Ahali Conversations with Can Altay podcast

Episode 23: Marina Otero Verzier

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Marina Otero Verzier is an architect, researcher and curator, who is also the current Head of the MA in Social Design program at Design Academy Eindhoven. Until very recently, she was the director of research at the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. Her work touches on many socio-political and environmental dimensions of design and cultural production; as well as the emergence of new paradigms for institutions.

Together with Marina we unpack what designing the social might mean, and we explore the outer reaches of architectural research; both in the political and ecological realms. I think her particular mix of cautious optimism and her introspective openness allows us to reflect on how culture can be put to work, both in everyday life and in the sites of knowledge production, whether it’s the museum, the school, or the archive.


Marina Otero Verzier is an architect. She was formerly Director of Research at Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI), the Dutch Institute for Architecture, Design, and Digital Culture. She is the Department Head of the MA in Social Design at Design Academy Eindhoven. https://www.designacademy.nl/p/about-dae/community/marina-otero-verzier

Design Academy Eindhoven is an interdisciplinary educational institute for art, architecture, and design in Eindhoven, Netherlands. https://www.designacademy.nl/

Het Nieuwe Instituut is a cultural centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It focuses on architecture, design, and digital culture.https://hetnieuweinstituut.nl/home

The term “canon” pops up quite often, it refers to cultural works (books, buildings, etc) that come to be accepted as exceptional and set the criteria for good work. Canon has the same root as Kanun, or Qanun, which means the rule, or the law. So in a way, these works become unquestionable.

Cartesian Grid refers to grids often used in architecture as the basis for organizing spatial form, as composed of squares (or cubes) aligned with the Cartesian coordinate axes. Cartesian coordinate axes exist in a coordinate system that specifies each point uniquely by a pair of numerical coordinates, which are the signed distances to the point from two fixed perpendicular oriented lines, measured in the same unit of length.

Conceived as a spa resort, the exhibition Lithium took place in 2020 at Het Nieuwe. It delved into the beneficial and destructive aspects of the eternal human search for energy and reflected on the role of the chemical element lithium in powering today’s economy. https://lithium.hetnieuweinstituut.nl/en

More-than-human is an edited volume by Andres Jacque, Marina, and our previous guest Lucia Pietroiusti. https://research-development.hetnieuweinstituut.nl/en/morethanhuman

Coauthored by Marina, Drone: Unmanned. Architecture and Security Series investigates the relationship between drone technology, cultural production, and forms of surveillance and violence.

“Architecture of Appropriation” was an exhibition developed by Het Nieuwe in 2017 that asked questions about squatting from various perspectives including squatters, artists, and architects. https://hetnieuweinstituut.nl/en/press-releases/architecture-appropriation#:~:text=Architecture%20of%20Appropriation%20is%20designed,Architecture%2C%20Design%20and%20Digital%20Culture.

The Dutch Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2018 was titled “Work, Body, Leisure”. The exhibition was about the spatial configurations, living conditions, and notions of the human body engendered by disruptive changes in labor, its ethos, and its conditions. https://work-body-leisure.hetnieuweinstituut.nl/

Studio-X is a Columbia University project that appeared in various cities as laboratories for exploring the future of cities—producing events, research projects, pop-up exhibitions, and publications. Marina previously worked as Director of Programming.


The Master Program in Social Design at the Design Academy Eindhoven focuses on new social roles for designers attuned to contemporary ecological and social challenges. https://www.designacademy.nl/p/study-at-dae/masters/social-design

Can Altay was the Head of the Industrial Design Department at Istanbul Bilgi University between 2012 -2019.

Kombucha is a fermented, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea drink.

A biomaterial is a substance that has been engineered to interact with biological systems for a medical purpose, either a therapeutic or a diagnostic one.

Stephen Wright is a writer and gardener. His works and thought on artistic activity redefining cultural practices in response to permaculture and ecological thinking are influential for the Ahali Community. https://www.ahali.space/episodes/episode-1-stephen-wright

Ana Devic is a curator, writer, and teacher Ana Dević and a member of the curatorial collective What, How and from Whom (WHW). Find more about Ana in Episode 21. https://www.ahali.space/episodes/episode21-ana-devic

Nato Thompson is a curator and the founder of the Alternative Art School. Head over to Episode 18 to discover more. https://www.ahali.space/episodes/episode-18-nato-thompson

Ahali Conversations’ Episode 14 is a great episode to explore his “out of this world” mode of thought. Jerzsy Seymour conceives of design as the creation of situations, such as the relationship we have with the constructed and the natural world, with other people, and with ourselves, and is as much about the inhabitation of the planet as the inhabitation of the mind.

Amal Alhaag is a curator and researcher.

Vasıf Kortun is a curator, educator and writer. He was the guest of Ahali Conversations Episode 6. https://www.ahali.space/episodes/episode-6-vasif-kortun

Heman Chong is an artist, curator, and writer who creates texts, objects, installations, and situations in order to investigate the manner through which individuals form associations between objects in their environments. https://www.hemanchong.com/

Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene is a 2016 book by Donna Haraway, published by Duke University Press.

Lucia Pietroiusti is a curator whose work intersects art, ecology, and systems in her work. https://www.ahali.space/episodes/episode-16-lucia-pietroiusti

Kathrin Böhm is an artist whose practice focuses on the collective re-production of public space; on economy as a public realm; and the everyday as a starting point for culture. Episode 13 to get to know her better. https://www.ahali.space/episodes/episode-13-kathrinbohm

Doughnut Economics explores the mindset and ways of thinking needed by humanity to thrive in the 21st century. https://doughnuteconomics.org/about-doughnut-economics

ACCESS SERVER is a digital tool developed by MELT that addresses the unequal inclusion of disabled people in art institutions. It will be a website that provides email templates and a modest fee per email to support disabled people’s access requests. https://research-development.hetnieuweinstituut.nl/en/het-nieuwe-instituuts-call-fellows-2021-jury-report

Ahali Conversations’ Episode 10 featured Chus Martinez. She is a curator and teacher. https://www.ahali.space/episodes/episode-10-chusmartinez

Evanescent Institutions is the title of Marina’s PhD. Thesis. This work would be helpful to think about how public cultural institutions should resituate themselves in the 21st century.

Misiones Pedagógicas (The Pedagogical Missions) was a socio-pedagogical project committed to social justice. It fostered educational renewal and was active between 1931 - 1936.

The Franco dictatorship (dictadura franquista) took place between 1939 and 1975 when Francisco Franco ruled Spain with the title Caudillo. After his death in 1975, Spain transitioned into a democracy.

Cátedra Ambulante Francisco Franco was a mobile propaganda project which appropriated Misiones Pedagógicas’ ideas about reaching small towns and villages through on-site activities.

This season of Ahali Conversations is supported by the “Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts”. The Graham provides project-based grants to foster the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society.

This episode was also supported by a Moon & Stars Project Grant from the American Turkish Society.

This episode was recorded on Zoom on March 10th, 2022.

Interview by Can Altay. Produced by Aslı Altay & Sarp Renk Özer. Music by Grup Ses.

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