Architecture and Society 2020

Mobility Defines Space

(Lotte Schreiber, curator)

Back in the beginning, humans used to be nomads. Only with the development of agriculture did they become sedentary, building villages and cities, and exchanging goods. Trade routes were established, new modes of transport evolved. In doing so, humankind has changed the surface of the Earth and stirred the water layers of the oceans. Throughout the ages, the transport of people and things has been a crucial constituent of all cultures. Mobility, be it international or local, is a space-defining phenomenon and is based on various interests and actors. The ways of mobility, meanwhile, are subject to a constant change that has led to a multitude of modes and reasons for mobility. For some, it may be a question of survival, for others a mere escape from spatial monotony.

Against this backdrop, Crossing Europe in cooperation with afo architekturforum oberösterreich presents what is already the eleventh edition of the program section Architecture and Society. Titled “Mobility Defines Space”, it relates to the coinciding exhibition regarding the topic of mobility held at the afo on Herbert- Bayer-Platz in Linz. This year’s film program gathers four documentaries that take a look at the societal and spatial consequences of a constantly growing and changing mobility.

They discuss the interrelations between local and translocal interests as well as questions concerning power relations, individual responsibility, and justice.

In his long-term observational documentary Autobahn, for instance, German director Daniel Abma shows us the tangible effects of an increased volume of transit traffic on socio-spatial processes of inclusion and exclusion. Each day an ever-growing line of trucks rolls through the German town of Oeynhausen, destroying the downtown living environment. The planned bypass, however, also threatens livelihoods – the film convincingly contrasts political decision-making processes with the fates of individuals, giving those concerned a chance to speak.

The inhabitants of a faraway mountain village in Georgia expect to see prosperity and progress from the construction of a railway tunnel through which in the future, a high-speed train from China to Europe – the New Silk Road – will travel. However, language problems and difficult communication between Georgian and Chinese workers soon lead to intense disputes, and there is growing a concern when the mountain starts to crumble. The Georgian documentary filmmaking duo Nino Orjonikidze and Vano Arsenishvili tells this story in A Tunnel.

Higher-level interests also quite literally move mountains in the Swedish town of Kiruna. When the ore mine beneath it threatens to collapse, the decision is made to move the town. This peculiar situation is the scene of Kiruna – A Brand New World by Czech-Swedish director Greta Stocklassa.

As a brand new entry from 2020, the program presents Luigi D’Alife’s impressive documentary The Milky Way, which tells of a mountain region at the Italian-French border. A popular international ski resort by day, at night it is here where many refugees try to cross the mountains into France. An open frontier as a symbol of freedom becomes a deathtrap for those who don’t belong.