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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Syntony @ Venice Biennale

Syntony @ Venice Biennale

We’re very pleased to announce that our Lab member Dr Vasilija Abramovic, Dr Ruairi Glynn and Parker Heyl have won the international competition to represent Montenegro at the Venice’s 17th International Architecture Biennale. Their winning proposal titled Syntony will be exhibited in Venice from May 23rd to November 29th, 2020.

The word Syntony comes from the Greek “Syn” meaning together and “Tonos” meaning tone or voice. Syntony is a phenomenon of resonance when multiple waveform frequencies come together in harmony. It is also a social concept. The emergence of paradigms, or “Zeitgeist” are cases of cultural syntony. A new coming together of ideas and techniques.

In response to the curator of the Montenegrin pavilion Dr. Svetlana Perović’s call to stage an “Experiment” and contribute to the central theme of – How will we live together — the team’s answer is, in one word, “transdisciplinarity”. They argue that architecture has a tendency towards acts of ‘disciplinary imperialism’, taking subject matter and methodologies from other fields of knowledge, separating them from their own discursive contexts, and superficially adopting features whose potency are reduced. Such acts undermine the potential for architecture to be a productive holistic space for arts and sciences to live and work together. To achieve deeper, meaningful and productive transactions they raise the question of how should architecture position itself and function within the ecology of disciplines?

The formulation of Syntony’s concept has involved a broad coalition of art, architecture, science and engineering. It includes collaborators from neuroscience, psychology, computing, robotics, lighting and acoustics using the visual metaphor of overlapping waveforms to symbolise the interaction and transaction of disciplinary fields. Syntony consists of a series of transdisciplinary laboratories where spatial perception experiments through motion, light and sound can be interactively explored by visitors. Each lab environment consists of an automated sensing system that collects occupant data and interactively controls waveforms throughout the space. Within the Motion Perception Lab, visitors will find a kinetic interactive installation able to manifest multiple simultaneous perceptual illusions of waves travelling through the room.

Lab Director Ruairi Glynn explains the team’s focus on transdisciplinarity saying “The distinction between a multi-disciplinary approach and a transdisciplinary approach is important. Multi-disciplinarity, by definition, decomposes problems into sub-parts, territorialising areas of research and reinforcing disciplinary traditions, rather than challenging them. A transdisciplinary approach overlaps, blurs, and hybridises expertise to initiate novel forms of collaborative practice. We welcome the theoretical framing of this year’s Montenegrin competition as it demonstrates recognition of the value of thinking beyond international and disciplinary boundaries to foster radical new forms of practice.”