This study revisits the platform as a physical support by studying it as a specific architecture. The platform is not just a way of raising buildings or people from the ground, but also an architectural form that redefines and negotiates the way in which the ground is made inhabitable.
Humans had levelled the ground as the most primary form of inhabitation before sedentary life even began, and today the entirety of the urban world is made of platforms that either enable or restrict the use of the ground. The use of the platform as an architectural element is common to many civilisations – from Aboriginal Australia to Mesoamerica to Ancient Greece to Islamic culture – and yet very little has been written about it. Our research therefore departs from the only significant text written on this archetype: ‘Platforms and Plateaus’ (1959), by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon. We aim to expand and problematise Utzon’s appraisal of the platform as an architectural idea towards a critical enquiry into this archetype. Though often understood as a symbol of power, the platform has also existed as gathering place; a point of both orientation and exchange among communities.
The term ‘platform’ has a fundamentally political nature. Since the 19th century it has been used extensively outside the field of architecture, firstly within parliamentary politics to refer to party policies and institutions, and more recently in the digital realm to address large Internet corporations that mediate interactions between groups of users. Like their physical counterparts, both political and digital platforms refer to spaces that at once facilitate and condition use. The platform therefore embodies the quintessential meaning of institutional power since, like institutions, such structures are apparatuses of social order, their functions based on the stability of recurring patterns of behaviour. Our goal is to revisit the platform as specific architectural archetype that assumes the ‘ground’ not to be a ‘natural’ given, but rather a political construct.
Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara, with Gianluca Bernardi, Celeste Tellarini, Harry Waknine Freire, Pierre Menoud, Mariapaola Michelotto, Nicolò Calandrini
Sharjah Architecture Triennial