“The relationship between nature and culture is dominated by humans,” says Sebastian Behmann

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Sebastian Behmann
Image © Yero Adugna Eticha

SOS (Studio Other Spaces), an office for architecture and art founded by artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann, presented their 3rd exhibition titled “Räumliche Solidaritäten” (Spatial Solidarities) at Das Gelbe Haus Flims in Switzerland. On display from 8 October 2023 to 27 October 2024, the exhibition employs a multi-narrative structure by showcasing a selection of SOS’s projects in connection with local initiatives from Flims and the area.

The building by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati is transformed into a space of echoes that go beyond the walls of this iconic landmark. The exhibition is based on the themes that inform SOS’s design language and research, such as energy, infrastructure, agriculture, nutrition, and education. Damian Christinger and Elizabeth McTernan, the exhibition’s co-curators, have collected and contextualized local projects related to these themes.

During our interview with Studio Other Spaces co-founder Sebastian Behmann, we discussed “Spatial Solidarities” and the motivations that shaped their most recent exhibition in Flims.

Sebastian Behmann
Image © Studio Other Spaces

Behmann starts by explaining that the exhibition is not just a showcase of their work but a representation of their collaborative approach; he states, “One of the main ideas of Studio Other Spaces is the idea of collaboration” and added, “The exhibition is not a representation of our work or projects that we work on, but it’s more a representation of the way we work, and we see no big difference between making an exhibition or actually working on an architectural project itself.”

The main theme of their exhibition in Flims is the interplay between city and nature, a concept important in the age of the Anthropocene. Behmann notes that we can no longer refer to our surroundings as ‘nature’ in the traditional sense, as it is now a product of human influence. He said, “It’s actually natureculture that we are talking about. And this relationship is clearly dominated by humans.”

“We have to renegotiate the relationship between what we call countryside and city or landscape and city.” He highlights the interconnectedness of urban and rural areas, asserting, “The difference between what is outside the city and inside the city is much more connected today than it has ever been before.”

Image © Gaudenz Danuser

Behmann highlights the interconnectedness of their work, connecting it to the themes of farming, agriculture, and nutrition, particularly influenced by ‘Hungry EcoCities, a project the studio is currently working on. He believes that the relationship between city and countryside, as traditionally understood, has evolved due to human influence, remarking, “So we cannot really talk about nature, and we cannot really talk about different economic forces that are applied to city and countryside.” This underlying theme led them to explore the transformation of landscapes and the interplay between cities and rural areas in Switzerland, marked by a distinct connectedness compared to their home in Berlin.

The dialogue between Studio Other Spaces and the locals was key to the exhibition’s success. Behmann states, “And from that, we actually worked ourselves into more precise projects, finding co-curators, and in that sense, it was pretty much a dialogue.” He stated that the exhibition mirrors the voices and concerns of the people living in Flims, giving them a sense of self-reflection through the art and projects showcased.

Behmann pointed out that Studio Other Spaces will continue to collaborate with local groups and projects, expanding their network and involvement in the region. He mentions, “There’s an upcoming Art Biennale in the nearby Safiental Valley that we hope to take part in.”

Image © Gaudenz Danuser

Furthermore, he highlights the necessity of considering essential factors for future city development, such as energy sources, stating, “We have to understand where the energy comes from. This is a really important aspect of new city development.” However, the core of the matter lies in our approach to food production; as Behmann argues, “The question of where our food comes from is a serious and important problem that we face.” This question shapes the relationship between the countryside and the city, and as Behmann claims, the existing system is no longer sustainable, as it heavily relies on fossil fuels.

Behmann emphasizes this point, stating, “The system that we have right now is at an end.” He highlights the importance of considering energy and food production for future city development, explaining, “We know this agricultural system won’t work anymore. We must find ways to live, settle, and farm simultaneously.” These powerful quotes summarize Behmann’s vision of a more sustainable and interconnected future between urban and rural spaces, echoing the main message Studio Other Spaces hopes people will take from the exhibition.

“Spatial Solidarities” challenges our conventional thinking about urban and rural spaces and inspires us to consider new, interconnected approaches to city development in a rapidly changing world. The exhibition in Flims is just the beginning of this transformative dialogue between human and more-than-human spaces. Lastly, Behmann emphasizes the importance of understanding the city and its relation to these themes, saying, “If you want to make new designs, you need to get a better understanding of what city and countryside actually are, and what their relationship is about.”

You can visit the exhibition till 27 October 2024.

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