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Editorial: Beyond Building
At Venice this year, the U.S. pavilion shuns star architects, turning instead to confront our compromised urban condition.

Included in this issue is a pull-out pamphlet titled Into the Open: Positioning Practice. This is the official catalogue for the United States pavilion at the 2008 Venice architecture biennale. It features our curatorial statement for the exhibition, a walk-through of the exhibit, and descriptions of each of the 16 featured practices.

Into the Open begins by acknowledging a contemporary condition of “changing populations, shifting borders, and uneven economic development—exacerbated by the explosion of migration and urbanization” that we believe requires new architectural approaches that challenge this condition, and in the process, question architecture’s traditional working methods. The pavilion features smaller and more innovative practices that we believe “go beyond building,” and includes architects stretching the definitions of the profession by working as researchers, activists, and developers, as well as designers.

We also recognize that today, architectural culture encompasses a broad range of attitudes, responses, and approaches, but that due to the extreme nature of our degraded and compromised urban condition—crumbling infrastructure, environmental devastation, and a cultural fluidity that can undermine social stability—requires an immediate and drastic rethinking of old architectural solutions. With this exhibition, we made a curatorial decision to omit star architects and the modernist notion of individual authorship, and instead chose to highlight small, less visible practices that are defined by choreographies of collaboration. We believe that this intellectually entrepreneurial approach to architecture is uniquely American and one that needs to be recognized.

The exhibition opens to the public on September 14 and runs through November 23, 2008. We imagine the exhibition as a social space, prompting dialogue and debate about issues affecting the architectural community. We hope that the public will take part in this dialogue by contributing to our online blog.

William Menking
Commissioner and Curator

Aaron Levy

Andy Strum