h3o architects, a young architectural studio based in Barcelona, debuted in the second edition of Model. Barcelona Architectures Festival, with the pop-up installation Nomad Assembly, which has become the central venue of the event.
This year's edition of the Festival, directed by Eva Franch and organised by the Ajuntament de Barcelona and the Fundació Mies van van Rohe, has aimed to transform the environment of Parc de les Glòries into a large area of architectural and urban experimentation.
Nomad Assembly, designed to be located under the cover of Mercat dels Encants, one of the oldest in Europe remodelled in 2013, has been conceived as a changing landscape, made up of mobile and modular artifacts that stimulate interaction between different social groups and conditions that frequent the market daily and those who have visited the facility for the Festival.
The intervention, which, thanks to its mobile format, has alternated its location in the various market plants, is characterised by an assembly set capable of transforming both the interior and the outside of its location with the aim of activating new opportunities for horizontal and democratic debate, alternatives to the use of this space.
“The pink colour, in its most striking version, invades the whole installation because, in the words of Miquel Ruiz, Joan Gener y Adrià Orriols, founders of the studio h3o architects, “the conception of this color takes on a new dimension to claim other realities that escape the normative, fleeing the stereotypes where the patriarchy had relegated it. The rose placed in the context of the installation represents the values of the MODEL festival and generates a question in people who have lifelong stigmatized this tone, forcing them to construct a new way of thinking.”
The whole of this mobile intervention is made up of five large objects: two oversized, bright pink furniture with its triangular shapes referring to the iconic roof of the market are complemented by three wired and slender structures acting as artefacts of social interaction.
The large triangular piece that acts as a podium for talking or dancing, is transformed into a fractal of tables that allow for the exchange of objects and the encounter between people; a second element of similar proportions is shaped as a hilly topography made of market carpets where to stretch out, rest and contemplate mirror reflections on the large market deck.
The structure is fragmented into four parts that are found inside, colored in blue and purple, where Llibres MODEL shelves are displayed, a selection of books related to architecture compiled by Ethel Baraona, which the public was free to consult during the Festival. Thus, all the elements open, close and move, recalling the artifacts of The Garden of Earthly Delights and enchanting the whole atmosphere as in a painting by El Bosco.
The two pieces interact with three towers, called "Fiestrípodes", whose legs evoke Dalí's surreal giraffes which, like in a dream landscape, come to life through human will. In the first tower a mechanical pedal moves a disco ball and two spotlights that multiply the light in the mirror of the roof, while a smoke machine fills the market space of a whitish cloud. In the second, a high telescope allows visitors to contemplate beyond the surroundings, and the third offers the opportunity to ring a bell and venture to express opinions through a megaphone.
Nomad Assembly speaks of identivity and cultural diversity through the materiality of the objects that make up the installation. The superficial pink flatness of the forms is altered by the appearance of scars that open and close, which helps the support and balance of the pieces, allowing the large volumes to be functional and fun.
Several pieces of furniture sold in Els Encants intersect on smooth surfaces to give a mixed identity to the intervention. Thanks to this patchwork of elements, abstract volumes become the representation of different ways of living, accumulate memory, and express the mix of classes that coexist under the roof of Mercat dels Encants. From a winged mahogany leg to a pine board leg, from a Persian rug to an industrial carpet, from silk to canvas, from an ordinary door to a cabinet door with moldings: all these elements mixed together promote the debate “between-classes", one of the main topics of the festival.
"The installation has exceeded expectations of what we imagined" the three founding architects of h3o remark. "Aside from Sant Jordi's Day (World Book Day and one of the most important days of the year for Catalan culture) and the inauguration (where all the pieces have been supported by lectures, books, speeches), the most special moments have occurred when the elements formed an informal landscape outside the market. At this point, Model Urban Library has become one of the most visited spaces of the festival."
Model Library has seen visitors interact with both the space and the books, take one and dive into the wave made of carpets, reflecting in the mirrored roof of Les Encants, while children, on the way out of school, interact with the Fiestrípodes that emit smoke and light, and with a disco ball, with which the youngest have enjoyed the most. The megaphone structure also became a tool with which a group of friends sang "Cumpleaños Feliz" to a partner, making the song resonate in Plaça de les Glories, inviting pedestrians to join.
"An amazing moment was when an older man stopped to contemplate all the legs of the tables and, knowing the history of the furniture, gave an informal talk about tables, chairs and different market objects" the architects explain, highlighting the success of the installation, which has fulfilled its initial purpose of stimulating human interaction and rethinking the use of public spaces.
In line with the approach of reusing materials and spaces that h3o has shown in this project and that is part of the studio's thinking, the pieces that have formed the Nomad Assembly are recycled in their entirety and will have a new life in schools and youth centers, in the h3o studio itself and in cultural entities.