Behind Interventions

Photo Aug 26, 3 00 07 AM

// Barcelona

The Olympics, Biennials, and World Fairs are all interventions, which in turn have their own interventions. As a matter of fact, Barcelona knows this all too well and takes advantage of these event interventions as an “excuse” to rebuild the city. (see footnote)

If we shoot back to the 1929 World’s Fair also held in Barcelona, we see the Barcelona Pavilion being erected for the first time- the poster child for modernism. Following (literally) the endless lines of Mondrian, the space flows inside and out sans “doors.” The fair paved the way for modernism in architecture and urban planning.

Just a year after the fair, the pavilion was demolished as most things were following the closing of the festival. And it was a strategic move when the city of Barcelona decided to rebuild the pavilion (completed in 1988) amidst the preparations for the 1992 Olympics. It’s a ten-year process from the selection process to the infrastructural construction of the selected host city for the Olympics[1] – so by 1985, Barcelona was well aware of its role in the upcoming Olympics. The pavilion would only add to the legacy of Barcelona since its early heyday, just in time for the games.

With Milk ___find something everybody can use” Ai Weiwei

And since its resurrection, the Fundació Mies van der Rohe has invited a number of artists to propose interventions to the Barcelona pavilion. The intervention to the intervention. The rebuilding of the pavilion was initially to make frozen the modern era, and these interventions were meant to emphasize that modernist mindset time and time again. Though, the irony lies in Ai Weiwei’s milk and coffee which filled each of the reflecting pools of the pavilion (2009).

“Upkeeping the condition of milk and coffee is the same as preserving a body, a demanding effort against light, air, warmth… anything encourages growth and change.”
-Ai Weiwei

It’s a powerful message which highlights the tension between history, legacy, and progress of institutions. As Darwin would agree, things change, things evolve and only those that embrace that change remain relevant. These interventions renew the perception of Barcelona, it keeps Barcelona relevant.


// Berlin

“With Nike, everything is completely different. So just do it.”[2]

Intervention is one of Nike’s signature moves. In conjunction, or rather in intervening, with the 2002 World Cup, Nike organized a series of “Secret Tournaments” across 13 cities internationally –not only in physical games, but also in virtual games connected via the internet.[3]

Niketown “Secrete Tournament” Campaign

Nike was able to not only brand itself through the 1999-2002 Niketown campaign, but like the Barcelona Pavilion, for Berlin, it also place-branded the city. It brought to light the abandoned yards and forgotten basements and made them “cool.” Berlin became the “freedom … behind the fence.”[4] Everyone didn’t just want to see Berlin, they wanted to be Berlin.

“Nike formulated a counter-image to the existing city, describing a new city that would be freer, less controlled, more spontaneous.”[5]

That is what Nike gave to Berlin – the confidence to just do it. And by 2008, the city of Berlin saw this and launched the “be Berlin” campaign, which strived to voice the city through its 3.4 million residents. [6]


// San Francisco

In the wake of the Prototyping Festival, we ask, how can “27 steps” intervene the city as well as the social culture on Market Street?

When Market Street was first introduced in 1847 by Jasper O’Farrell, it was a literal intervention for the new city. Among the plains and sand dunes the new road paved a directionality for San Francisco. As one of the city’s major roads, the intervention became that open channel for different voices, different interventions.

Can the “27 steps” gateway be the gateway into all cities? With all the issues around refugees and fear for terrorism, “27 Steps” is an international campaign:

“We come in peace.”


27 Steps, “We Come in Peace”
(image: Anesta Iwan + Nish Kothari)

If you’re interested in supporting the project:
Thank you!

You see, the 1992 games was one of the most successful events that brought about a spur of investments and economic growth for the host city. The organizing committee behind the ’92 Olympics was quick to reevaluate the spending priorities – which was to only spend 25% of the spending for the operational investment (the direct costs associated with the games and only the games) and later invest 85% of the budget on the infrastructural costs (costs that went into upgrading the city’s transit system, hotel accommodations, etc that went well beyond the scope of the games).



[1] “From Candidate To Host City”. 2016. International Olympic Committee.

[2] Borries, Friedrich von. 2004. Who’s Afraid Of Niketown?. Rotterdam: Episode Publishers.

[3] Ibid, 26.

[4] Ibid, 21

[5] Ibid, 33.

[6] “Campaign”. 2012. Be Berlin.


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