EXYZT was a European multidisciplinary design collective that broke extraordinary ground in challenging traditional notions of how public space can be organized. Their work used simple lowcost structures and mobile units as provocations. Seemingly temporary, their projects asked complex questions about how a particular space is used (or why its unused). Although the group disbanded in 2015, each member went on to do similar work in different countries throughout Europe. We honor them here for the way in which EXYZT disrupted the entire landscape of how we think about public space.
EXYZT first rose to international attention with an installation for the French Pavilion of the 2006 Venice Biennale. They wanted to challenge the very ideas of ‘exhibiting’ architecture and developed Métavilla: a space that had a full kitchen, a hotel, a sauna, and a plunge pool to demonstrate that a public space for exhibition can also be a home. It became “a place of encounter and exchange, where architecture is experienced, where the visitor becomes an actor and active participant, the place also becomes a laboratory for experimentation.”
The approach challenged the very idea of exhibiting architecture as an object. A piece of ‘architecture’ is not something to be exhibited, or fawned over from the outside. Architecture is to be experienced, lived in, and played with. The EXYZT team lived in their exhibition, worked there, showered there, and in so doing, blurred the lines between building, builder, designer, observer and participant.
The group is adamant about not entering the current architectural practice, which it sees as only serving the building industry. Instead, they consider their work ‘open source.’ They invite observers, visitors and spectators to become participants in the design and construction, creating an ongoing feedback loop of ideas. Materials (often based around scaffolding and wood) are chosen for their economy and accessibility. By using materials and methods which ￼￼others can imitate, the Collective hopes to instigate a worldwide urban renewal, led by ordinary people who wish to take ownership of their physical and social environment. In their own words:
“If space is made by dynamics of exchange, then everybody can be the architects of our world and encourage creativity, reflection and to renew social behaviors. We refuse to enter the current architectural practice which serves the building industry. We produce a physical framework for a direct and immediate emulation between people.”
By blurring the lines between public and private, and between temporary and permanent, the group seeks to disrupt what might otherwise be static ideas about how social space is used. An empty lot can become a sauna, at least temporarily. So why not permanently?
We encourage you to learn more: we had a chance to speak with Nicolas Herringer of EXYZT, along with Alberto Nanclares of Basurama on Social Design Insights. Stay tuned for June 22 and June 29, 2017.