51N4E’s installation in Chicago focuses on a newly completed project, the Skanderbeg Square in Tirana: a collaboration with Albanian artist Anri Sala. Skanderbeg Square links together several important municipal and national representative buildings. These sites are drawn together around a paved marble carpet that rises to a shallow pyramid in the center of the square. The installation features several artifacts of influence such as a stone scale models that were used for engagement with local stakeholders, the ‘love seats’ that inhabit the square, and published documentation of the site as well as the fictional journey and generic geographies of David Claerbout’s film Travel 1996–2013. Anri Sala’s 1998 film Intervista (Finding the Words) will create a parallel narrative that highlights memories as personalized versions of history. The discovery of silent footage of the artist’s mother speaking in 1977 at the Albanian Youth Congress in Tirana foregrounds issues around the ways that history is constituted, recorded, and, yet, can remain fallible. The collapse of the Communist Party some 20 years later led to various urban projects to remediate Albania’s capital city. One can see this as a prelude to the Square as well as a rumination on the ways that histories and collective identities are constructed and reproduced. The ensemble of materials, the collective aspects of knowledge production in the unfolding of Sala’s interviews in the video, as well as the workshops that are planned for the space by 51N4E examine the complexity of our urban networks and the ways that architects produce meaningful spaces therein.
51N4E is an international, Brussels based practice—founded in 2000—that aspires to contribute through means of design to social and urban transformation. 51N4E is led by Johan Anrys and Freek Persyn, and is thirty people strong at present. 51N4E envisions transformations in society through the production of space by rethinking built environments and outdated urban systems, but also by reimagining how we use those environments in all their complexity. 51N4E uses the tools of architecture and design to construct dialogue settings around each project, thereby increasing collective intelligence and creating projects with a broader impact on society.