A biopolitical satire: Hans Hollein’s atmospheres at the XIV Triennale di Milano (1968)

Authors: Juan Elvira*, IE University, Spain
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Europe, Communication
Keywords: architecture, atmosphere, behavior, biopolitics, hollein, satire, triennale
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Regency Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 1968 architect Hans Hollein built the Austrian pavilion at the XIV Triennale di Milano. Curated by Giancarlo de Carlo, the mostra was dedicated to “Il grande numero” (the ‘big number’). In this edition, the transformation of cities’ atmospheres under the new demographic explosion and mass consumption were openly put on the table of the architectural debate.

After the proliferation of pneumatic paradises in the first years of this decade, this was a moment of inflection for architects pursuing social utopias immersed in atmospheric architectures. The dream was over. An ecological crisis was driving the new social concerns. Also, the biopolitical as studied by authors like Michel Foucault (the impact of power over all aspects of human life) is increasingly present. This was the time when the psychological impact of the environment over human behavior was intensely studied: radical conductism, sensory deprivation or behavior control were key topics influencing art production.

The hypothesis of this paper consists that not only the triennale’s main topic, but specially such research fields heavily influenced this project. The project embraced the times of crisis in an ironic and playful way, turning them into a space social criticism. Frequently found in graphic and theatrical formats, satire aims to draw attention to specific issues in society. This time satire is architectural. The paper aims to analyze Hollein’s project in terms of a biopolitical machine. Simultaneously Kafkian and Freudian, its organization of movement, crowd control, stimulus-reward protocols and specialized performative atmospheres are organized in an architectural work.

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