This speculation by Eva Perez de Vega re-imagines how spaces could look when not dominated by human presence.
Design Explorations: Constructed Environments Professor Eva Perez de Vega’s work will be displayed from May to November during the 2021 Venice Biennale. Perez de Vega and her partner Ian Gordon are part of the "Time Space Existence" architectural exhibition put on by the European Cultural Centre. Their exhibit is a self-reflection on the couple’s 15 years of practicing architecture and focuses on how built spaces affect the environment and non-human life. Perez de Vega is the Summer Intensives Studies course coordinator for the School of Constructed Environments, where both she and her partner teach in the BFA program. Gordon teaches architecture and interior design year-round for Parsons Academy.
Perez de Vega and Gordon founded their architecture and design practice, e + i studio, in 2010. Integrating nonhuman life into their designs has always been a theme for them, but Perez de Vega said it’s become more prominent in recent years.
“We’re thinking about what we’ve done so far. It’s also a reflection on how we situate ourselves vis-à-vis the climate crisis. All those things that you sometimes don’t have time to think of because you’re just doing the day-to-day.”
Perez de Vega said the European Cultural Centre first reached out to e + i studio in 2016. She said it was probably the studio’s collaborative projects, such as one with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council where they revitalized empty spaces after 9/11 and created public events with dancers and performers, that caught the ECC’s attention.
“They found the interdisciplinary nature of the work interesting,” said Perez de Vega, who studied contemporary dance herself at the Martha Graham School.
The “Time Space Existence” exhibition includes works from 212 creative professionals from 51 countries. The artists are invited to “investigate our relationship with space and time, re-envisioning new ways of living and rethinking architecture through a larger lens.”
The e + i studio display is a three-dimensional graphic timeline of Perez de Vega and Gordon’s work, with 3D models. Similar to how animals are grouped into species, each work is connected by a piece of colored cord to the architectural concepts it represents.
A model of how the e + i studio exhibit will look at the Venice Biennale.
“Because it’s a reflection of some of the work, we’re taking some of the projects that we’ve been doing so far, trying to situate them within certain conceptual frameworks that relate to performance, the environment, the body, and things that have been concerning us for awhile now.”
The casings that house the works were fabricated locally in Italy. Perez de Vega even considered the space where the work is displayed. “I’m trained as a choreographer and I used to dance so we’re interested in movement,” she said. “So we chose a kind of hallway space – not a static space you go to but a threshold that you traverse.”
The exhibit will be in the Palazzo Bembo venue and will open on May 22 to the public.
Through her research on animal extinction, Perez de Vega started creating images of animals interacting with traditionally human spaces.
“We’ve been doing this kind of speculative imagery. So these are images of the projects I imagined in moments when human presence isn’t completely dominating the environment. So we envisioned species that are now under extinction or endangered occupying the projects to speculate on ways architecture can provide space for non-human life as well.”
The speculative images started as part of a project Perez de Vega worked on with her research assistant. It wasn’t the first time her teaching seeped into her work.
“It’s a mutually-informing relationship,” said Perez de Vega, who has been teaching at Parsons since 2004. “Teaching always keeps you excited about the things that are important at that time and what matters to students. It forces you to always be within that framework and to reflect on what you’re doing.”
“The ambience of Parsons and going to lectures and understanding issues of social justice and how they hinge on and are interrelated to environmental justice – all of that has definitely sparked a lot of thinking and teaching,” she said. She earned a master’s in philosophy from The New School of Social Research and is currently in the Ph.D. program. “I love how Parsons is within the network of The New School and there’s just so much going on and really fantastic work in all these areas.”
Perez de Vega has been teaching the Parsons Summer Intensive Studies (SIS) since 2006. The Constructed Environments course often serves as a prerequisite for students without prior architecture experience to enter the graduate program at the School of Constructed Environments. Perez de Vega has taught both the pre-college and college/adult SIS sessions.
“It’s usually really interesting because they have such a rich background,” she said of the conditional students, who have included chefs and musicians. “They are different from students with a design background so they bring a different perspective.”
Perez de Vega noted the advantages to teaching the SIS program online: “If you’re already learning with software, it’s easier to some degree, because students are already focused on their computers and have this very immediate relationship to the software.”
“The Summer Intensive has always been one of my favorite classes to teach because you get the students for this very intense moment. You see them almost every day and it’s summer and it’s always this very energetic moment.”