Mahalla - Urban Rural Living

‘Mahalla – Urban Rural Living‘ is the first participation of Uzbekistan in the International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

By Arts & Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof. Christoph Gantenbein, and Victoria Easton (Adjunct Curator), ETH Zurich - Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas Princen

Mahalla: Urban Rural Living (17th Architecture Biennale) by curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof Christoph Gantenbein / adjunt-curator: Victoria Easton / Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas PrincenArts & Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 1
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The exhibition project MAHALLA presents the architecture of a contemporary vernacular city: the houses in the traditional neighbourhoods of the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent.  Such neighbourhoods are called mahallas. For generations, they have shaped the way people live together.

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 1
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Mahalla: Urban Rural Living (17th Architecture Biennale) by curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof Christoph Gantenbein / adjunt-curator: Victoria Easton / Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas PrincenArts & Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 1
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The mahalla is accordingly a fusion of the urban community and its architecture. ‘Mahalla’, the Arabic word for neighbourhood, originally described an informal community forged by familial, professional and ethnic ties.

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 1
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Mahalla: Urban Rural Living (17th Architecture Biennale) by curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof Christoph Gantenbein / adjunt-curator: Victoria Easton / Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas PrincenArts & Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 2
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The basic building block of the mahalla is a courtyard house of a sort found not only in Tashkent, but also in other Uzbek and Central Asian cities. There are numerous variations on this courtyard house, the sum of which gives rise to the homogenous urban structure of these traditional neighbourhoods. Living and working in coexistence with nature are united there, in a finely tuned ecosystem.

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 2
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Mahalla: Urban Rural Living (17th Architecture Biennale) by curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof Christoph Gantenbein / adjunt-curator: Victoria Easton / Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas PrincenArts & Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 2
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The exhibition draws on a variety of media to make the vernacular city visible, with the goal of raising awareness of this cultural heritage among the Uzbek and international publics.  Paradoxically, it is often those typical, everyday things everyone presumes to know inside out that prove to be unknown or rather, subconscious.

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 2
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Mahalla: Urban Rural Living (17th Architecture Biennale) by curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof Christoph Gantenbein / adjunt-curator: Victoria Easton / Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas PrincenArts & Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 3
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As architects we cannot help but feel moved by the mahalla phenomenon: to begin with, the architectural structure is of an indescribable beauty.  Between the blank facades of the introverted residences, the streets are spatial channels, bewilderingly branching out into side arms that often turn out to be dead ends.    

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 3
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Mahalla: Urban Rural Living (17th Architecture Biennale) by curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof Christoph Gantenbein / adjunt-curator: Victoria Easton / Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas PrincenArts & Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 3
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In stark contrast to this stand the interiors of the houses: the entire architectonic energy is focussed on the inner core of a residence, on its courtyard and rooms.

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 3
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Mahalla: Urban Rural Living (17th Architecture Biennale) by curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof Christoph Gantenbein / adjunt-curator: Victoria Easton / Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas PrincenArts & Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 4
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Within the Renaissance-era industrial architecture of the Quarta Tesa, we have recreated a typical Tashkent courtyard house on a 1:1 scale, which is to say, as a life-sized tubular steel silhouette.  This tubular steel architecture is a reduction to the ‘wire frame’ of the house. It is both an approximation of the real house from which it derives and an architectonic endeavour to make the idea of a type physically present and tangibly real.

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 4
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Mahalla: Urban Rural Living (17th Architecture Biennale) by curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof Christoph Gantenbein / adjunt-curator: Victoria Easton / Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas PrincenArts & Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 4
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Complementing the 3D spatial research, Bas Princen used photography to explore the materiality of the spaces and their surfaces. His extreme close-ups render tangible haptic qualities, from traces of the crafts that went into the manufacture of an object, to the  the signs of wear and tear inscribed in it by years of use. This immersive environment conjured by life-sized photographs brings home to the viewer how the steady pulse of time etches itself into existence.

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 4
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Mahalla: Urban Rural Living (17th Architecture Biennale) by curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof Christoph Gantenbein / adjunt-curator: Victoria Easton / Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas PrincenArts & Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 5
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Carlos Casas distilled into sound the noises and silences on the streets and in the houses of the mahalla.  Human voices, animal cries, vehicles, gadgets, machinery, TV and radio were all recorded over lengthy periods, to capture the extremely specific acoustics of the mahallas’ spatiality.

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 5
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Mahalla: Urban Rural Living (17th Architecture Biennale) by curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof Christoph Gantenbein / adjunt-curator: Victoria Easton / Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas PrincenArts & Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 5
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In their sum, these various formats and approaches comprise a thematic and aesthetic whole, a kind of scientific yet at the same time artistic portrait. It is this collective ‘bigger picture’ derived  derived from the complementary research detailed above that makes it possible to have a public discussion about the great relevance of the mahalla phenomenon.

Carlos Casas - Mahalla Sound 5
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Captions are taken from:
Prof. Emanuel Christ, Victoria Easton, Prof. Christoph Gantenbein. “The Curators’ Text”,
in “Mahalla - Urban Rural Living”, 2021

Photos were taken by:
Gerda Studio, Giorgio De Vecchi, Giulia Di Lenarda

Credits: Story

Commissioner: Art and Culture Development Foundation underthe Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Curators: Prof. Emanuel Christ, Prof. Christoph Gantenbein, VictoriaEaston (Adjunct Curator & Head of Research), ETH Zurich.
Artists: Carlos Casas, Bas Princen.
Special Support: Saida Mirziyoyeva, Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Art and Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Organising Committee: Aziz Abdukhakimov, Ozodbek Nazarbekov, Gayane Umerova.
In collaboration with: The Ministry of Tourism and Sport of the Republic of Uzbekistan; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan; Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in the Italian Republic.
Exhibition Project Leader: Stefano Zeni, ETH Zurich.
Project Management: Madina Badalova, Art and Culture DevelopmentFoundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan.





Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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