Limbo Space



The Greenhouse talks
Venice, 25 May 2018
written by Vera Grimmer

The Greenhouse talks, a traditional panel discussion, was held this year as an accompanying event of the opening of the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, prepared and moderated by Aaron Betsky, president of the School of Architecture at Taliesin, curator of the 11th Venice Architecture Biennale and a very successful speaker at Days of Oris in 2009. He invited very competent professionals familiar with the chosen topic of the limbo space – transitional in-between space, a kind of a purgatory between the hell of the daily life and the endless sky of the virtual space and/or vice versa. 
Architects Claudia Clemente (Labics), Nathalie de Vries (MVRDV), Elizabeth Diller (Diller Scofidio + Renfro), Andrés Jaque (Office for Political Innovation), star photographer Iwan Baan and architect Marina Otero Verzier (Het Nieuwe Institut), curator of this year’s Dutch pavilion, participated in the discussion and shared their experiences with the problems of demography, economy or dramatic technological progress, which architectural practice has had to tackle in the last decades.  

The Dutch Pavilion was conceived in line with the topic of the panel, as a room with the lockers – where you change your life conditions and become transformed into a different person, regardless of the fact if it was theatre, factory, mining or sports facilities. They are utopian, transitional areas.

Nathalie de Vries also considers electronic devices like smartphones limbo space, as well as metropolitan passages. The space, however, has to be made valuable, unique, a place of memory (lieux de memoire). Andrés Jaque focuses on the social aspect of the interspace, recounting the example of a Columbian man who changed many locations before settling in Los Angeles. To all the stops during his nomadic journey and in various forms, he carried the garden from his hometown. Employing various methods, he also stayed in contact with his friends and relatives. In Los Angeles, he colonized the freespace between his backyard and the highway and so reconstructed his Columbian garden; his limbo space. Subversion thus defied globalisation.

With their High Line project, Diller Scofidio + Renfro have transformed abandoned city road into a chief New York attraction, visited by 8 million people during the last year. Limbo space was so transformed into a kind of a theatrical space everyone can share.

Limbo spaces are spaces of uncertainty, with limited possibilities, as in refugee camps. They have no clear hierarchy or focus or clear boundaries; they are somewhere among the hallways and the room, they are places of uncertainty. Betsky wonders if these areas have some strange beauty, quality of something almost complete, which is and is not something and if this gives them many possibilities.  

There have always been many in-between spaces, like porches, verandas and lobbies. In these spaces you are not completely in the world, but not completely at home as well, and this might provide them with many different options. During the last couple of decades in-between areas developed into something completely different and the roots of their waiting-area aspect are conditioned by the development of the public transport but waiting areas of offices or firms as well. They differ from the theatre foyer, where you wait with a clearly defined social purpose. Waiting is the characteristic of the new limbo space, but Betsky concludes that such spaces need to be seen as the new goal of architectural research from the other side of the boundaries of the location, function, traditional social behaviour or physical construction.