Palermo Atlas by OMA

Manifesta 12 experiments with a new creative mediation model

Manifesta 12 is the first time we are trying a new creative mediation model – an in-depth urban research by an architecture firm to decode the city before defining the creative program, as a way of preparing the canvas on which a painter can start working. For Manifesta 12 in Palermo, we appointed a world leading architecture firm, OMA, to carry out the research led by Italian architect and OMA partner, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli.

The result is the “Palermo Atlas”, an interdisciplinary investigation of the city covering architecture, archaeology, anthropology, archival research, personal histories and media. “Palermo Atlas” is the foundational step of Manifesta 12 that will serve both as a blueprint for Palermo to plan its future and a research framework to ensure that Manifesta 12 achieves a real long-term impact for Palermo citizens.

A team of international, interdisciplinary creative mediators will translate the research into the creative program for Manifesta 12

The outcomes of the urban study will be translated into a creative program by 4 interdisciplinary and international creative mediators: Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli of OMA working with Bregtje van der Haak, Dutch journalist and filmmaker; Andres Jaque, Spanish architect and scholar; and Mirjam Varadinis, Swiss contemporary art curator. The aim of this model is to provide outside expertise and new, long-lasting perspectives to Palermo and give tools to Palermitans to unlock the future of their amazing city.

“Offering the city of Palermo a reflection of great value, Palermo Atlas shows the story of the city’s past and recent history through the perspective of the future. Palermo Atlas captures the complexity of Palermo and its inhabitants, as well as historical and current connections between the city, the Mediterranean and Europe. The study shows the joint commitment of the City Hall and Manifesta to develop a biennial that is truly engaged with Palermo’s cultural richness, its history, hospitality, spirit of peaceful co-existence and the city’s vision for the future” – Leoluca Orlando, the Mayor of Palermo.

Manifesta 12’s Palermo Atlas will function as a sustainable instrument, further developing a longlasting legacy of the Manifesta 12 nomadic biennial over the next two years” – Hedwig Fijen, Director of Manifesta.

Palermo Atlas Foreword by Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli

“There is no fixed way to approach Palermo.

The city cannot be reduced to a single statement or to a precise definition. It is rather a complex mosaic of fragments and identities emerging out of centuries of encounters and exchanges between civilizations. Palermo is historically cosmopolitan. Its material archeology, cultural legacy, somatic traits and ecosystems are the tangible evidences of a long lasting syncretism.

Today, Palermo can be considered an archipelago of the global: not a globalized city per se, but rather an incubator of different global conditions, that here reveals unique problematics, characters and potentials, making the city an ideal blueprint for the Mediterranean and the EU as a whole.

At the same time Palermo is probably no longer a city as we know it; it acts as a node for an extended geography of networks and systems that reach far beyond the EU-Mediterranean Area – from Sub-Saharan Africa to Scandinavia, from South East Asia to Gibraltar – rapidly reshaping its identity and role within the geopolitical scenario.

The local realities in the city are an expression of new globalized conditions. At the same time, they bring evident traces of a highly specific autochthone culture and of the city’s controversial modern history. It is in this tension between a fluid global identity and an irreducible milieu where Palermo finds its complex and specific character in the age of post globalization.

The work that follows represents an attempt to investigate both aspects: on the one hand it uses the city to script the story of a whole region; on the other it is a reflection on characters that are specific to Palermo. It is based on an omnivorous collection of stories and testimonies gathered on the ground and supported by data. Overall, it aims to offer a critical point of view on the city, through a selection of snap-shots representative of its present status.

Based on the format of a magazine – a special issue on Palermo – the document is structured into three main sections, each one developed around a number of new maps:

Journey: is a narration on Palermo through the lens of its historical role as barycenter of the Mediterranean. Extending the notion of “journey” and “traveler”, it spans from the historical dimension of the first Arab scholars travelling to Sicily since the IX Century, to the most recent impact on the city of migration (of men and other species), tourism, and climate change.

XX City: explores the physical, political and emotional bond between the city and its controversial post-war history, through media, architectural testimonies and private memories.

Acupuncture: is a detailed report on our field explorations. It identifies those sites and stories that are representative both of the physical archeology of the city and its current conditions, and illustrates a potential selection of places, projects and parcours for the Biennial. An urban acupuncture stands as a strategy. Manifesta will question the dominant identity of a visual arts biennial by unleashing a number of different interventions spread across the city, based on local partnerships and long term impact.

The information collected here is the result of a series of formal and informal encounters and conversations with over 100 selected citizens in the course of a three months’ study project. Our most sincere gratitude goes to them and their invaluable contributions.”