AN is back in Italy for the 2016 the Venice architecture biennale—this time with three full-time reporters and two very busy writers. We are covering every national pavilion in the Giardini and installations selected by biennale curator Alejandro Aravena in the spectacular Arsenale and Corderie. We have a few early insights about what Aravena is proposing for this version of the biennale but we want to visit them before commenting and posting on our website. We will be blogging what we find compelling and troubling in-and-out of the official pavilions, offsite palazzos, and public spaces all over la serenissima.
The biennale is, for the first time, starting to take on the trappings of a commercial trade fair or convention. For the past two or three iterations of the biennale, there have been more nations without formal pavilions renting buildings around the city. For example, in 2012 Mozambique’s small installation showcased that country’s colonial Portuguese buildings. The biennale has never entirely been free of commercialism either. But this year we are seeing a growing number of product manufacturers, architects, and practices coming to Venice and renting space to simply display their wares. They propose hourly meetings with the international design media and hope to play up the celebrity of the event to claim they “were at Venice.”
Let’s not forget the architectural biennale was created out the student and worker protests of the late 1960s and has always narrowly tread a region between the commercial and the ideal. Does this mean that the Venice biennale is now like any commercial trade show? We hope to report on this trend and find those installations that have long made this the most important architect event in the design calendar.