Architects are often considered optimists, planning to improve the life of communities. The Venice Architecture Biennale is a testing ground for ideas but it needs to make space for self-reflection on the constraints of the profession too. In a quiet corner of the Giardini, the Romanian pavilion does just that. Behind a thick red curtain are puppets appearing in different scenes, including an approval committee. “In Venice, you see all these exhibitions showing models and photographs but architects are only viewing: here we put make them the focus and see if they have the initiative to do something – if they have the courage to put the puppets in motion,” says the commissioner Attila Kim. All puppets can be animated but their range of movement is limited – in the same way that an architect’s ideas need to face the reality of property development and regulations. During such a socially minded edition of the Biennale, it’s important to remember that many of the community-building proposals need to make their way outside the walls of the pavilions – however tough limitations may be.
Tokyo’s latest idea to increase the number of tourists from overseas is a contest to fund a few young directors who want to make short films using the Japanese capital as a backdrop. Called the Short Film & Tokyo Project, it is part of this year’s Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia, one of the region’s largest for short-form movies and documentaries. Held from 2 June to 26 June in Tokyo and Yokohama, the festival has become a launching pad for emerging talent in Asia. For the project, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government won’t dictate what the competing film-makers shoot but will suggest potential locations and pay for a production crews. Short films have gained a wide audience as more people watch videos on a mobile device. But what short film would add to Tokyo’s charm? An art-house tourism film? It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely commission – but perhaps that will only add to the allure.
Gabon launched its first 24-hour news network last week – Gabon 24. Despite a few technical difficulties the continuous coverage appears to have been well received so far, especially given that most citizens have until now relied on international outlets for TV news. One question looming large in the minds of the Gabonese is how the new state-funded station will affect the presidential election in three months’ time. For his part, president Ali Bongo Ondimba, who has been in power since 2009, welcomed the network’s arrival, saying he believes it will benefit all parties. However, considering watchdog group Reporters without Borders' concerns regarding press freedoms in the country, unease about the impartiality of the coverage is well warranted.
The sharing economy is often considered a tool for the young. But a soon-to-launch travel club in Ireland and the UK akin to Airbnb will cater only to those over the age of 50. The Freebird Club is a membership group, where hosts can make their spare rooms available to fellow members who come and stay. But unlike Airbnb, the host is always there to greet the guest. “What we are trying to do is use the sharing-economy model to facilitate people finding people, rather than just a nice place to stay. For many older adults the most valuable thing they could share is each other’s company,” says founder Peter Mangan. The programme is likely to see success: Airbnb has recently said seniors are its fastest-growing demographic.
After a recent flare-up in the Caucasus, we revisit the republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and its defiant quest for independence.