Platform Austria: Venice Biennale

Wednesday September 15th 2021 by Peter Thomas Lang

Curatorial Statement: Peter Mörtenbock, Helge Mooshammer.

One of the most striking phenomena in the architecture of the 21st century is the spread of a new type of platform urbanism. In the spirit of disruptive innovation, digital platforms like Airbnb, Uber, WeWork and Amazon are permeating ever more areas of our lives – housing, work, recreation, health, education, transport – and in the process dissolving old orders. Architecture is being impacted by this development in a dual sense. On the one hand, the relocation of human interaction to digital platforms is depriving the built environment of its status as a dominant force in the structuring of societies, and, on the other, the communicative, logistical and operative potentials of platforms are concomitant with new aesthetics that are also radically changing the design of architecture.

Our conception and design of the Austrian contribution to the Biennale Architettura 2021 responds to this fundamental intervention in the role of architecture by asking what should be the central focus of contemporary architectural discourse: contemporary buildings, architectural portfolios, the programmes of architectural schools or spatial installations with which current themes and future visions are artistically interpreted? In our project titled PLATFORM AUSTRIA we consider the complex starting point of digital transformation from the perspective of production

he curators have invited more than 50 national and international experts to produce images and texts, short videos and podcasts for presentation in the Austrian pavilion and on the website. These contributions deal with questions of who participates in platform urbanism and in what way, and of the alternative paths (beyond online shopping, gig work and dating apps) we could take with digital platforms in order to make life in the city fairer.

Together with the invited experts the curators sketch the new world of platform urbanism in seven chapters. With Saskia Sassen, for example, they explore how technology firms are drastically changing life in global cities; with Edgar Pieterse, the director of the African Centre for Cities, they track the advance of digital platforms into African cities; with the urban researcher Vyjayanthi Rao they study the self-initiated public platforms that support social life in the undersupplied areas of Mumbai; with the architecture studio run by Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman they try out educational platforms in the American-Mexican border region; and together with their many further guests they shed light on a wide range of facets of the convergence of platform technologies and urban development.


The question of access is central to digital platforms: Who gains access to the possibilities offered by a platform and who is denied these services? Are we heading for a new class society in which differently equipped variants of urban space can be rented with different subscription packages?