AMO, the research-, branding-, and publication-dedicated arm of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), has commandeered the fence outside of United Nations headquarters in Manhattan for a public exhibition and abbreviated follow-up of sorts to Countryside, The Future. Aiming to put the “countryside on the agenda again,” the globe-trotting exhibition, curated by architect Rem Koolhaas and AMO director Samir Bantal, originally opened in February 2020 in the main rotunda of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The sprawling and buzzy show was met with varied but predominately withering reactions.
“Countryside is definitely a magazine- or book-on-the-wall type of exhibition, but not in a bad way,” wrote Matt Shaw in his review for AN. “The texts are snappily written in typical Koolhaasian style, and there are not too many complex maps or charts, making the exhibition feel more like a journalistic analysis of what is interesting about the countryside, not necessarily a theoretical treatise or prescriptive path forward.”
Five years in the making, Countryside, the Future was shuttered three weeks after its opening due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequently extended after the museum reopened.
The new exhibition, Countryside at the United Nations, was mounted ahead of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, an event described by AMO as “an initiative for global sustainability through equitable food systems” set to commence in September of this year. Accordingly, the exhibition sets out to raise awareness of topics including agricultural innovation, ecological change, food production and security. The exhibition itself is presented via large, publicly accessible panels that have been installed along a perimeter fence at the UN complex directly beneath the line of flagpoles where the flags of all 193 UN member states—plus two observer states and the UN flag—are flown in English alphabetical order.
Each individual panel of Countryside at the United Nations is dedicated to one of the aforementioned topics and, per a press release issued by OMA, “present questions and images to illustrate rural transformations of different kinds—from the Siberian Permafrost to futuristic Dutch greenhouses that unsettle every existing concept in agriculture.” The exhibition, on view now through July 29, will close after the ending of a UN Food Systems Pre-Summit to be held in Rome July 26–28.
“Countryside at the United Nations is a condensed version of the research presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, re-interpreting the results of the investigation and the goal of the show,” said Koolhaas and Bantal in a joint statement. “What if the next revolution were happening in the countryside? Amid a global pandemic that propelled the world to rethink the way it functions, can Countryside’s questions prompt reflection and action inside one of the world’s most important international organizations?”
The exhibition was launched with the support of the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of The Netherlands to the United Nations.
“I admire the creative and investigative way in which the AMO team triggers a public discussion about issues that are important to all of us such as ecological change, food security and agricultural innovation, said Yoka Brandt, the Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations. “In this way, it makes sure the conversation on the future of food continues, also outside the gates of the United Nations.”
In conjunction with Countryside at the United Nations, On July 1, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. CET, The Economist will air a public panel on the future of food production featuring Koolhaas and Bantal in conversation with Essa Al-Ghurair (founder and chairman of Essa Al-Ghurair Investment), Louise Fresco (President of the Executive board of University of Wageningen), and Carola Schouten (Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Agriculture of the Netherlands), as part of Global Trade Virtual Week.