Posts tagged with "Venice":

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Red Regatta brings a sea of color to the Venice lagoon

One of the world’s great liminal conditions is the space between the viewer and the backdrops along the major canals of Venice, Italy. In most spots along the city’s waterfront edge, the view continues across the canals to architectural and historical layers of magnificent facades. It is a contained view of such sublime beauty, that despite the age-old clichés of Venice, it reminds us why we continue to believe in the power of architecture and the city. But, there are wide and expansive vistas out across the open waters of the lagoon that are as equally as captivating. One thinks, for example, of the view from the quarter around the Giardini towards the Lido and San Giorgio Maggiore, or from the Fondamenta Nove towards the Cemetery of San Michele, that opens up to grand vistas that merge the sky and sea; off in the far distance, hints of outer islands add to the beauty of the setting. Now Red Regatta, a series of performances, or “choreographed regattas,” of up to 52 vela al terzo (traditional flat-bottomed sailboats) is being staged in “La Serenissima” by a group of 250 local partners. The event is organized by the Magazzino Italian Art Foundation in New York to highlights the city’s open vistas. Artist Melissa McGill and curator Chiara Spangaro have painted the sails on the boats a bright red color to activate them in the open water of the lagoon. Pageants like Red Regatta are spectacular in the waters of Venice, and this one, its creators believe, staged using only wind-powered sailboats, is intended to “encourage a new appreciation of the interaction of the defining forces of Venice, water, wind art, architecture.” Further, McGill believes that this piece will also “call attention to the forces of climate change, and tourism.” It’s hard to see how this piece will draw prolonged interest in solving these long-suffering issues, but Red Regatta proudly includes Venetians as the performers in the boats, and that’s a great accomplishment for the city in itself. The dates of the special regatta, organized alongside the city’s ongoing art biennale, are as follow: Red Regatta  June 30, 2019, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Route: San Servolo – Poveglia Viewing locations: Riva dei Sette Martiri; Viale Giardini Pubblici; San Servolo Island; Lido’s Lagoon waterfront From McGill: “Navigating the waters between the islands of San Servolo and Poveglia, Red Regatta will weave through the historic landscape and activate the architecture with the choreographed flotilla. Starting between San Servolo and Venice, Red Regatta will move towards Poveglia, in parallel to the Lagoon coast of Lido.” Red Regatta, coinciding with Venice’s Regata Storica September 1, 2019, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Route: Canale della Giudecca – Bacino San Marco – Canal Grande Viewing locations: Fondamenta Zattere; Punta della Dogana; Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore; Piazza San Marco and Riva degli Schiavoni; Fondamenta della Giudecca, side of Canale della Giudecca Canal Grande Red Regatta  September 15, 2019, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Route: Burano – Torcello Viewing locations: Burano waterfront; Torcello waterfront From McGill: “Concurrently with the historic Regata di Burano, which features the centuries-old tradition of the voga alla veneta, Red Regatta will move through the Northern lagoon between Burano and Torcello. Engaging with the landscape of this unique section of Venice with its ancient Roman ruins and distinctive architecture, the vela al terzo fleet will weave through the islands and call attention to the location’s history and traditions.”
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The 2019 Venice Art Biennale asks us to ponder our “interesting times”

Political chaos is spreading, and climate change is upon us. Meanwhile, populist leaders throughout the world are scapegoating immigrants, trashing environmental regulations and spreading blatant lies. But at the 2019 Venice Art Biennale, one of the world’s most important art exhibitions, artists are fighting back in what may be the largest exhibition of politically subversive art ever shown. Ralph Rugoff, curator of this year’s Biennale, titled the show “May You Live in Interesting Times,” after an apocryphal Chinese “curse” pertaining to periods of danger and uncertainty, which has been cited by politicians ranging from British imperialist Joseph Chamberlain to Hilary Rodham Clinton. In his essay for the exhibition, Rugoff writes that “art can give us tools to reimagine the possibilities of these ‘interesting times’ and so transform this phrase from a curse into a challenge that we can enthusiastically embrace.” Rugoff’s revolutionary agenda is conspicuous for an art exhibition, where the official opening in May also featured glittering parties in Venetian palazzos and a legion of plutocrats and oligarchs. The contrast was especially striking at the Biennale’s main exhibition space, a cavernous brick building known as the Arsenale, in which almost every other artwork appears to be about poverty, sexism, environmental degradation, racism, or political violence. Indeed, at this year’s Biennale, the only thing holding an otherwise disparate show together is the focus on the ills of our time. The main exhibition features the work of 79 artists from around the world and includes sculptures of the growing homeless population in Athens, videos showing Palestinian protestors trying to breach the border in the Golan Heights, and paintings of verdant landscapes that include images of political violence in Kenya. One series of photographs shows half-finished housing developments and piles of garbage outside of Rome. Another series is about the fallout from aspirational housing developments gone bust in India, which according to an accompanying text is linked to, “developers hoardings peddling unattainable dreams.” Capitalism’s failures are rife. One of the first exhibits is a salvo of harrowing nocturnal photographs from the series titled Angst by Soham Gupta, showing disheveled street people in Kolkata, India, whom, as an accompanying text informs us, have suffered “abuse and abandonment.” Their faces display expressions of pain, madness or lust. They are posed embracing one another, dancing wildly, lurching towards the camera or simply sitting quietly in abject loneliness. Gupta gets up close with his camera and shows these spectral characters in a soft light against a black backdrop, revealing a humanity within that you might not otherwise notice. It might be overly ambitious to think that art can help make society more just and compassionate. However, Rugoff is expecting between 180,000 to 600,000 visitors to his show, which runs through November 11th, 2019, and is hoping that it will help change the conversation. He maintains that artists have a unique role in combatting the conspiracy theories and narrow nationalistic messages on social media that increasingly are shaping political discourse. He says that art can reveal hidden or unfamiliar truths in profoundly different ways than can journalism or historical reporting. “We [the public] don’t see things in the same ways that artists do,” Rugoff told me. “They are asking us to hold different images in our minds at one time.” Plato warned about art’s ability to present alternative realities to the body politic, and it seems axiomatic that the more repressive a society is, the more threated it is by artists. Edouard Manet’s painting, Execution of Maximillian, was censored by the French government shortly after it was painted in 1867 because it portrayed the French puppet emperor being shot by a firing squad of Mexican revolutionaries. Fascist regimes and dictators are notoriously fearful of abstract art. Considering that China censored images of Winnie the Pooh because bloggers were comparing the cartoon character’s appearance to Chinese President Xi Jinping, it is understandable that much of the artwork currently being produced in that country is not overtly critical of the regime. But in totalitarian societies, art is politicized even it doesn’t convey a literal political message. “If you are an artist in China today, you are dealing with political import,” Rugoff told me, giving as an example an art installation at the Biennale’s Central Pavilion titled Can’t Help Myself by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, in which an enormous robot with a mop at the end of its arm moves with terrifying jerks as it repeatedly attempts to control a flowing red substance that looks like blood. Currently, in most parts of the world, artists can more directly challenge the system. Several of the most political pieces in the show had their roots in Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, found objects that take on new meanings when signed by an artist and displayed in a museum or a gallery. One is Teresa Margolles’ meditation on the violence engulfing parts of Mexico, which consists of a 39-foot-long cinderblock wall, pockmarked with bullet holes and crested with barbed wire that the artist transported to Venice from the city of Juarez. And just when one is hoping for visual relief from this compelling but disturbing show, one’s view of the canal outside the Arsenale is obstructed by the actual boat from the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwreck, on which between 700 and 1,100 Syrian refugees went missing. The artist Christoph Büechel transported the rusted wreck, which has a large gaping hole in its side, from Sicily to Venice and titled it Barca Nostra. An accompanying wall text refers to the ship as a “monument to contemporary migration” and as “representing the collective policies and politics that create these kinds of disasters.” A series of prints from the Body En Thrall series by transgender Latina artist Martine Gutierrez shows the artist nude in a series of staged erotic encounters with clothed mannequins, such as one where she is draped across the lap of a figure dressed in a tuxedo with a come-hither expression on her face. Calling to mind Edouard Manet’s notorious Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe in which a naked woman picnics with two clothed men, the prints raise questions of power in regard to Eurocentric standards of beauty, gender identity, consumerism, and a host of other issues that are au courant in cultural studies classes at elite universities throughout the West. The coming apocalypse is also a popular topic at this year’s Biennale. One example is the enormous Eskalation by the German artist Alexandra Birc ken, which is ominously suspended overhead. Here, forty figurines fashioned from black calico and latex look as they are out of one of Dante’s circles of hell—they are shown climbing and hanging off of ladders that ascend towards the vertiginous ceiling of the Arsenale. Wherever they are trying to get to, it doesn’t look good. Another work in the "end of civilization vein" is a sculptural series of large menacing mammals on the verge of extinction by the American artist, Jimmie Durham, who connects human waste with environmental degradation. Durham’s animals look angry and tortured. Their jaws are agape, and teeth bared; wires, cables and dark metal define their forms. They are constructed from contemporary civilization’s detritus, used clothes, discarded furniture, and machine parts. May You Live in Interesting Times is intended to be aggressive and disturbing. We already are living in a post-truth age in which leaders such as U.S president Donald Trump and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro are denying climate change and sanctioning political violence as a justifiable campaign tactic. Rugoff clearly wants his exhibition to make us think harder about our fast-changing world. “Ultimately, what is most important about an exhibition is not what happens inside a gallery,” he writes in his essay for the exhibition, “but how audiences use their experiences afterward to reimagine everyday realities from expanded perspectives.”
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Five design hotspots at this year's Venice Biennale Arte

There is no shortage of exhibitions for those looking for a bit of design among the art at this year’s Venice Biennale Arte. These five shows are the best places to discover both local and international design in the city, on the Biennale grounds and beyond. Dysfunctional by Carpenters Workshop Gallery Pushing the boundaries of art and design is Carpenter Workshop Gallery’s "Dysfunctional," which includes 50 works by the gallery’s esteemed stable of designers. Viewed within the context of the Ca’ d’Oro's Italian masterworks, the exhibition invites visitors to question the historical relationship between form and function. Some of the pieces are inspired by the city of Venice itself, such as Virgil Abloh’s sinking seating and Ingrid Donat’s golden sideboard, the latter of which celebrates Byzantine and Renaissance art and the former, a commentary on the city’s rising sea levels. Check out the full article on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.
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David Adjaye to design Ghana's first Venice Art Biennale pavilion

Ghana will present its first-ever installation in the Biennale Arte 2019 in Venice later this year, and Ghana’s president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has commissioned David Adjaye to design the national pavilion. The 58th international Venice Art Biennale will run from May 11 through November 24, 2019, under the theme of May You Live In Interesting Times. The saying is erroneously credited as “ancient Chinese wisdom” that refers to living through chaotic or tumultuous times—an idea the biennale’s curator, Ralph Rugoff, has linked to fake news, digital manipulation, and the “interesting times” that we now live in. Ghana’s contribution to the Biennale will be titled Ghana Freedom and will track the evolution of that freedom across three generations, all the way back to the country winning its independence from the United Kingdom in 1957. Six artists will present work influenced by domestic Ghanaian culture and the diaspora beyond its borders, creating a narrative that the pavilion’s curator Nana Oforiatta Ayim describes as “finally moving out of the ‘postcolonial’ moment into one we have yet to envision.” The pavilion itself will be made up of overlapping concentric exhibition spaces clad in “locally-sourced earth,” in reference to traditional Ghanaian structures. “Being able to show the diversity and creativity of Ghana on an international scale is an incredible achievement,” said David Adjaye, “and one which showcases the talent that we have to offer. The commitment and inspiration shown by the President in commissioning this pavilion is a testament to what our country has to offer the art community.” According to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Ghana Freedom will feature “large-scale installations by El Anatsui and Ibrahim Mahama; representation and portraiture by prominent photographer Felicia Abban and painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye; and a three-channel film projection by John Akomfrah and a video sculpture by Selasi Awusi Sosu.” After the completion of the Biennale in November, the pavilion will travel to Accra, Ghana’s capital.
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Gaetano Pesce on using a Giacometti sculpture for a coat rack

Alberto Giacometti’s Man Pointing
Many years ago I was in Venice during the winter. At that time I was acquainted with Peggy Guggenheim, who invited me, along with Francesca, the mother of my children, for an evening at her house-museum. The Venetian winter is extremely cold and wet, so we arrived to the event with heavy coats. A butler opened the door asking for our coats and hung them on a thin Giacometti sculpture that was in the entrance. I thought that the sculpture would have bent under the weight of the coats, but it actually resisted. That evening my suspicion that art has always been functional and practical, as well as being the bearer of meanings, was confirmed: The Giacometti statue was exhibited as a piece of art during the museum’s open hours, and in the evening, when that place became a private home, it was transformed into a coat rack. Object Lessons is a new collaboration between AN and Façadomy that asks a diverse range of designers and artists to reflect on an object (material or otherwise) that has made a significant impact on their practice. Through personal anecdotes from notable practitioners, the series highlights the myriad ways in which the built environment informs our identities. A previous piece by Nancy Davidson considered a weather balloon. Curated by Riley Hooker/Façadomy
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Don’t miss John Ruskin's art at Doge’s Palace in Venice

It is no secret that English Victorian intellectual John Ruskin (1819-1900) loved Venice, and the maritime city was the subject of one of his most famous written works, The Stones of Venice. He made over 15 trips to Venice, documenting it in writing as well as in painting, watercolor, sketches, and even early daguerreotype photographs from the late 1840s—all of which is on view at the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) in Venice through June 10.

The exhibition, titled John Ruskin: Le pietre di Venezia (John Ruskin: The Stones of Venice), shows a breadth of material that he produced on his many journeys to the city, with a particular focus on his art. The curators call Ruskin "a central figure in the nineteenth-century international art scene, a writer, painter and art critic," and seek to illustrate how strongly he was tied to Venice and its architecture.

The show features sketchbooks, prints, plaster casts, watercolors, and architectural studies from Ruskin, his influences, and his contemporaries. The objects on view further contextualizes Ruskin's within the history of Venice, but also within the history of art itself. By displaying the material in the heart of Venice in a building that is featured prominently in the exhibition, it becomes an immersive history lesson from many angles.

Ruskin was a proto-socialist and a religious man who wrote often of the moral and social aspects of aesthetics and craft. Ruskin had a fondness for the Gothic and Byzantine, as well as the Medieval and “anti-classical” Venice that he felt was being erased in favor of the Renaissance, a trend he tied to the moral and spiritual decay of Venetian society:

“[Venice]… is still left for our beholding in the final period of her decline: a ghost upon the sands of the sea, so weak—so quiet,—so bereft of all but her loveliness, that we might well doubt, as we watched her faint reflection in the mirage of the lagoon, which was the City, and which the Shadow.

I would endeavour to trace the lines of this image before it be for ever lost, and to record, as far as I may, the warning which seems to me to be uttered by every one of the fast-gaining waves, that beat, like passing bells, against the Stones of Venice."

Most notably is the influence of one of the first modern painters, the English Romantic J. M. W. Turner, who like Ruskin was grappling with the rise of Modernism. For Turner, this was a cutting-edge use of abstraction to create effects in painting—which Ruskin also engaged with following Turner’s lead. Both Ruskin’s landscapes and his analytical paintings are included in the exhibition. A selection of manuscripts and sketchbooks for The Stones of Venice provide a glimpse into his ways of working, as well.

Information on tickets to the show and hours of operation can be found here.
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AN is in Venice for the 2018 Architecture Biennale

The Architect’s Newspaper is already in Venice for the 16th Architecture Biennale all over "La Serenissima." We will have the most complete coverage of the Biennale of any news source, with five reporters on the ground (and water), checking out the pavilions and early events. We have, for example, just been told by French architect Odile Decq that there is a last minute “stand up for women in architecture planned for Friday at 11” in the Giardini and we will have more information on it as it develops. AN will be providing updates and impressions from the Biennale throughout the week.
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Painter Carl Laubin creates meticulous architectural dreamscapes

Carl Laubin, a British-American architect turned full-time painter, has dedicated the last three decades of his professional career to the painting of architectural capricci, bucolic landscapes and portraiture. An architectural capriccio encompasses the imagined assembly of buildings across fantastic landscapes. Laubin’s choice of subject matter jumps between historical periods. What seemed chronological at first: Andrea Palladio, followed by Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, jumped to Neo-Classicists Claude-Nicholas Ledoux, Charles Cockerell, and Leo von Klenze, then to Edwin Lutyens, with Post-Modernist John Outram and Leon Krier thrown into the mix. Currently, Laubin is working on a capriccio of John Nash’s work. On average, these capricci require one-and-a-half to three years to complete, depending on how prolific the subject was, with time split evenly between the drawing and painting periods. Although the bulk of Laubin’s capricci focus on the work of historic designers, he has produced paintings that combine a multitude of contemporary architects. A Classical Perspective comprises architectural pieces designed by the winners of the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture’s Richard H. Driehaus Prize. Beginning with the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in the foreground, the oil painting collages notable works by Robert A.M Stern, Demetri Porphyrios, Michael Graves, Abed-Wahed El-Wakil and Quinlan Terry, to name a few. Educated at Cornell University, Laubin describes his early painting as “a second, secretive life,” one conducted outside of Cornell’s then-rigid modernist education. Laubin graduated from Cornell with a B.A of Architecture in 1973, and subsequently decamped to England to join Douglas Stephen and Partners, Architects and Civic Designers (1973-1983) and later Jeremy Dixon/BDP (1984-1986). While working as an architect, Laubin painted in secret, waking at dawn to hone his craft before going to work. Seeing as how the production of capricci is a centuries-long tradition, Laubin cites a number of artists as influencing his style. To Laubin, Piranesi “was and remains an example of how to be liberated from the constraints of reality in creating an imagined world in a drawing or painting, and even how to be liberated from the constraints of drawing itself.” Canaletto’s grand paintings of Venice and London are firmly behind Laubin’s composition of urban scenes populated with bustling denizens. In his fantastical characteristics, the phantasmagoric visions of Joseph Gandy are plainly evident. While Laubin insists that there is no clear methodology to his process of creating a capriccio, he has a general approach to each project. The first step is the steady amassing of information on the subject matter. This initial creative moment includes the reading of primary and secondary sources, visiting individual sites, and sketching as much of the architect’s canon as possible. Subsequently, each sketch is collaged and re-collaged until a suitable format is found, representative of an architect’s professional timeline as well as the general hierarchy of their work. In creating the landscapes for his capricci, Laubin follows a recipe for a classical landscape given to him by postmodern architect John Outram. In Outram’s view, one always crossed a river or a bridge into a classical painting, and then ascended through various levels of civilization from cave dwellers, through agrarian societies, to urban areas, and finally places of worship at the highest point. In tandem with this formula, Laubin draws upon the landscapes surrounding individual sites and fuses them into the overarching collage of elements.
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Venice Architecture Biennale announces main exhibitors and expands on its theme

Curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale have announced more details about the 2018 show, themed Freespace. This year, 71 studios and 65 countries, seven of which are participating for the first time, including the Vatican, will show their work in two separate exhibitions, from May 26 through November 25, 2018. In the show’s manifesto by Farrell and McNamara, Freespace is described as, “[…] examples of generosity and thoughtfulness in architecture throughout the world that will be celebrated in the 16th International Architecture Exhibition. We believe these qualities sustain the fundamental capacity of architecture to nurture and support meaningful contact between people and place. We focus our attention on these qualities because we consider that intrinsic to them are optimism and continuity.” As such, Freespace entrants will be given leeway to present works that can range from open civic spaces to material studies, as long as they laud the natural world and “nature’s free gifts.” Freespace is accepting proposals, examples, and pieces of projects, both built and unbuilt, that evoke a hidden beauty through the use of materiality, form, complexity, or place. Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia, praised this year’s theme and the participants’ commitment to improving society through design. “The absence of architecture makes the world poorer and diminishes the level of public welfare, otherwise reached by economic and demographic developments. To rediscover architecture means to renew a strong desire for the quality of the spaces where we live, which are a form of public wealth that needs to be constantly protected, renovated and created?" Below are all 71 architects:
  1. 6a architects(London, UK) Tom Emerson; Stephanie Macdonald; John Ross; Owen Watson
  2. Alison Brooks Architects(London, UK) Alison Brooks
  3. Álvaro Siza 2 – Arquitecto, SA(Porto, Portugal) Álvaro Siza Vieira
  4. Amateur Architecture Studio(Hangzhou, China) Wang Shu; Lu Wenyu
  5. andramatin(Jakarta, Indonesia) Andra Matin
  6. Angela Deuber Architect(Chur, Switzerland) Angela Deuber
  7. architecten de vylder vinck taillieu(Ghent, Belgium) Jan de Vylder; Inge Vinck; Jo Taillieu
  8. Arrea architecture(Ljubljana, Slovenia) Maruša Zorec
  9. Assemble(London, UK) Jane Issler Hall; Mathew Leung; Alice Edgerley; Adam Willis; Fran Edgerley; Amica Dall; Giles Smith; James Binning; Paloma Strelitz; Lewis Jones; Joseph Halligan; Louis Schulz; Maria Lisogorskaya; Karim Khelil; Anthony Engi Meacock
  10. Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner(Haldenstein, Switzerland) Peter Zumthor
  11. Aurelio Galfetti(Lugano and Bellinzona, Switzerland)
  12. Barclay & Crousse(Lima, Peru) Sandra Barclay; Jean-Pierre Crousse
  13. BC architects & studies(Brussels, Belgium) Ken De Cooman; Nicolas Coeckelberghs; Wes Degreef; Laurens Bekemans
  14. Benedetta Tagliabue - Miralles Tagliabue EMBT(Barcelona, Spain; Shangai, China) Benedetta Tagliabue; Elena Nedelcu; Joan Callís
  15. BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group(New York, USA; Copenhagen, Denmark; London, UK) Bjarke Ingels; Sheela Maini Søgaard; Finn Nørkjær; Thomas Christoffersen; Kai-Uwe Bergmann; Andreas Klok Pedersen; David Zahle; Jakob Lange; Beat Schenk; Daniel Sundlin; Brian Yang; Jakob Sand
  16. Burkhalter Sumi Architekten (Zürich, Switzerland)  Marianne Burkhalter; Christian Sumi with Marco Pogacnik (Venice, Italy)
  17. Carla Juaçaba(Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
  18. Caruso St John Architects(London, UK) Adam Caruso; Peter St John
  19. Case Design(Mumbai, India) Anne Geenen; Samuel Barclay
  20. Cino Zucchi Architetti(Milan, Italy) Cino Zucchi
  21. Crimson Architectural Historians(Rotterdam, The Netherlands) Ewout Dorman; Michelle Provoost; Cassandra Wilkins; Wouter Vanstiphout; Simone Rots; Annuska Pronkhorst
  22. David Chipperfield Architects(London, UK; Berlin, Germany; Milan, Italy; Shanghai, China) David Chipperfield; Alexander Schwarz; Martin Reichert; Christoph Felger; Eva Schad; Harald  Müller
  23. de Blacam and Meagher Architects(Dublin, Ireland; Ibiza, Spain) Shane de Blacam; John Meagher
  24. Diller Scofidio + Renfro(New York, USA) Elizabeth Diller; Charles Renfro; Ricardo Scofidio; Benjamin Gilmartin
  25. DnA_Design and Architecture(Beijing, China) Xu Tiantian
  26. Dorte Mandrup A/S(Copenhagen, Denmark) Dorte Mandrup; Frants Nielsen
  27. Elemental(Santiago, Chile) Alejandro Aravena; Gonzalo Arteaga; Juan Cerda; Diego Torres; Victor Oddo
  28. Elizabeth Hatz Architects(Stockholm, Sweden) Elizabeth Hatz
  29. Estudio Carme Pinós(Barcelona, Spain) Carme Pinós
  30. Flores & Prats(Barcelona, Spain) Eva Prats; Ricardo Flores
  31. Francesca Torzo Architetto(Genova, Italy) Francesca Torzo
  32. Gion A. Caminada(Vrin-Cons, Switzerland)
  33. GrupoSP(São Paulo, Brazil) Alvaro Puntoni; Joao Sodre
  34. Gumuchdjian Architects(London, UK) Philip Gumuchdjian
  35. Hall McKnight(Belfast and London, UK) Alastair Hall; Ian McKnight
  36. Inês Lobo, Arquitectos(Lisbon, Portugal) Inês Lobo; João Rosário
  37. Jensen og Skodvin Arkitekter AS(Oslo, Norway) Jan Olav Jensen; Børre Skodvin; Torunn Golberg; Torstein Koch
  38. John Wardle Architects(Melbourne, Australia) John Wardle, Stefan Mee, Meaghan Dwyer, Bill Krotiris, Jane Williams
  39. Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA(Tokyo, Japan) Kazuyo Sejima; Ryue Nishizawa
  40. Kieran Long; Johan Örn; James Taylor-Foster (Stockholm, Sweden) with  ArkDes (Stockholm, Sweden)
  41. Lacaton & Vassal Architects(Paris, France) Anne Lacaton; Jean Philippe Vassal
  42. Laura Peretti Architects(Rome, Italy) Laura Peretti
  43. Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo(Vittoria – Ragusa, Italy)
  44. Marie-José Van Hee architecten(Ghent, Belgium) Marie-José Van Hee
  45. Marina Tabassum Architects(Dhaka, Bangladesh) Marina Tabassum
  46. Matharoo Associates(Ahmedabad, India) Gurjit Singh Matharoo
  47. Michael Maltzan Architecture(Los Angeles, USA) Michael Maltzan
  48. Niall McLaughlin Architects(London, UK) Niall McLaughlin
  49. O'Donnell + Tuomey(Dublin, Ireland) John Tuomey; Sheila O'Donnell
  50. Paredes Pedrosa Arquitectos(Madrid, Spain) Angela Garcia de Paredes; Ignacio G. Pedrosa
  51. Paulo Mendes da Rocha(São Paulo, Brazil)
  52. Peter Rich Architects(Johannesburg, South Africa) Peter Rich
  53. Rafael Moneo, Arquitecto(Madrid, Spain) Rafael Moneo
  54. Rintala Eggertsson Architects(Oslo and Bodø, Norway) Dagur Eggertsson; Vibeke Jensen; Sami Rintala
  55. RMA Architects(Mumbai, India; Boston, USA) Rahul Mehrotra; Nondita Correa Mehrotra; Robert Stephens; Payal Patel
  56. Robert McCarter, Professor of Architecture(St. Louis, Missouri, USA) Robert McCarter
  57. Room11 Architects(Hobart, Tasmania, Australia) Thomas Bailey; Nathan Crump; Megan Baynes
  58. Rozana Montiel Estudio de Arquitectura(Mexico City, Mexico) Rozana Montiel
  59. Salter Collingridge Design(London and Ludlow, UK) Peter Salter; Fenella Collingridge
  60. Sauerbruch Hutton(Berlin, Germany) Matthias Sauerbruch; Louisa Hutton; Juan Lucas Young
  61. Skälsö Arkitekter(Visby and Stockholm, Sweden) Joel Phersson; Erik Gardell; Lisa Ekström; Mats Håkansson; Axel Wolgers
  62. Souto Moura - Arquitectos, S.A.(Porto, Portugal) Eduardo Souto de Moura
  63. Studio Anna Heringer(Laufen, Germany) Anna Heringer
  64. Studio Gang(Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, USA) Jeanne Gang
  65. Studio Odile DECQ(Paris, France) Odile Decq
  66. Talli Architecture and Design(Helsinki, Finland) Pia Ilonen; Minna Lukander; Martti Lukander
  67. Tezuka Architects(Tokyo, Japan) Takaharu Tezuka; Yui Tezuka
  68. Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects(Tokyo, Japan) Toyo Ito
  69. Vector Architects(Beijing, China) Gong Dong
  70. VTN Architects(Hochiminh City, Vietnam) Vo Trong Nghia
  71. Weiss/Manfredi(New York, USA) Marion Weiss; Micheal Manfredi
This year’s biennale will also see pavilions from the aforementioned 65 countries go up in the Giardini, the Arsenale, and the Venice city center. It also marks the first time that Antigua & Barbuda, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Lebanon, Mongolia, Pakistan, and the Holy See will be exhibiting pavilions. The national participants have chosen to tackle the theme in a variety of ways. While some countries have opted to highlight environmental justice, others will prompt discussions on a “lack of free space” or seek to explore the term. A full list of the 65 national entrants and their pavilion’s theme can be found here. The United States will front a hefty and diverse group of seven design teams for this year’s show to realize Dimensions of Citizenship.
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What if Venice dies? Are architects to blame?

In The Stones of Venice, John Ruskin decries the ways the modern world is destroying the fragile particularity that is Venice. His biggest worries? Train travel and classical arches. God only knows what he would he make of Aqualta 2060, a proposal presented at the 2010 biennale to ring Venice with skyscrapers. In Salvatore Settis's newly translated If Venice Dies, Acqualta 2060 represents the ultimate debasement of a human-scale city by a global economic system that reduces everything, even history, to a commodity. Though only ever a pie-in-the-sky proposal, Acqualta 2060 is a powerful metaphor for Settis's larger argument. The project, Settis argues, reduces Venice to a series expensive views designed to profit real estate speculators. The historic city—animated by the daily use of it citizens for a thousand years—would be reduced to a shell. A City Without a People If you've been to Venice lately, you know the hollowing out of the city is already well underway. For Settis—an archeologist, art historian and former director of the Getty Research Institute—the imminent danger to Venice is not rising sea levels (though, of course, he acknowledges this as a very serious concern). Much more urgent is the threat that it will drown in the oblivion of a "tourist monoculture":
Oblivion doesn’t simply mean forgetting one’s own history, or developing a morbid addiction to beauty, which is experienced as though it were a lifeless ornament that should console us. It primarily means forgetting something essential: the specific role that a city plays in comparison to others, its uniqueness, and its diversity, virtues that Venice possesses more than any other city in the world.
Settis gazes unflinchingly at the towering cruise ships that turn Venice into a fleeting spectacle for paying guests, while literally weakening its ancient foundations. And to make vivid in our imagination a Venice without actual Venetians, he takes us on an unsavory tour of Venetian-style simulacrums around the world, from Las Vegas to Chongqing—even a proposal for a theme-park style replica of Venice within (most ironically of all) Venice itself. A Vitruvian Oath For Settis, Venice is a vivid case study for a process engulfing historic centers everywhere, and he challenges architects everywhere to stop participating in the accelerating commodification of urban life. In particular, he excoriates the way architects and their clients use purely aesthetic arguments to "mask the cynicism of the financial wheeling and dealing and real estate speculation that triggered them in the first place." As an antidote, the classically minded Settis sends his readers back to Vitruvius. Just as doctors take a Hippocratic oath, he argues, architects should take a Vitruvian oath. "No architect," writes Settis, "should ever agree to building anything—whether it’s a bridge, a terrace, or a window—that might contribute to the death of the historic city by destroying its uniqueness." Cri de Coeur At times, Settis can seem like a conservative curmudgeon, with his extravagant rhetoric and appeal to some golden past. Yet he describes the market's familiar creep into the public domain with such vividness, and he so forcefully marks out what is stake (not just Venice but civil society itself), that by the end you can only thank him exactly for his apparent faults. If you stay with him to the last page, you find it is impossible to disagree with his conclusion that, if Venice dies, "the very idea of the city—as an open space where diversity and social life can unfold, as the supreme creation of our civilization, as a commitment to and promise of democracy—will also die with it." If Venice Dies, by Salvatore Settis, translated by André Naffis-Sahely, New Vessel Press, September 2016, paper, 180 pages, $16.95.
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Some of the world's leading architectural minds recount their obsession with Venice in a new book

Why did the Venetians build their city in such an unlikely place? And how ever did they succeed in doing so? These are the central questions architect and historian Richard Goy poses in his introduction to newly published Dream of Venice Architecture. The first is easy to answer. The first Venetians settled in the lagoon to escape the violent breakdown of the Roman Empire on the mainland, wrote Goy. But how, amid the muddy shoals of a brackish lagoon, did they manage to build such a strange and extravagant city?

It is a question that can inform, inspire—and haunt—an entire architectural career. Architects know exactly how hard it can be to build on terra firma, let alone tidal flats. Yet they instinctively understand that the most compelling built forms tend to coalesce around seemingly impossible challenges. 

Dream of Venice Architecture—edited, published, and with a preface by JoAnn Locktov—gathers 35 very short essays in which some of the world’s leading architectural minds, including Tadao Ando, Mario Botta, Jürgen Mayer H., and Witold Rybczynski, attempt to grapple with the strange and miraculous-seeming city. They alternately recount their obsessions with Venice, reflect on the ways it has infused their own practice, and propose ways to infuse it with new life in the 21st century. William Menking, founder and editor-in-chief of The Architect’s Newspaper, is among the contributors.

Each essay is accompanied by a single, exquisite image by Riccardo de Cal, a Venice-trained architect, photographer, and filmmaker. De Cal has managed to capture Venice in surprising and often poignant ways—no easy task in this postcard of a city. 

“I wanted to tell the story of a Venice empty and suspended in time, a place where nothing exists except architecture and nature—a place man does not inhabit,” said de Cal. Just to photograph Venice, one begins to understand the challenge of building in a place where, according to de Cal, “Everything is slanting in all three axes.”

A Multi-Dimensional Odyssey

“What can we learn from a city that is over 1,500 years old?” asked Locktov in her preface. A great deal, apparently.

For Hong Kong-based architect Rocco Yim, Venice directly informed his concept design for Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District, which he described as a “multidimensional odyssey of public domains rather than set-pieces of iconic architecture.”

For Ando, work on the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana reoriented his entire attitude toward architecture’s scope.

“Though the Japanese culture has developed the habit of repeating ‘scrap and build’ philosophies based upon economic rationality, I believe that architecture should be essentially rooted in society and be immersed in a lapse of time,” wrote Ando. “This is exactly what I learned in Venice.”

For others, Venice has served as a kind of liminal space where the real and imaginary have been forced to meet. New York–based architect Louise Braverman equated the “unanticipated, variegated pleasures” of Venice with the architectural encounter itself.

Carlo Scarpa and a Venice of the Future

What is next for Venice itself? With luck, more than just fetishistic preservation, according to architect Frank Harmon.

“A city that has its own fortune in its crystallization cannot however reject to renew itself,” argued Harmon. “We have to be able to add a digital level of intelligence to the city, an invisible layer, like the foundations of mud.” 

In imagining a future for Venice, the essays also return again and again to the work of Venetian-born Carlo Scarpa as a model. Why? Because Scarpa’s projects—including the Olivetti Showroom on Piazza San Marco and the ground floor and gardens of the Palazzo Querini-Stampalia—are utterly contemporary both in form and materials even as they weave themselves harmoniously into an ancient and multifarious city.

Guido Pietropoli, who trained under and worked with Scarpa, praises his mentor’s ability to achieve a “Venetianity that makes no concession to the vernacular.”

And Valeriano Pastor, professor of architecture at the University of Venice, singles out the stone-lined canals that Scarpa places along the perimeters of the palazzo’s ground floor. They graciously accept, then expel again, the high tides that once threatened this flood-prone space.

In the process, Scarpa is “exalting the poetry inherent in the natural phenomenon while befriending its aggressive action,” writes Pastor. “It is a metonymic model—wonderful in itself—of the Venetian Lagoon system.”

NOTE: A portion of the proceeds from Dream of Venice Architecture will help support architectural programming at the Fondazione Querini-Stampalia.

Dream of Venice Architecture Riccardo De Cal and Richard J. Goy, Bella Figura Publications, $26.99

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Tradition versus modernity in Venice, and that time Pink Floyd played St. Mark’s Basin

On July 15,1989, Pink Floyd held a concert in Venice in front of more than two hundred thousand people. Framed in the foreground by the city’s famous twin columns—of its patrons, St. Mark the Evangelist and St. Theodore of Amasea—and in the background by Andrea Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore, the band performed from a floating platform in the middle of the Venetian lagoon, while the assembled crowds filled every inch of St. Mark’s Square, the adjoining Piazzetta, and waterfront Riva degli Schiavoni, and even jostled for a front row seat in an ever-growing carpet of boats moored within the lagoon itself. A particularly striking aerial photograph presents the scene a few hours before the band took to the stage, “mechanically repeating,” as Roland Barthes would put it, “what could never be repeated existentially.”

Yet the romantic, almost fantastical nature of this moment is somehow misleading: In spite of the popularity of the concert—a “Night of Wonders,” as certain sections of the press described it—the event provoked an outpouring of opprobrium in Venice’s always tempestuous political quarters. A number of the city’s municipal administrators viewed the concert as an assault against Venice, something akin to a barbarian invasion of urban space. Other voices, such as the local architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri, were equally vitriolic. Lecturing at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV) in 1993, just a year before his death, he spoke of how he despised the concert for being nothing more than a “postmodern masquerade”—the epitome of the frivolous discourse that characterized culture in the 1980s—and for the physical damage it had wrought on the city.

The idea for the performance had originated with Francesco (Fran) Tomasi, the band’s Italian promoter. “For their 1989 tour,” Tomasi recalled, “Pink Floyd were looking to perform in peculiar places. At the time, my office was in Venice and so I had the idea of organizing a free concert to coincide with the Feast of the Redeemer, the Redentore, in which the local population, rather than the tourists, always take an active part. The band immediately loved the idea.”

The Redentore, held annually on the third weekend of July, was initiated in 1578 to celebrate the end of the terrible plague. At sunset Venetians invade St. Mark’s Basin, from where they watch a fireworks display while bobbing up and down in their boats. In the 18th century it was also common to see gondolas and the smaller sandoli carrying musicians who entertained the crowds before the fireworks. It was this aquatic musical accompaniment that Tomasi hoped to recall with his own concert. The sheer scale of the event, however, called for a corresponding increase in the size of the musical boats. In the end, individual vessels were recast as a vast floating stage, 318 feet long by 79 feet wide and 79 feet high.

Preparations for the event, billed as the latest stop in the band’s “Momentary Lapse of Reason” tour, gathered pace. RAI, Italy’s state broadcaster, agreed to a live broadcast of the show. The big day drew closer. In June 1989, after a fiercef debate about the profanity or acceptability of such an event so close to the Redentore festivities, the city council finally granted its approval (in a democratic vote that went against the wishes of the mayor, Antonio Casellati).

Just three days before the event, however, Margherita Asso, Venice’s superintendent for cultural heritage (nicknamed the “Iron Superintendent”), vetoed the concert on the grounds that the amplified sound would damage the mosaics of St. Mark’s Basilica, while the whole piazza could very well sink under the weight of so many people. Tomasi had to think fast. He quickly offered to turn down the volume on the thousands of speakers and to move the stage back 98 feet, in an attempt to dampen the ardor of the crowd. Asso remained unconvinced, and it was not until the arrival of the three band members on July 13 that a so-called compromesso all’italiana (Italian-style compromise), involving decibel levels and crowd fencing, was secured and the concert could go ahead.

The show lasted just 90 minutes but lived long in the memory of those who witnessed it. The next day the local paper, Il Gazzettino, carried the headline “Grandi Pink Floyd, Povera Venezia” (“Great Pink Floyd, Poor Venice”), juxtaposing appreciative accounts of the show with images of St. Mark’s Square covered with litter and young people sleeping rough in doorways. No real damage had occurred, but the city woke with a distinct “after-party” look. The political reverberations were more far-reaching, and a few weeks later the local government fell.

Of course, Venice has a long history of political farragoes, just as it does of floating, ephemeral architectures, from Alvise Cornaro’s almost surreal 16th century proposal for a theater and artificial island on the lagoon, or the triumphal arch built near the church of Santa Lucia on the occasion of Napoleon’s visit to the city in 1807—a project famously depicted in a painting by Giuseppe Borsato—to the floating bath constructed by Tommaso Rima in 1833 and moored off the city’s Punta della Dogana, and, most celebrated of all, perhaps, Aldo Rossi’s highly poetic Teatro del Mondo, built in 1979.

Tafuri’s first edition of the Renaissance book, Venezia e il Rinascimento—published in 1985, just a few years before Pink Floyd’s floating stage (also witnessed from the Piazzetta)—articulated a characteristically political argument in presenting the history of Venice as a constant battle between those who wanted to restructure and renovate the city (whom Tafuri dubs the primi) and the traditionalists who only wanted to uphold its established principles and structures. The book was not written as a contemporary allegory, at least not explicitly, but the parallels are obvious, not least in the ongoing clash between the more progressive Venetians who defend the Serenissima’s artistic patrimony but also endorse more modern solutions, and those who seem only to consider the city as a kind of frozen museum. Like many entrenched oppositions, the two sides are actually not all that different, but the debate centered (and still centers) on striking a balance between the city’s delicate ecology and its economic viability. In this debate, tourism and spectacle are both the agent of destruction and the city’s salvation.

More than Palladio’s San Giorgio, then, this was the real backdrop to the Pink Floyd concert, confirming the music promoter Bill Graham’s famous adage, “politics uses and abuses rock music.” Even Mason himself revealed the ambivalences and overlaps endemic on both sides when he admitted, “I must say I like the idea of carrying on a tradition rather than being totally unique.” It was no coincidence that 1989 was also the year Venice was preparing its bid to host the 2000 European Expo, which was expected to attract upward of two hundred thousand visitors a day and act as a springboard for a new, modern city.

The project was backed largely by Italy’s Socialist Party (PSI), and more particularly by Gianni De Michelis, then the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ranged against them were the traditionalists, including a number of key members of the opposing Christian Democrats, who were keen to block the expo bid by whatever means. If the former group had secured an initial victory in clearing the way for the smaller, metonymic rock concert, the latter soon took their revenge, using Pink Floyd as a Trojan horse to point to the city’s inability to accommodate a crowd. In fact, this apparent inability was not unconnected to the city’s refusal to provide either city cleaners or portable toilets for the concert. The day-after hangover, depicted in all its squalor by the local newspapers, had therefore actually been designed.

Despite his passion for Renaissance architecture and enduring fondness for Cornaro’s seemingly perverse theater project, Tafuri, as we have seen, was vociferous in his objections to both the Pink Floyd concert and to Venice playing host to the European Expo. For Tafuri, the theatricality of both events concealed a darker ambition to transform the city into a purely political and economic object. Venice, he countered, is a particular city that negates the possibility of an absolute modernity—a theme he returned to repeatedly, but especially in the same 1993 lecture in which he lambasted Pink Floyd.

In this talk, presciently titled “Le forme del tempo: Venezia e la modernità” (“The Forms of Time: Venice and Modernity”), he argued that the concert relied not only on the splendor of the city but also on the perfectly Italian splendors of blackmail and bribery, and the ascendancy of economic and media interests. However, perhaps because this was the school’s Lectio Magistralis (the inaugurating lecture for the academic year), he concluded more optimistically with the notion that the imago urbis of Venice is sacrosanct and impossible to recalibrate, ending defiantly with “The battle is not yet finished.”

But in many ways the battle has finished, and is one that has seen a victory of sorts for a kind of synthetic Venice that is both traditional town-museum and a contemporary hub—for what are the vast cruise liners that today pass through the Grand Canal if not a recalibrating imago urbis fundamentally reliant on both the historic and the commercial? And what, for that matter, is the Venice Biennale if not a repeating ritual that under the theatrical guise of art and architecture maintains a thriving, even defining, economic model? The vast numbers of people these different tourist attractions draw in dwarf all of the figures ascribed to that moment in July 1989 when Pink Floyd ended their set with “Run Like Hell.” The historian in Tafuri would no doubt see this as further confirmation of all those Italian splendors, and in this, as ever, he may well be right.

Léa-Catherine Szacka is also the author of the forthcoming book Le Concert with Sara Marini, which will be published by Editions B2 in 2017. A longer version of this paper was originally published in AA Files 69, 2014: 12-17.