built projects which demonstrate how resourceful architects and designers can transform disused, outworn or inadequate urban spaces and buildings into efficient, and even aesthetically striking edifices. Although they emerge from different cultural contexts, these architectural endeavours have one thing in common: their transformation is achieved by drawing upon the existing structures and using only minimal means and resources. As the curatorial statement mentions, They show how an aesthetic of the unfinished and the makeshift can reshape our notions of useful - and useable - space, asking the question: can lo-tech and laissez-faire design present relevant alternatives to the driving force of urban renewal?

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Osa-Offfice for subversive Architecture with Studio+44, Künsthülle Liverpool. Photo: Juliusz Sokolowski

All the works on show make visitors reflect (once again) on the little sustainability involved in building spectacular museums, concert halls and skyscrapers and on the shortcomings of thoroughly planned and rationalised urban environments. Furthermore, the works selected in this section of REACTIVATE!! demonstrate that 'making the most of what we've got' can go hand in hand with inspiration and sparkle.

Here's just a selection from the 17 projects on view in Castelló:

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FNP architects converted a pig sty dating from 1768 into a "Matryoshka dolls house". A prefabricated timber structure, with openings to match those of the pigsty, has been hoisted directly into the old stone walls but without touching them. They added a roof on top of the structure. Et voilà!

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FNP Architekten, S(ch)austall. Photo Zooey Braun

What make the result great and quirky is the architects' choice to leave the windows where they were originally. They probably made much sense for a pigsty but look deliciously odd and random for a house.

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EM2N, Hardbrücke Railway Station. Photo Roger Frei

EM2N's Renovation of the Hardbrücke Railway Station in Zürich is a dream example of how much the 'less is more' approach can be effective. Visible from far away two ueber-simple red and white illuminated panels tie the railway station to the fabric of the city, strengthen the identity of the railway station and facilitate the orientation. More images.

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Flores y Prats Architectes, Nave Yute's Textil Warehouse, Barcelona. Photo: Hisag Sozuki

Despite the fact that they were no allowed to touch the side of the buildings which were protected for fire regulations, architects Eva Prats & Ricardo Flores tripled the storage capacity of Yute's Textile Warehouse at the outskirt of Barcelona by going upwards, raising the existing building and reorganizing the interior spaces and circulation throughout. The appealing red and yellow colour that wraps the factory like a piece of textile comes from the use of corrugated iron.

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The part of Frankfurt's east harbour lying behind the market hall area is a no man's land made of gravel, dumps, cranes, and containers waiting to be shipped somewhere. That's where Index Architekten worked to extend upward a bunker from the times of World War Two and turned it into that new Holy Grail of cities: a cheap space for artists' studios and an Institute for New Media.

Demolishing the bunker would have been too expensive, so would have been a restoration of its leaking hip-roof. Consequently, the architects built a wooden box on top of the structure.

Also part of the exhibition: Freitag's container Flagship store, Big Tanks and Retired priests have all the fun.

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View of the exhibition. Image courtesy of the Espai d' Art Contemporani

REACTIVATE!! Espacios remodelados e intervenciones mínimas (Remodeled spaces and minimal interventions) takes place until August 31 at the Espai d' Art Contemporani de Castelló, near Valencia, Spain.

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