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OMA unveils 'Palermo Atlas': An interdisciplinary urban study of Palermo commissioned by Manifesta 12
Mediterranean system of flows, Palermo Atlas. © OMA.

PALERMO.- On the 1st of July 2017, the Mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando, Director of Manifesta Hedwig Fijen and Manifesta 12 creative mediator OMA, led by architect and partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, presented the architecture firm’s urban study of Palermo for Manifesta 12. The European Nomadic Biennial will open in the Sicilian capital on 15th of June, 2018.

Manifesta 12 experiments with a new creative mediation model
Titled “Palermo Atlas”, the urban study is the foundational step of Manifesta 12, serving both as a blueprint for Palermo to plan its future and as a research framework to ensure that Manifesta 12 achieves a long-term impact for the city and its citizens. “Palermo Atlas” represents a novel creative mediation model proposed by Manifesta that focuses on transforming a nomadic art biennial into a sustainable platform for social change, rooted in holistic urban analysis and determined to leave a tangible legacy for every host city. It is the first time that Manifesta has invited an architecture firm as the creative mediator, with the goal to provide outside expertise and a new perspective to the host city and find new ways to unlock its potential in collaboration with citizens and local grassroots organizations.

The content of the Manifesta 12 Palermo Atlas
As articulated in the foreword to the “Palermo Atlas” by Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli of OMA, the work takes its starting point from the awareness that there is no fixed way to approach or define 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. Its material archeology, cultural legacy, somatic traits and ecosystems are the tangible evidences of a longlasting syncretism. Today, the city can be considered an archipelago of the global: not a globalized city per se, but rather an incubator of different global conditions. 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 and America” - explains Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli.

Using OMA’s unique methodology, “Palermo Atlas” attempts to investigate this complex, evolving character of the city from an interdisciplinary lens - covering architecture, archeology, anthropology, archival research, personal histories and media.

“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.

The team of interdisciplinary, international creative mediators
The outcomes of the “Palermo Atlas” will be translated into an accessible biennial program by four interdisciplinary creative mediators, including Italian architect and OMA partner, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli; Dutch filmmaker, Bregtje van der Haak; Spanish architect and scholar, Andrés Jaque; and Swiss contemporary art curator, Mirjam Varadinis. By fusing different disciplines and rooting itself in a holistic urban research, Manifesta hopes to extend its impact beyond just engaging audiences with contemporary art, but towards providing Palermo citizens with tools to imagine the future of their city.

The presentation of the Palermo Atlas in Teatro Garibaldi, a key venue for Manifesta 12
The “Palermo Atlas” was presented in the newly re-opened Teatro Garibaldi in Palermo, assigned by the City of Palermo to Manifesta. Prior to the biennial, Teatro Garibaldi will be used as a temporary Manifesta 12 office and cultural hub for Palermitani including an exhibition to discover the history of Manifesta, a pop-up café, an art library, film screenings, educational tours and workshops, and more. It will also be one of the key venues of the Manifesta 12 biennial in 2018.

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