While the U.K. parliament was voting down their prime minister’s Brexit deal with the E.U., London’s architecture world crowded into the Art Deco Jarvis Hall of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Ignoring the overheated political debacle taking place a mile away, they went there instead to celebrate the homecoming of Níall McLaughlin’s 2018 Venice Biennale model. The event was sold out and the institution’s Facebook page showed individuals begging for tickets as if for a music or sports event. But people did not just come to see this installation that will be on display from January 10 to 28—they came to hear Níall speak to them of architecture, culture, nature, and light. He is a storyteller: the poetics of his language seeping into his architecture and vice versa, infusing each other within a reciprocal process. The "Presences" installation now on display in RIBA’s Florence Hall in a large and beautifully crafted circular table that can rotate. It is devised as a gigantic horizontal sundial and the models of McLaughlin’s buildings sit atop a reflective blue expanse imprinted with constellations of stars. Surrounding this are inscriptions of the yearly rhythms as a calendar of activities that are performed in cyclical repetition within these buildings like a medieval Book of Hours. The sun is simulated from a structure above to which lights are attached and as the visitors crank the massive wooden mechanism, the models that sit on top of what could be read as either an inverted celestial expanse or a dark blue sea, are flooded with the undulating light of a rising and setting sun. The models are all made of blond wood as skeletal abstractions of their different functions and locations: The Garden Theatre in Oxford’s Worcester College and a Song School in Cambridge’s Trinity Hall, a teaching chapel in Ripon College in Cuddesdon, a new castle hall for Bishop Auckland with its watchtower inspired by a wooden bulwark, the Rugby Veterans’ Hall in Limerick, and finally a fish-and-chip shop on the Deal Pier. These designs crisscross the British Isles, representing their cultures in beautiful diversity. What they have in common is that they are all spaces of community and congregation. McLaughlin has treated each with the same sensitivity, learning from the complexities of the individual sites, their people, histories, and geographical idiosyncrasies, not shirking from this challenge but instead drawing inspiration from them. This is site-specific architecture at its best. The problem with exhibitions is that they only last for a short time and then are gone. At the Venice Biennale this model stood in the Arsenale as a temporary spectacle of learning and inspiration. Now back in London we can see it for ourselves for the next few weeks, but what then? Where will this elegiac creature telling through architecture stories about the cycles of civilization and identity finally be allowed to call home?
Posts tagged with "Venice Architecture Biennale":
The board of the Venice Biennale and President Paolo Baratta have chosen Hashim Sarkis as the curator of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale. Sarkis, the dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning since 2015 and the principal of Hashim Sarkis Studios, is no stranger to the Biennale’s workings. In 2016 he served as a member of the festival’s international jury and contributed to the United States’ pavilion in 2014 and Albania’s pavilion in 2010. “The world is putting new challenges in front of architecture,” said Sarkis. “I look forward to working with participating architects from around the world to imagine together how we are going to rise to these challenges. Thank you President Baratta and La Biennale di Venezia team for providing architecture this important platform. I am both honored and humbled.” “We have appointed the Curator of the next Biennale Architettura 2020,” added Baratta, “within the timeframe needed for organizing the Exhibition and in respect of the norms which govern La Biennale. With Hashim Sarkis, La Biennale has provided itself with a Curator who is particularly aware of the topics and criticalities which the various contrasting realities of today's society pose for our living space”. The final dates of the 17th Biennale were also set: the festival will run from May 23, 2020, through November 29, 2020, with pre-opening events on May 21 and 22. The 2018 Biennale, co-curated by Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell and themed Freespace, saw a slew of exciting developments. The Holy See presented ten chapels, a chunk of Robin Hood Gardens made a cameo, and an impromptu protest broke out over the role of women in architecture.
The seven installations that comprised the United States's entry to the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale will make their stateside debut on February 15 in Chicago. Dimensions of Citizenship: Architecture and Belonging from the Body to the Cosmos, a series of works exploring how architecture and design respond to citizenship, will be on view for the first time outside of the Biennale at Wrightwood 659, Pritzker Prize–winner Tadao Ando’s new concrete and light-filled adaptation of a 1920s Lincoln Park apartment building. Created by transdisciplinary teams of designers, artists, and architects, the installations focus on the architectural implications of citizenship. Themes include migration, landscape, borderlands, the right to public space, the interpretation of civic monuments, and the meaning of home. The work explores these concepts through seven spatial scales: Citizen, Civitas, Region, Nation, Globe, Network, and Cosmos. The sixteenth Venice Architecture Biennale, titled FREESPACE, included seventy-one international participants and ran in Venice from May 26 to November 25. The exhibition was commissioned by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and the University of Chicago (UChicago) on behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Chicago makes a strong showing among Dimensions of Citizenship’s collaborators, including curators Ann Lui, principal of Future Firm and assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects at SAIC, and Niall Atkinson, associate professor at UChicago, with co-curator Iker Gil, director of MAS Studio, also of SAIC. Mimi Zeiger, independent critic, editor, curator, and educator rounds out the curatorial team. The seven individual teams are SCAPE; Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman; Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, Robert Gerard Pietrusko with Columbia Center for Spatial Research; Keller Easterling with MANY; and Design Earth. There is a Chicago presence among the teams as well, in Studio Gang, and Amanda Williams + Andres L. Hernandes in collaboration with artist Shani Crowe. On display From February 15 through April 27, 2019, Dimensions of Citizenship is the second public exhibition at Wrightwood 659, a new space devoted to exhibitions of architecture and socially engaged art made possible by Alphawood Foundation Chicago. The exhibition follows Ando and Le Corbusier: Masters of Architecture, closing December 15.
The 16th Venice Architecture Biennale closed its doors on Sunday, November 25, ending a successful year for the prestigious design exhibition. According to a statement from the biennale's organizers, over 275,000 people visited the show and half of those visitors were under the age of 26. The event's curators for 2018, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects, said in a statement that the show left them "with a deep sense of optimism for the future, in the knowledge that within these satellites of cultural energy which each participant represented, there are outstanding architects promoting and producing architecture." This year's theme was FREESPACE, which, according to Farrell and McNamara, was meant to "celebrate the shared culture of architecture, demonstrating how inventive, comforting, exhilarating, modest, heroic architecture can be; how architecture serves the needs of human beings with dignity and respect be it the need for shelter, for water, for protection from flooding; how materials can be transformed into beautiful uplifting spaces; how architecture can bring people together and serve communities; how architecture can transform waste leftover spaces into public space." Seventy-one architects were invited to this year's show, and 63 nations participated, 6 of which (Antigua & Barbuda, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Lebanon, Pakistan, and the Holy See) did so for the first time. The show takes place every other year in the historic Giardini Pavilions and Arsenale in Venice, Italy.
The most cogent critique of Freespace, the current Venice Architecture Biennale, is that it fails to recognize the degree to which contemporary urban space is a result of digital technology and computation. The curators, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects, are practicing architects who wanted their Biennale to return to the basic principles of spatial design and what they consider “the generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture's agenda.” There is nothing wrong with this sentiment, but it meant they chose to focus on individual projects and not their means of production. The pair focused on craft; social, political, and technological “demand”; and featured figures and groups like Amateur Architecture Studio (Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu), Cino Zucchi, the Dutch architecture historian collective Crimson, Dorte Mandrup, Sigurd Lewerentz, and the British group Assemble. The results add up to a thoughtful and unique perspective on today’s architecture, but there is little doubt that it bypasses the “digital.” This direction infuriated those who believe that only a focus on digital production is an authentic summary of today’s architecture. For these critics, the results are old-fashioned and no longer offer a relevant analysis or typology, but a “purely phenomenological formal, material, or tectonic understanding of architecture,” in the words of Alessandro Bava. This digital versus demand formulation of architecture is not just a generational divide but represents a profound difference between an architecture grounded in an expression of the digital and one that primarily seeks to respond to site, program, function, and reception. In The Second Digital Turn: Design Beyond Intelligence, Mario Carpo describes the importance of the first digital turn of “mass customization” as one of the most important architecture inventions of all time because it “changed—or at least subverted, upended, and disrupted—almost every aspect of the world.” He sees an unintended benefit of mass customization, the possibility to change the notion of detail and form that has remained constant since Leon Battista Alberti toward the possibility of an “infinite number of variations” for the designing architect. He believes that modern classicism “continues to stifle technological innovation in building,” (even the golden age of modernism was a “retardataire phenomenon”) and this new technology offers a way forward to a new relationship, or, as Christopher Alexander would say, a new “pattern” of parts to the whole. In the 1990s, as Carpo wrote, the “first turn” saw “the best architects adopting and embracing digital change sooner than any other trade” and established the basis for the second wave, in which the avant-garde uses “Big Data and computation to engage somehow the messy discreteness of nature.” But this first wave, as we know, created a new architectural style of “smooth and curving spliny lines and surfaces” that, despite the potential possibility of first-wave, open-source collaboration and a return to medieval-style authorship, led to something else totally predictable. A new style, parametricism, took over and continues to this day, “with ever-increasing degrees of technical mastery and prowess. Ideas and forms that twenty years ago were championed by a handful of digital forms engender architectural masterpieces at a gigantic, almost planetary scale.” This planetary architecture, perhaps because of the high cost of design and construction of the complex forms it can produce, has become, counterintuitively to the claims of many theorists, a truly corporate style of design for the 1 percent and corporations. It should then come as no surprise that many of today’s younger architects are looking for a different kind of architecture and that many of the brightest are returning to the postmodernism of the 1980s. In this way, the current generation are like the designers of the first Venice Architecture Biennale’s Strada Novissima, who nearly 40 years ago looked for an alternate model to the modernism that they believed was destroying the historic layered fabric of our urban settlements. Though this style is still fraught with the problems (primary authorship, individuality, and history as a precedent) that brought it to an end in the 1990s, its reemergence is an authentic and important shot across the bow to technologists like Carpo, who are apoplectic at its return. It is an important attempt to find a way out for the profession, which all too often focuses on neoliberal, avant-garde experiments to the exclusion of real-world problems that daily become more urgent for everyone.
Eavesdrop from Venice We were wondering if we would see any celebs in Venice this year—perhaps Brad Pitt and Neri Oxman would be strolling the Giardini, or maybe Kanye West would show up at the Arsenale. But instead, AN editors ran into none other than legendary comedian and actor Chevy Chase, who was spending the week at the Biennale. Chase was in town because his old friend, photographer Peter Aaron, was showing a series of pictures about pre-Civil War Syria. Aaron’s wife wasn’t able to make the trip, so Chevy—an old college friend—came with him. The pair was spotted dining with the Architectural League’s Anne Reiselbach at a small osteria in the San Polo neighborhood. What national pavilion at the Venice Biennale seemingly featured more Americans than the U.S. Pavilion? The Dutch! With GSAPP’s curatorial program—including Mark Wasiuta, Felicity Scott, and Dutch Pavilion curator and CCCP grad Marina Otera—talking to themselves and their friends, as well as Beatriz Colomina in bed with other (mostly New York) friends, it seemed more like a U.S. academy than the actual U.S. pavilion. Now that Eva Franch i Gilabert is packing up her paella pans and heading to Brexitland, the Storefront for Art and Architecture needs a new director. It is currently assembling a list of prospective directors from over 100 applicants. A new director will need to be in place by early fall. In the world of architects’ archives, two of the biggest have recently been promised to major collecting organizations, and we will reveal them shortly. Stay tuned. People's Park No More
The University of California, Berkeley recently announced intentions to make good on a 70-year-old plan to convert the university’s People’s Park into a student housing site. The school hopes to replace the notorious park—site of the 1969 “Bloody Thursday” police violence incident—with new student housing structures containing up to 1,000 beds. The move will displace many of the people currently living in and around the park, which officials have likened to a “daytime homeless shelter.” Plans for the site are still in the works, but the university is considering dedicating a portion of the site to supportive housing and social services. The housing is due to be completed by 2022, according to a UC Berkeley spokesperson.
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is known for making work filled with circular motifs, and her upcoming site-specific installation titled Narcissus Garden is no exception. The installation of silver spheres will be on view from July 1- September 3 at Fort Tilden, a former United States Army base on the coast in Queens. The exhibition is presented by MoMA PS1 as the third iteration of Rockaway!, an art festival that commemorates the Rockaway Peninsula’s ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy. First presented in 1966 at the 33rd Venice Biennale, Narcissus Garden is comprised of 1,500 spheres made of mirrored stainless steel. The artistic intervention will transform the interior of the former coastal artillery installation with mirrored surfaces. The region’s military past and the building’s post-Hurricane Sandy state will be highlighted in the reflections of the sculpture. During the first presentation of Narcissus Garden in 1966, Kusama, dressed in a gold kimono, threw the spheres around and attempted to sell them to passerby on the lawn outside the Italian Pavilion. The performance was interpreted as “self-promotion and a critique on the commercialization of contemporary art,” according to a statement from the MoMA PS1. The art piece played an important role in marking Kusama’s career as a performance artist in the sixties. Iterations of Narcissus Garden have since been presented in New York City parks and different venues worldwide. The first iteration of Rockaway! in 2014 featured Patti Smith, Adrián Villar Rojas and Janet Cardiff, while the second iteration in 2016 featured Katharina Grosse. The series is co-organized by Rockaway Artists Alliance, a local non-profit art organization, and National Park Service. For details please check out this link.
https://vimeo.com/273390191 Presented at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Automatic Architecture examines the space of automation and algorithms in architecture through two projects, Wall and Space. The projects were realized as part of a workshop led by Riccardo Blumer at the Academy of Architecture at the University of Italian Switzerland in Mendrisio, Switzerland with support from U.S. non-profit MADWORKSHOP. Automatic Architecture presents two different collaborative projects. Walls is a series of roboticized bars pulling planes of soap bubbles, stretching them to their physical limits until they lost their form. “It contemplates a space in which tangible walls can be there one minute and gone the next,” as Blumer says in a video produced on the project by PLANE—SITE. The 11 rods that stretch out the panels of the wall begin together but invariably fall out of sync with one another as they attempt to create a complete, continuous wall. Defined by its ephemerality, Wall generates a space that “simultaneously does and doesn’t exist.” Walls is a collaboration between Lorela Arapi, Stefano Clerici, and Andrea Cappellaro. Space presents a grid of automated blocks that rise and fall in a constantly shifting pattern determined by an algorithmic model that can run without repeating a form for 250 years, suggesting that architecture is itself constantly in flux and highlighting the tension between order and expression. Space was created by Georgios Voutsis.
Frank Lloyd Wright proposed the revolutionary suburban utopia Broadacre City in the 1930s. He could not have expected it to inspire artists designing the campus of an online shopping website in China more than eighty years later. China-based Drawing Architecture Studio exhibited a series of panoramic drawings called Taobao Village – Smallacre City at the Venice Architecture Biennale this year, which is a speculative design for the headquarters of Taobao, a Chinese consumer-to-consumer retail platform that garners 580 million monthly active users. Drawing Architecture Studio is a Beijing-based art, architecture and urban research practice cofounded by architect Han Li and designer Yan Hu. In Broadacre City, Wright envisioned that American cities would no longer be centralized and limited to a central business district. Instead, families, each given a one-acre plot of land, would be self-sufficient households commuting mostly with the automobile. His concepts are especially relevant today in China where the rural and urban divide highlights many problems of inequality and inefficiency. The Chinese drawing studio combines Wright’s ideals and a fresh perspective from modern China. The masterplan of Broadacre is used as the basis on which the village of Taobao, the Alibaba-owned, popular e-commerce website, is imagined. According to the architects, their proposal tries to speculate how Taobao and the Internet will contribute to China’s goal to integrate urban and rural economies. The village consists of transport infrastructure and distribution networks of the online shopping empire. Bridges, roads and conveyer belts cross over and intersect each other, constructing a layered, lively cityscape enclosing both the enterprise and the rural-urban complex. The illustrations employ elements from both the East and the West. The composition of the village is symmetrical and organized along a straight axis, recalling the organization of Beijing’s Forbidden City. Eclectic, Western-classical building motifs used in rural Chinese villages alongside traditional Buddhist statues and Chinoiserie columns are depicted in the illustrations. The drawings are part of the exhibition titled Building a future countryside in the Pavilion of China at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
Traditionally, the one-liner is derided in architecture as something crude, unsophisticated, and anti-intellectual. It gets abuse from all angles, from conceptually-minded curators, traditional architecture critics, and even virtuosic architects who prefer “multiple readings” of objects, or “difficult wholes.” It seems the one-liner is the most isolated and hated syntactic metaphor in the architect’s tool bag; the last frontier of architectural bad taste. Even Patrik Schumacher complained on Facebook about the National Pavilions. “"Pavilions were...given over to one-liner installations, which could be absorbed by stepping in and out for 30 seconds." However, one-liners finally got their due at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, where simpler, conceptual installations took home the Golden Lion of National Participation as well as the special mention in the same category. The Swiss Pavilion, "Svizzera 240: House Tour" was a delightful funhouse where the everyday elements—doors, windows, handles, and kitchen appliances—of a typical new apartment were exaggerated to be too small and too big, creating a disorienting space that explored the banality of contemporary residential construction and the distortions of scale that are caused by photography in the real estate industry. It was a one-liner that executed one concept well enough to provoke not only happy visitors, but also allowed personal reflection on whatever the topic at hand. The actual pavilion avoided over-complication (which plagued many of the national pavilions), and provided a “freespace” for contemplation and reflection. Because after all, even the simplest pavilion cannot be fully understood in every single aspect, and the most complicated book-on-the-wall exhibition can’t fully explain anything anyway, even if you took the biennale's full six months to read it all. The winning pavilions avoided many of the problems faced by some of the other national participants. First, there is an increasing trend of pavilions getting overrun by curators who want to foreground curatorial practice pyrotechnics over smart delivery of content, obscuring the point of the exhibition. The one-liner doesn’t do this. Secondly, some pavilions looked to appropriate the headlines and buzzwords of the day, delivering incoherent and scattered exhibitions that paradoxically make arguments against the possibility of freespace today. And thirdly, the one-liners actually provide respite from the book-on-the-wall urbanism exhibitions, which ended up falling flat. One-liners, like deadpan humor, often do not have punchlines, and leave an open-ended silence at the end of the joke, as is the case for the special mention–winning British Pavilion, "Island," where Caruso St. John emptied the pavilion out and constructed a large plinth over the top. It is unclear what the point was, but the effects were spectacular, lifting the user over the Giardini, causing a certain estrangement from the Biennale itself, and forging a connection with the city beyond. Of course, one-liners always hint at more. They are short and seem simple, but with a little thought, can reveal the layers beneath, like a good Rodney Dangerfield or Norm Macdonald joke. Both the Swiss and British installations rearranged bodies in particular ways, which gave them not only multiple interpretations, but highly individualized experiences that could be taken with layers of meaning. One-liners are funnier than zero-liners. And one-liners can avoid many of the pitfalls of 15-liners, which end up being zero-liners anyway. The Belgian pavilion, "Eurotopie," also stood out as a one-liner: a simple concentric series of blue circles created a forum of sorts in the building; as did the Nordic, which simply featured inflatable sculptures. Instead of over-complicating things with over-curation, the one-liners produced this “freespace,” allowing the visitor to become part of the exhibition, but without sacrificing intellectual rigor or content.
https://vimeo.com/270657493 The Time Space Existence exhibition presented by the European Cultural Center has returned to the Venice Biennale for the fourth time. For this iteration, the European Cultural Center worked with PLANE—SITE, the GAA Foundation and the ECC to launch a new series of videos spotlighting some of the pavilion’s most prominent participating architects. In the final video of the series, French architect Odile Decq frankly discusses her willingness to not be “nice,” the importance of taking a position, and being a woman in a still male-dominated field. In the brief video, Decq lays out her fascination with speed—and how that manifests in her architecture. “You can build a story with your movement, your displacement into the space,” she says of her design approach. This, according to Decq, lends a “spice” to her spaces. “I’m sure my buildings are spicy. They are not convenient for everybody.” Not just antagonistic for antagonism’s stake, she discusses how she encourages her students to take a position and the hope she has for younger generations to reinvent the world. After all, “architecture is still a fight.” This video is the last in a series that has featured the likes of Moshe Safdie, Tatiana Bilbao, and Fumihiko Maki. At Time Space Existence in Venice, Decq presented an installation and exhibition with an interactive centerpiece. The exhibition offered a sneak peek of her first large-scale residential development and first building in Barcelona, called Antares. She was also front and center in a women-led public action on May 25th at the Biennale that called for more gender equity in the field.
With the launch of the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, thousands of design-minded visitors descended on the Italian city to take in the national pavilions and ancillary events (and in some cases, to protest). This year’s theme, “Freespace,” encouraged architects to think outside of architecture as “object” and to contextualize how the natural world (light, air, the landscape) influences the built environment. Co-curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects broke down their intentions for the festival further in the interview below: