No, not the Fascists—that was 2008, when the Northern League held its national rally at the entrance gates of the biennale giardini. I mean the architects! They have arrived in droves, and it’s easy to spot them walking along the Grand Canal absorbing the searing heat and humidity of August in Venice. The second day of reading press releases, walking the giardini, and visiting collateral exhibitions reaffirms my sense that there is more art in the 2010 biennale than architecture. This is, of course, not necessarily a bad thing, and many of these installations do consider architectural questions. But it makes one wonder why national pavilions make the decisions they do about the architectural conditions in their country.
Still, there is architecture to be seen in the giardini if one looks carefully. The Austrian pavilion, despite its thin premise, has wonderful architectural models and a fascinating central space designed by curator Eric Owen Moss. Elsewhere, the British pavilion has a beautiful-looking installation (glimpsed through a crack in the door) by MUF that looks like a 19th-century teaching hospital; the Germans seem to be showing a long line of architectural drawings on the wall; the Czech Republic is presenting an exciting wooden wonderland of form; and the Japanese pavilion, curated by SANAA partner Ryue Nishizawa, looks to have an installation on metropolitan Tokyo. Finally, the U.S. pavilion’s Workshopping project promises to be one of the few purely architectural shows in the biennale.
The challenge for the Venice architecture biennale in general is that just showing buildings in an exhibition space can be a deadly bore. The real problem for architecture exhibitors is how to occupy the space between architecture and exhibitions—and the fact that what architects should be doing is designing for unique conditions.
I’ll have more on that note from the biennale tomorrow.