Posts tagged with "Biennale":

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“City Works” envisions Chicago’s “dreams and nightmares”

From the abandoned foundations of the ill-fated Chicago Spire to the ghosts of would-be Tribune Towers galore, Chicago’s unbuilt legacy could rival the iconic skyline it actually achieved. An exhibition on display downtown, dubbed City Works: Provocations for Chicago’s Urban Future, confronts the city with its alternative skyline in the form of a panoramic wall design and a “Phantom Chicago” iPhone app. The overall effect evokes “a dream but also a nightmare,” in the words of curator Alexander Eisenschmidt. It also presents “a series of urban environments that are typical for Chicago,” meditating through the work of four prominent local designers on some of the city’s contemporary challenges: waterways, industry, shelter, and vacancy. To borrow Eisenschmidt’s metaphor, the aim is to turn potential nightmares into visionary dreams. Studio Gang’s work on urban waterways is well-known and their work here, titled “Reclaiming the Edge,” reprises the vision they laid out in Reverse Effect and other publications: a riverfront community and restored natural habitat nourish each other in a kind of urban symbiosis. After years of legal wrangling, Chicago’s Water Reclamation District will soon disinfect the wastewater it dumps back into the river, signaling some substantive progress on water quality. Meanwhile the Chicago Riverwalk grows along the waterway's main branch. UrbanLab / Sarah Dunn & Martin Felsen present “Free Water District,” a vision that also draws on Chicago’s aquatic resources. Rust Belt cities share many challenges stemming from deindustrialization, but they also share a common asset: water. UrbanLab’s piece envisions a Great Lakes region revitalized by water-focused industries, in a “megastructure-scaled public/private land/water partnership.” Stanley Tigerman offers a rumination on shelter in both the spatial and spiritual sense with “Displacement of the Gridiron with the Cloister.” His target is the “ineffable in architecture,” which is philosophical enough to mean many things to many people who might have very different ideas of the city’s urban aspirations. “The Available City” by David Brown displays a similar yearning, manifesting the city’s 15,000 city-owned vacant lots as blots of color bubbling up amid fractured neighborhoods. The bright colors, which appear to denote potential programs for unused space, could mean anything — adaptive reuse, public space, space-age capsule hotel — but the important thing is they reanimate dead spaces that total an area twice the size of the Loop. All four panoramas will eventually connect, sharing continuous topographic or development features. But until the closing days of the show they remain separate, traveling slowly along dotted lines that traverse the small exhibition space. “By pulling them apart,” Eisenschmidt said, “there’s a little suspense.” City Works, adapted from the 2013 Biennale in Venice, returned to its city of origin May 24. And these “provocations” are not Eisenschmidt’s first. In 2011 the University of Illinois at Chicago professor’s Visionary Chicago (reviewed here for A|N by Philip Berger) stirred conversation about bold building while the real estate market languished. The free show is open at Expo 72, 72 E. Randolph St., seven days per week through September 29. Listen to a conference on the topic, held September 22, 2012 and recorded by WBEZ. Watch 50 meters of the "Phantom Chicago" wall panorama scroll by:
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Download Your Guide to the Venice Biennale

With the official grand opening of the Venice Biennale set for Wednesday, August 29, following a two-day preview, it's time to start planning your visit with the only comprehensive guide to the Who, What, and Where of the Biennale. Download your own copy to keep on hand or look for the guide to be printed in the first issue of Guida alla Biennale di Architettura, a partnership between The Architect's Newspaper and Il Giornale Dell'Architettura.
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Biennale for the People: Landscape Urbanism in Israel

Biennales have proliferated in recent years marking the redistribution of culture and also its global consumption. Once wed to the rarefied setting of Venice, they can now be found in Barcelona, Rio, Lisboa and… Bat Yam. “Bat Yam?” you ask. In this unknown and unlikely Israeli town, the curators of the Bat-Yam Biennale of Landscape Urbanism have fashioned a wonderful new genre of biennale that is more “urban action” than exhibition. A rather poor, largely Russian immigrant “outer borough” of the elegant white city of Tel Aviv, Bat Yam calls to mind Brighton Beach with palm trees. The city constitutes a frayed but dignified modernist fabric built from an amazing array of gemütlich variations on the Maison Citrohan with a sensitive implementation of the tenets of open space, light, air, and the hierarchy of ways. While the biennale provides the city with an array of quasi-permanent installations of public art, architecture, and landscape as catalysts for its growth and transformation, the exhibition continues to search for new strategies to sustain a city that lacks both the opportunities but also the limitations of development-driven planning. The two curators, Yael Moira-Klein and Sigal Barnir frame their appreciation of Bat Yam’s modernist town planning within an acknowledgement of the problems it faces: most significantly, a dearth of property for the kind of commercial development on which the Israeli tax structure is based. Indeed, the construction sites that became fertile ground for the biennale exhibits are the very last that remain. A comparison with the neighboring town of Holon is illuminating. Awash with cranes and mixed-use towers, property rich Holon can use development per se as its planning strategy and then give it an identifiable urban image through hi-profile projects such as the new Ron Arad Design Museum. In the absence of such raucous development, the curators ask, what is Bat Yam to be? The Biennale’s formal theme “Timing” attacks city planning and development from the point view of landscape and its partnership with long-term unpredictable growth. Embracing this point of view, the Bat-Yam municipality offered up part of their annual public works budget as a funding source along with fallow city properties as sites for projects, at least for now. And so a glowing lantern hooked to a construction crane at night entitled "Skylight" will remain only until its tower is complete. Several empty lots so small as to evade development are currently transformed into social hangouts. Meanwhile, at other installations, the powder coated steel arcade of “On the Way to the Sea” will remain a welcome long-term fixture in the municipal park; but the mobile trees in boxes from the “Roaming Forest” and the landscaped craters of "Observing Horizon” will only come of age over the next several years. This robust concept of timing gracefully frames issues of sustainability as matters of “persistence.” The “Great Butterfly Experiment” counters the widespread recession of butterflies with the installation of 150,000 butterfly-attracting plants and a truly lovely pavilion to welcome them back. “Tamogotchi Park” takes on the serious matter of water supply with a Rube Goldberg affair of a child-operated merry-go-round that pulls the ocean through pipes to a tower where it is desalinated and then fed to plants under individual polycarbonate bubbles. The long-term curatorial intention of importing these projects to Bat Yam is the cultivation of “urban action” from within. No high price tag installations have been installed to re-brand Bat Yam as the next art biennale capital; rather on-the-cheap opportunistic interventions prod the municipality and the residents to first take note of their city and then hopefully to take part. The curators used the biennale to actually jump start grassroots organization by commissioning teams of designers and sociologists to identify small sites of public/private ambiguity like parking strips and to organize the neighbors/stakeholders around collaborative designs for their improvement. Within the Biennale’s light heartedness lie serious questions of the politics of permanence and stability. On a moonlit walk along the Mediterranean heading south from Tel Aviv through Jaffa to Bat Yam, it emerged that the sole neighborhood with no direct access to the beach is predominately Arab. By simply making Bat Yam a destination, the Biennale created a sense of imaginative continuity among these three waterfront communities. And if it did not yet exist then surely it could, as various city officials hope, given the shared economic and social opportunities that mutual “urban action” along such a beachfront would bring. Here is the promised city of “Timing.”
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Lisbon's Next Up on the Triennale Trail

There are so many architecture exhibitions today that call themselves “biennales” and “triennales” that the words have little meaning anymore. In most cases, rather than use the vernacular local word for an every two- or three-year exhibition (say, biannual) they use the Italian word, hoping I guess that the special magic of Venice will rub off on their event. Thus I am in Lisbon, Portugal today for the Architecture Triennale that the organizers are calling “Let’s Talk About Houses.” The largest exhibition in the event at the Museu Coleccao Berardo is made up of six separate and discrete parts. This includes a recreation of Alison and Peter Smithson’s House of the Future projects from 1956, and Houses Yes! Sacks No!, the story of Mobile Local Support Service, a Portuguese movement launched by architects “responding to the struggle waged in the streets by poor residents during the hot summer of 1975.” Finally, there will be installations based on Vittorio Lampugnani’s Novartis campus in Basel, Switzerland; a show on urban development in African and Brazilian cities; and The Nordic Connection on new work in Scandinavia curated by Archigrammer Peter Cook. There seems to be a lot more going on—stay tuned for more tomorrow!
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La Serenissima Strikes Again

Is Italy returning to medieval-era warfare between city-states Milan and Venice? AN’s own Julie V. Iovine reports from Milan that Milanese and Lombardy officials are more than a bit miffed that Venice is proposing to start its own design fair in 2011, seeking to steal the spotlight from the nation’s long-established epicenter of design. Milan has been displaying its prodigious output for nearly half a century at the annual Salone Internazionale del Mobile, and sporadically at the Triannale’s Palazzo del’Arte. But Carlo Guglielmi, the president of Cosmit, which runs the Milan fair, said that Venice’s sophisticated biennale exhibition and marketing organization would like “to pick off a little bit of the Salone for its avant-garde furniture, and from the Triennale for culture.” The annual Milan event attracts more than 300,000 visitors and brings in, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, at least 7 million euros a year for the local Lombardy economy. Siphoning some of that wealth into Venetian coffers would be a blow to both the Milanese pocketbook and to its powerful design community. Venetian officials are said to be giving a serious look to the proposal, which would add another high-style biennale to its roster of well-known art and architecture events. Whether the dueling design capitals can reach a peace accord over the matter remains to be seen.
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Down The Drain In That Other Venice

Artist Mike Boucher was excited to bring American suburbia to the Venice Biennale, constructing a floating McMansion—complete with cheesy yellow vinyl siding—set to grace the city's famed canals. Unfortunately the house tilted off a failed pontoon and sank; a disaster for the artist (who actually seems to find the whole thing hilarious), but a good symbol for our housing market back in the USA.
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The Long Arrivederci

The Venice biennale will just not end! It opened in the warmth of September with mobs of well-known architects in attendance and officially closed on a cold November Sunday with scores of Italian schoolchildren roaming the pavilion grounds. I locked the doors of the U.S. Pavilion, put models and drawings into shipping containers (the show will be reprised at Parsons School of Design in February), and floated our Kartell-donated furniture down the Grand Canal on a barge—just in time for the highest floods in La Serenissima’s post–global warming history. Fortunately, the pavilion sits on high ground, and the stored work is safe.

The pavilion's furniture in stylish transit.

But there were pieces of the pavilion (story boards and a long blue table) not being returned to the States, and these we donated to a group called Commons Beyond Building (a collective whose members include Stalker, 2012, Millegomme, and EXYST), who were commissioned to create RE-Biennale: a recycled artwork of objects from the architecture biennale to be placed in the upcoming art biennale in June. Now we hear from biennale curator Emiliano Gandolfi that La Biennale di Venezia believes the project will be too costly, and are shutting it down. The group is appealing to art curator Daniel Birnbaum to rescue the effort.

Meanwhile, as we were closing the biennale, a water taxi roared up, and out stepped architecture critic, philosopher, and Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari, who scurried off to a meeting in the Accademia. The Venetian water taxis—absolutely the most elegant form of public transportation imaginable—are designed and built by a company called Riva, which is in New York this week at the Javits boat show. Riva sent along a photo of one of their boats with BB, and a temporary showroom in Rockefeller Center in 1964. A used wooden Riva is yours for just $500,000.