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10.05.2004
Eavesdrop Issue 16_10.05.2004
The latest dirt from our very own gossip columnist, Aric Chen.

OVERHEARD IN VENICE
Last month, we headed to the Venice Architecture Biennale's opening weekend and, when we weren't pondering the ins and outs of Metamorph-ing (the exhibition's theme), we managed to hear another funny story about Zaha Hadid.The London-based firecracker was at a Venice dinner that included Guggenheim director Thomas Krens where, among other things, her planned Taiwan outpost for the museum was being discussed. At one point, we're told Krens made an off-color comment that prompted Hadid to banter back I'm going to cut off your balls and feed them to you!! We love her.

Meanwhile, both Hadid and Daniel Libeskind were looking awfully cute and cuddly as they gave each other a big hug and kiss in the lobby of the Hotel Danieli, where Architectural Record was hosting a party. Earlier that day, Libeskind provoked gasps when, at a press briefing for the American pavilion, many learned for the first time that the State Department had appointed him the country's first Cultural Ambassador for Architecture. I guess he's owed it, after what happened to him with Ground Zero,, one well-known architect conceded. Talk about America losing prestige abroad!! others uncharitably snarked.

Also the subject of chatter was Rem Koolhaas, who was conspicuously absent in both the exhibition and in person, and Peter Eisenman, who was widely rumored to have been allotted somewhere between $180,000 and $250,000 for his installation in the Episodess section of the Italian pavilion. (Eisenman's office says the actual figure is closer to $120,000). This prompted some to speculate that the expenditure may have busted the budget for a planned but nixed installation of the entire pavilion by Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture of Asymptote, who nevertheless pulled off their design of the Biennale's main Arsenale exhibition hall. In either case, it was somewhat ironic when, just before a breakfast awarding Asymptote the $67,000 Kiesler Prize, Eisenman, who had just won the biennale's Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement, was overheard jokingly offering Rashid half of his own prize for half of Asymptote's. The Golden Lion has no monetary component.

CHEAP, BUT NOT CHEERFUL
Like many architects, we are easily lured by events with lots of free drinks (see also above). So we sympathize with the thirsty freeloaders who recently went to the AIA's Center for Architecture for the opening of its exhibition about the General Services Administration's Design Excellence Program, only to find that they had to pay $5 for plastic cups of cheap, warm wine,, as one put-off attendee put it to us. How tacky is that?!! To make matters worse, the hosts were charging $10 for a GSA-financed book that was supposed to be free. Pamela Puchalski, the AIA New York's deputy director for programs, tells us the latter scandal resulted from a publishing house mix-up by which the GSA's complimentary books were mistaken for those that the Center had ordered and paid for. As for the $5 drinks? The organization's executive director, Rick Bell, acknowledges that the move was the equivalent of taxing pork rinds in Texas, but reminded us of both the number of free events the AIA offers and the budgetary constraints of nonprofits. Fair enough. But despite architects' fondness for boxes, they certainly don't want their wine coming out of them.

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

Aric Chen