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SOAP on SOAP, or sampling architectural space within the Web 2.0
A conversation with the online architecture office SOAP and the team of MAGAZIN on the exhibition "Simple Object Access Protocol", currently open until March 18th.

Sampling, or “the reuse of a portion of a sound recording in another recording”, has been a well known and widely used concept since the 1970s. Initially associated with musical production, sampling is now used across a broad variety of media and by different kinds of artistic practices. What made this possible was the emergence of the Web 2.0, which, understood by some online architecture practice, is a collectively maintained and constantly growing participatory archive.

In the following interview, Dominic Schwab and Uwe Brunner, co-founders of SOAP, discuss the idea of Spatial Sampling and the creation of their first exhibit at MAGAZIN in Wien, Simple Object Access Protocol, in which they explore the Internet as an inexhaustible resource for space-making and ask about the meaning of novelty, individuality and authorship.

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KOOZ Your exhibition at Magazin, titled SOAP - Simple Object Access Protocol, is also the name of your practice. Could you tell us a bit more of who you are and what you do?

SOAP The idea of founding some online architecture practice, SOAP—which exists explicitly online—arose from our close teaching and research collaboration. As we both studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, we already knew each other before we both accepted a PhD position at the University of Innsbruck a few years later. In line with our interests, SOAP is mainly concerned with online cultures, web spaces and digital media.

We wanted to stick with the name of our practice for its first exhibition, so we came up with a different reading of SOAP, Simple Object Access Protocol, a very basic and commonly used communication protocol of the early internet. The title is simple and memorable, yet it gives a twisted hint towards the architectural discourse we are engaging with.

SOAP is mainly concerned with online cultures, web spaces and digital media.

"Simple Object Access Protocol" by SOAP, exhibition view at MAGAZIN. Space for Contemporary Architecture. Photo: Simon Veres

KOOZ By utilizing the archives of the Internet as an inexhaustible resource for space-making, the exhibition both explores the idea of Spatial Sampling whilst raising urgent questions about the role of the designer as collector and curator. How and to what extent has the emergence of the Web as an endless archive shaped the discipline of architecture? What is the value in rethinking the role of the designer as both a collector and curator?

SOAP The Web has changed the discipline of architecture in many different ways. In Simple Object Access Protocol, we are particularly interested in the advent of the Web 2.0 and the way it has enabled people to actively participate in the creation of a collective and planetary archive since the 1990s.

From the early text-based contributions to today's three-dimensional content—such as 3D scans or volumetric video recordings—the Web as a common archive is steadily growing at an enormous speed. What fascinates us in this regard is the plenitude of three-dimensional content accessible online. We as architects are simply able to select and compose from these pre-existing resources in order to constitute architectural articulations and spatial experiences.

Due to this abundance and availability of user-generated content, we believe that the role of the architect is changing.

Due to this abundance and availability of user-generated content, we believe that the role of the architect is changing. In our opinion, there is great potential in acknowledging the architect as an actor who operates in a field of pre-existing constellations and whose value consists in continuously forming and composing new ones—creating alternative ways of perceiving and experiencing architectural space.

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KOOZ The medium is the message, and for your exhibition at MAGAZIN, you actively sampled leftover materials and artifacts as well as digital documentation of 3D scanned installations from previous exhibitions hosted within the space. Would you define this installation as something new? To what extent should architecture be concerned with the novel and / or rather seek to inform and refine the existing?

SOAP These days, the question is whether we are able to define anything as new at all. We rather consider this installation as a current constellative performance with objects and space. We used both physical and digital materials we had at our disposal in order to form a personal argument.

We attempted to reinforce this approach by setting up a small information pillar at the entrance of the gallery space, where all the pre-existing materials we used are listed in an extensive table according to various categories. In this sense, we are not only trying to question the desire to always strive for the new, but also distancing ourselves from the old-fashioned conception of being the sole author of a work of art or architecture.

These days, the question is whether we are able to define anything as new at all.

While we think it is of course legitimate to seek the novel and the new in architecture, we are a practice dealing primarily with online environments. For us, a more timely approach is to articulate ideas, thoughts or speculations through the act of transforming and combining materials, objects and spaces that exist and that already possess certain societal and cultural values. This allows us to create and conceive architecture not only on a conceptual level, but also at a faster pace, which we believe is necessary to keep up with contemporary fast-moving media environments and online communications.

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We are not only trying to question the desire to always strive for the new, but also distancing ourselves from the old-fashioned conception of being the sole author of a work of art or architecture.

KOOZ Question to MAGAZIN: In what ways has the spatial resampling enacted by SOAP informed a diverse reading of the exhibitions undertaken to date? What can we expect from your upcoming programme for 2023?

MAGAZIN The exhibition by SOAP has a clear overall aesthetic and branding intent that embeds various physical as well as digital fragments of previous exhibitions at MAGAZIN. Rather than having informed a diverse reading of these former exhibitions, the sampling performed by SOAP indexically highlights the specificity of each of the selected fragments in their initial conceptual and material arrangements.

After the SOAP exhibition, MAGAZIN will feature solo shows by c/o now from Berlin, the planetary group of admins of dank.lloyd.wright, Bushra Mohamed and Nana Biamah-Ofosu from London as well as Nina Valerie Kolowratnik, currently based in Ghent. We are very excited about the upcoming program.

Bio

Dominic Schwab is co-founder of SOAP. He is an architect, teacher and researcher based in Vienna, Austria. Since 2020, he is a faculty member at the ./studio3, Institute for Experimental Architecture at the University of Innsbruck. Currently he is pursuing a PhD with a research focus on the spectralities of media-technologies and how they inform a spatial design practice that reflects on architecture in the age of archives. He has also taught at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and he is a regular academic guest & critic at various institutes, such as the Chair for Digital Architectonics, ITA, ETH Zürich, the Institute for Architecture and Media, University of Graz and the Department for Architecture Theory and the Philosophy of Technics, Vienna University of Technology. Beyond that, he gained professional experience in renowned architectural offices, such as Atelier Hans Hollein, Gabu Heindl Architektur and Architekt Wolfgang Tschapeller. His work has been widely screened and exhibited, including Ars Electronica Barcelona Garden 2021, AUT Innsbruck 2021, Greenwich Heritage Gallery London 2016, Wien Museum 2016, Rundgang Academy of Fine Arts Vienna 2016/17/18 and others.

Uwe Brunner is co-founder of SOAP. He is an architect, experience designer, teacher and researcher based in Vienna. Since 2019, he has been a faculty member at the ./studio3, Institute for Experimental Architecture at the University of Innsbruck. He is currently pursuing a PhD with a research focus on the Essay, its affective and cognitive modalities, and its potential for space-making in virtual reality environments. His work has been widely screened and exhibited, including at the New Media Art Museum La Gaîté Lyrique in Paris, MAK, Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, CPH:DOX, Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, and the Goethe-Institut in Beijing.

MAGAZIN is an exhibition space for contemporary architecture in Vienna. It was founded in March 2018 and is currently run by Jerome Becker and Matthias Moroder. MAGAZIN presents the work of young local and international architects in solo exhibitions that are especially conceived for the spaces in the Weyringergasse location – framed by corresponding publications and lectures.

Federica Zambeletti is the founder and managing director of KoozArch. She is an architect, researcher and digital curator whose interests lie at the intersection between art, architecture and regenerative practices. In 2015 Federica founded KoozArch with the ambition of creating a space where to research, explore and discuss architecture beyond the limits of its built form. Parallel to her work at KoozArch, Federica is Architect at the architecture studio UNA and researcher at the non-profit agency for change UNLESS where she is project manager of the research "Antarctic Resolution". Federica is an Architectural Association School of Architecture in London alumni.

Published
15 Feb 2023
Reading time
8 minutes
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