Self-initiated research project 

The project originated from a weekly dialogue between the two of us. As architects, we have a responsibility to always critically observe, look around, to question and reflect on the way architecture and city planning are done today. In this fast-paced moment of transformations and homogenisation taking place in the global world, we felt it was urgent to bring other ways to look at, rethink and build our reality. We wanted to forge another consciousness about the impact of building, the impact of this rapid process of transformation on our cities - that affects how we know them, their physical and cultural presence. We observed this in the cities we live (Rotterdam and Zürich) and the cities we come from (Barcelona and Belgrade). The fact that we work together, but live in different cities, therefore became an advantage rather than a limitation: the privilege to be immersed in more cities simultaneously, which we could observe at the same time.

At a construction site, the layers of the past, the present and future overlap: the palimpsest becomes perceptible. Within this brutal, raw moment, we started to see poetry as well as possibilities. When these layers encounter within the context of the city, a temporary urban scenography arises that provides an opportunity to relate the layers. How do they meet? Do they merge, coincide, do they conflict, collide? How will the new affect the existing? Even though not everything is visible and present, through the information handed to us by representations, projections and 1:1 simulations on-site - and by re-interpreting that information -, we can imagine the relationship of the layers of the city, and we can ask questions, speculate, study, experiment, start conversations and open up new perspectives about the relation between past, present and future.

The construction site is a place, or moment, where the layers of past, present and future meet; it lays bare a constellation of material redundancy of what was before (the past), it shows what is envisioned (the future) and does this against the background of the city (the present). We started this project by observing architectural representations of new buildings on large billboards. Ever more technically advanced renderings make the architectural images representing the envisioned end-result increasingly realistic. Paradoxically, however, the resulting visuals also become more and more alike, exposing a constantly returning same-like smoothed colour scheme, ever returning stereotyped figures draw to inhabit the space, gleaming surfaces of buildings and streets, and standardized accompanying texts.

For as much as the architectural structure is presented as a promise, its semi-utopian picture contains within it the features of a non-space, of the ever-the-same or radical interchangeability that also characterizes much of our current global system. Especially at the moment when such images are confronted with the reality of a present context that not by far resembles the vision presented, the disconnection turns them into nothing more than a scenography or ‘Potemkin village’ - empty, and even absurd.

This compelled us to ask: what does this mean for our built environment? How do these corporate aesthetics relate to local specific contexts and what is their impact on architecture and the appearance and identity of our cities? Whose dreams, whose and what kind of ‘utopian vision’, is actually presented? And for whom?

On-site: Belgrade Waterfront development / 360º 

During a workshop week in Belgrade, we have been in conversation with architects, activists and residents which have opened up various perspectives, varying from critiques, concerns to contentment about the Belgrade Waterfront project. For us the construction site with the semi-utopian billboard images, texts and publications of Belgrade Waterfront and an exploration of the city 360° around the site, revealed a huge disconnection and conflict of the new developments in relation to the existing context and the city’s identity.

We made a series of photographs and videos with residents that point out the absurdity of the 'reality' that is presented, in this development and in similar developments on a global scale.

Thank you SCAPES:LAB - Marco Macura, Pavle Stamenovic, Ljuba Slavkovic, Dunja, TUDelft Complex Projects, actors and actress (Milan, Nikola, Sanja and Veljko).


Simultaneity in cities 2017
Urban transformation as event2018
Evidence of the absent 2019

Space in-between 2020

©rotative studio