Urbonas Studios’ Druzhba Project at The Baltic Material Assemblies, AA and Riba, London

Druzhba project. Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas. Installation. High-performance plastic, UV print. 2003-ongoing. Graphic design by Gaile Pranckunaite and Marek Voida (2018) Photo: Jonas Zukauskas

On view from March 1 – 25, 2018, ​‘The Baltic Material Assemblies’ presents architecture from the Baltic states, investigating the materialities and infrastructural and cultural connections that seem to have persevered the political borders and conflict lines that changing regimes have aimed to introduce in the region. The exhibition investigates the projections of futurity as they seem to be inscribed into geologies, infrastructure and architecture.

Gediminas Urbonas and Nomeda Urboniene present their Druzhba Projectan installation that explores the cultural, political, and geographical territories that unfold in a fictional journey along the world’s longest pipeline. The project’s psycho-geographic readings of this massive oil infrastructure reveal mechanisms of power and submission that rightfully belong to the past but persist even today.

The Druzhba (“Friendship”) Pipeline, a web stretching 4,000 kilometers from Siberia through Belarus and the Ukraine and into the Baltic states, Eastern and Central Europe, is a master signifier: a self-referential, grand-narrating imperial infrastructure meant at its inception in 1960 to “lead the world into a new dawn.”

To mark the centenary of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian independence, the Baltic Material Assemblies, curated by Jurga Daubaraitė and Jonas Žukauskas, presents architecture of the Baltic states, exploring the material, infrastructural and cultural connections that have persevered despite the political borders and conflict lines that have been laid throughout the region.

The exhibition investigates futurity through its inscription into the region’s geology, infrastructure and architecture. Presented at the AA and RIBA, it reveals built space as a common ground for European unity.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the only former Soviet states to have become members of the European Union. An overwhelming majority of the energy networks, mining operations and urban layouts that were instruments of the soviet industrialisation of the Baltic States remain functional today. The reconfiguration or dismantling of this vast space demands a new relationship between society and its environment.

The transformation of the Baltic States is incremental, synchronised, negotiated on many levels and in many cases only made possible through the support of other members of the EU.

Electricity grids, fossil fuel pipelines, nuclear assemblies, geological sections, minerals, landform buildings, insulation materials, and landscape photographs are assembled in this exhibition and outline the background to the new architectural commitments of the Baltic States.

During Soviet times, Druzhba represented a fundamental idea of connection among nations, continents and cultures. Many important sites and landmarks shared the name, as did singing groups, cinemas, ships, and products from cheese to cigarettes. Yet the pipeline’s immense machinery of infrastructure and capital, ideology and sentiment, labor and leisure, tells a simple but imprecise story designed to bind together in friendship regions that still exist under intense political pressure and mutual suspicion.

Launched in 2003, Urbonas’ Druzhba project employs interviews, videos, and sculptural and archival materials to weave together numerous narrative threads about the Druzhba pipeline and the ambiguous areas of exchange between economics and culture that the pipeline exemplifies. The installation highlights the flows and energies produced by a disintegrating infrastructure of power and links the distorted and pressurized story of the Druzhba pipeline to personal anxiety and the idea of friendship.


Exhibition Venues
Architectural Association (AA), Gallery and Bar
36 Bedford Square
London WC1B 3ES

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Practice Space
66 Portland Place
London, W1B 1AD

Related Talks
The Baltic Material Assemblies: Geologies and Infrastructures
Architectural Association,
Saturday 3 March, 12pm

Related posts
Architectural Association School of Architecture
The Druzhba Project
The Baltic Pavilion
The Lithuanian Pavilion

Related People
Gediminas Urbonas
Urbonas Studio