Marjetica Potrč

Of Domes and Toilets - Architecture and Social Architecture are One

07 Sep - 16 Nov 2019

© Marjetica Potrč
Drop City: Geodesic Dome, 2012 - 2018
building materials, communications & water supply infrastructure
overall dimensions: H 330 x Ø 340 cm
Of Domes and Toilets - Architecture and Social Architecture are One
7 September - 16 November 2019

In her sixth solo exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake the artist and architect Marjetica Potrč shows two architectural case studies and a selection of related drawings. The title of the exhibition serves as a proposition pointing to Potrč's concept of collaborative social architecture. The dome–the epitome of architectural achievement and powerful architectural symbol – is placed on the same level as the toilet, which is a form hardly recognised in architectural history, but culturally and infrastructurally of no less importance, and one which will certainly confront us with extremely pressing challenges in the future.

Potrč is internationally renowned for her architectural case studies and collaborative site-specific projects, rooted in a multidisciplinary practice that merges art, architecture, ecology, and social sciences. At the core of her artistic practice lie questions of our current living conditions and the failures of modernist architecture. She places emphasis on individual empowerment as well as sustainable and democratic strategies for the future. Potrč's work points to alternative building strategies and resources, taking into account both advanced technology and traditional approaches.

The sculpture "Drop City Giant" (2012-2019) is based on Potrč's research on the legendary Drop City community in Colorado, a commune founded in the mid-1960s by art students. Inspired by Buckminster Fuller's concept of the Geodesic Dome, the community built structures using affordable components like recycled industrial materials, and developed passive solar devices. Considered a utopian counterculture at the time, Drop City is–even after its gradual dissolution in the early 1970s–an important example for alternative architectural parameters and an intentional community with different social structures. Potrč conceives this work as a contemporary version of an archaic sculpture, the Kouros, to symbolise the commons. 
Constructed from recycled street signs and basic building materials like wood and aluminium bars the dome–due to its ingenious construction principle–is extremely strong despite its light weight. The accompanying eight-part drawing series presents a contemporary example of a community-focused project, pointing out that the ideas from 1968 are reemerging today as small-scale local strategies.

"Caracas: Dry Toilet" (2003-2019) has emerged from the same spirit of self-empowerment and sustainability. In collaboration with the residents of the La Vega barrio and architect Liyat Esakov, Potrč developed an ecologically safe waterless toilet that collects waste and turns it into fertilizer, in an area that has no access to the municipal water grid. Although the water toilet is still considered the desired standard, one can argue that it was a major maldevelopment of civilisation, given its negative ecological and sanitary effects. The installation on view is the ninth elaboration of the original architecture: a hybrid structure, built from simple and locally sourced materials, and realised in collaborative exchange with the gallery team. The transfer into the gallery space translates the architectural structure from a context of literal use to a context of theoretical reflection. In a global context of deregulation and ecological crisis it becomes a relational object, a potential tool of cultural change rethinking our social contract from the bottom up. As Potrč puts it, “I’m not interested in architectural constructions. I’m interested in social architecture [..., structures formed by society]. People don't want to just inhabit the city they live in; they want to produce it. We have to change our way of living, which is more difficult than building a house."

Tags: Buckminster Fuller