Programs with architects and urbanists at Territorial Agency exploring climate change and the geography of conflicts of the northern territories


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Design
  • Pedagogy

Organizing Institutions


Contributing Institutions

Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania


Aaron Levy, Ann-Sofi Rnnskog, John Palmesino


Students in the 2007-2008 RBSL Bergman Foundation Curatorial Seminar


Department of Architecture, Tyler School of Art at Temple University; the Society of Friends of Slought


The Fall 2007-Spring 2008 RBSL Bergman Foundation Curatorial Seminar in the Departments of the History of Art and English at the University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


50% Formal - 50% Informal

Slought and the Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, is pleased to announce "North," a research project, public seminar and display with the Basel-based architectural firm Territorial Agency and architects and urbanists John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog.

The project is unique in that has been organized as part of the RBSL Bergman Foundation Curatorial Seminar at the University of Pennsylvania, taught by Professor Aaron Levy. Throughout the 2007-2008 academic year, students in the course collaboratively undertook research in conjunction with Territorial Agency architects John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog, collecting and constructing a series of archives and materials representative of the various forces and fields of influence currently operating in the conflict-ridden northern territories. In the process, the students engaged in research spanning disciplines such as literature, geo-political studies, visual culture, architecture, and urbanism, as well as science and technology. The students collaborated and dialogued with Territorial Agency through a variety of modes of communication ranging from personal interaction to video conferencing. The result is a display in the vault galleries at Slought and a public event featuring the collaborative research undertaken by the firm and the seminar students.

One of the principles underlying the work of Territorial Agency as well as John Palmesino's founding role in the Milan-based research network multiplicity is that research is itself a practice and a form of production. By evading clear distinctions between artist, architect, critic, and curator, their work challenges us to reconsider the politics of exhibition display and prevailing curatorial approaches. For Slought, Territorial Agency has proposed a project entitled "North," as an occasion to think about how water is rapidly becoming the central issue in the management of inhabited territories. The changing conditions related to its ownership, protection from shortages and excesses, disputes on sovereignty, as well as underwater oil and mineral resources exploitation are modifying our perception of the geography of large parts of the Northern European regions, of the Artic Sea and Northern America. The research project addresses these themes through investigation of a number of case studies, from the oil resources off the coasts of Norway, to the disputed continental shelf under the North Pole, to the waterways accesses of Russia on the Baltic. By shifting our understanding of 'location' away from nation states and towards geographical regions and the interplay of different fields, North explores the dynamic relations between contemporary politics and their spaces of operation.

A public event featuring the architects in conversation will take place on Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 from 5:00-7:00pm. Please note that due to the unusual nature of the installation, which features large quantities of water and melting ice, it will only be on display for a few hours, in conjunction with the event. John Palmesino will also present on Tuesday, April 2, 2008 at 6pm in the Department of Architecture at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University main campus (Lecture Hall 126, Architecture and Engineering building, 1947 North 12th Street at Norris St).

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John Palmesino is an architect and urbanist, born in Switzerland. He has established, together with Ann-Sofi Rönnskog, Territorial Agency, which has designed the integrated vision for the future of the Markermeer, in the Netherlands. He is in charge of the Master course at the Research Architecture Centre, Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is also conducting his researches for his PhD. He is the initiator and curator of the research project Neutrality, a multidisciplinary investigation in the territorial implications of UN policies and self-organisation processes of transformation and control of the contemporary human landscapes. He has been Head of research at ETH Zurich, Studio Basel / Contemporary City Institute, between 2003, and 2007, a research platform for the investigation of the transformation patterns of the city of the 21st Century founded by the Pritzker Prize winner architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. Recent publications inlcude Switzerland–An Urban Portrait (Birkhäuser, 2007). His researches at ETH Studio Basel focus on Paris, Napoli, San Francisco, St Petersburg, Hong Kong, and the Canary Islands. Open and Closed: Transformations in the 21st Century City is the working title of his forthcoming publication. He also has co-founded multiplicity, a research network on contemporary territorial transformations. The Milan-based organisation deals with contemporary urbanism, representation of inhabited landscape transformation, visual arts and general culture. Multiplicity is a research network of architects, urbanists, social scientists, photographers, filmmakers and visual artists. 

His work has been exhibited at documenta11, the Biennale di Venezia, the Triennale in Milano, the KunstWerke, Berlin, the Musée d'Art Contemporaine de Paris, the Vanabbe Museum in Eindhoven, and IABR Rotterdam.

He has lectured widely in Europe, in Japan, Australia and in the US. He teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London, and previously he taught at ETH Zurich, EPFL Lausanne, Royal Academy of Arts Copenhagen, Politecnico di Milano, IUAV Venezia, University of Genova, and at the Harvard School of Design, with Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. He is on the International Advisory Board for the Sustainable Development of Mexico City. He has published in many European architecture magazines and is also the co-author of USE Uncertain states of Europe (Skira 2003), MUTATIONS (Actar 2000), and Lessico Postfordista–Scenari della mutazione (Feltrinelli 2001). He recently participated in the Evasions of Power symposium at Slought Foundation and the Department of Architecture, PennDesign, in March 2007.

Ann-Sofi Rönnskog is an architect and urbanist from Finland. She has established Territorial Agency together with John Palmesino. Her work focuses on the architectural and spatial analysis of contemporary city transformation processes. She has participated in a pioneering research in the field and has developed new modes of representation and analysis of the contemporary inhabited environment, with particular attention to the spatial and architectural configurations of European metropolitan regions. Her works and research explore what architecture can do and what it can become, and fosters new roles for the profession in a rapidly changing urbanised world. She has studied in Oulu, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and at ETH Zurich. Her thesis work on the Helsinki metropolitan region explores the contemporary developments of the Finnish Capital city. She has worked as scientific assistant at ETH Zürich / Studio Basel – Contemporary City Institute with Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in Basel, Switzerland where she has curated the mapping project for the book Switzerland – An Urban Portrait (Birkhäuser 2005) and has contributed to research on Paris, MetroBasel, and the Canary Islands. She has co-curated the Institute's participation in the 10th Architecture International Exhibition at the Venice Biennale and the exhibition Das neue Bild der Schweiz at the Swiss National Library, Bern.

Territorial Agency is an independent organization that innovatively promotes and works for sustainable territorial transformations. Territorial Agency works to strengthen the capacity of local and international communities in comprehensive spatial transformation management; it's projects channel available spatial resources towards the development of their full potential. Territorial Agency works for the establishment of instruments and methods for ensuring higher architectural and urban quality in the contemporary territories, and it's work builds on wide stakeholder networks. It combines analysis, projects, advocacy and action.