Commonalities

David Chipperfield.
Giorgio Zucchiatti, Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia

Planning for the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale is in high gear with only a few months to go until opening day on August 29.

There is nothing common either about the gilt and canal-veined city or the event held every 24 months in the extravagantly-scaled Arsenale where the mighty Venetian fleet was built in the 14th century. And yet Common Ground is the title that this year’s director, British architect David Chipperfield, has announced as his guiding theme.

“I want this Biennale to celebrate a vital, interconnected architectural culture, and pose questions about the intellectual and physical territories that it shares,” said Chipperfield in a statement, adding that his biennale will emphasize collaboration and dialogue, in the way that Kazuyo Seijima at the 2010 biennale emphasized people and Aaron Betsky in 2008 stressed alternative media over building.

Chipperfield’s more earth-bound approach seems poised to address the continuities in architectural practice rather than experimentation with a promise that a closer look at architecture in context will be revealing. “I do not want to lose the subject of architecture in a morass of sociological, psychological or artistic speculation, but to try to develop the understanding of the distinct contribution that architecture can make in defining the common ground of the city,” he said standing at a press conference alongside Paolo Baratta, long-time president of the Venice Biennale.

Key to Chipperfield’s Common Ground will be a tag-team approach wherein invited contributors will be asked to call on others to join. The much-admired President Baratta who at one point last fall had seemed on the verge of being deposed from the event, noted that this will be the second time in a row on recent years that an architect has run the show.

The Common Good is embedded in the approach taken by the Institute of Urban Design, curator of the U.S. Pavilion as in “Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good.” The emphasis here is on “the nascent movement of architects, designers, planners, artists, and everyday community members initiating their own projects to bring positive change to the urban realm” according to a recent press release.

Projects reflecting social engagement will be featured such as guerrilla bike lanes, community gardens, urban farms, pop-up markets, crowd-sourced urban planning, and something called “chair bombing.” Those with interventions of their own are encouraged to submit to the website, Spontaneous Interventions by February 6 for consideration by the U.S. pavilion curators, Cathy Lang Ho, former editor of AN; Ned Cramer, editor-in-chief of Architect; and curatorial strategist David van der Leer, assistant curator of architecture and design at the Guggenheim Museum.

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