Posts tagged with "giardini":

Sightings at the Venice Biennale and news from the UC Berkeley expansion

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.

Croatian Fiasco? No way!

“The biggest fiasco…in the history of Croatian architecture?” Well, not really, but there seem to be some architects in Croatia who are angry that their floating pavilion built for the current Venice biennale was destroyed before it reached its intended mooring at the Giardini. In a press release just sent to us they claim:
The so-called Croatian floating pavilion designed for this year’s Venice Biennale by the group of architects and professors—Sasa Begovic, Marko Dabrovic, Igor Franic, Tanja Grozdanic, Petar Miskovic, Leo Modrcin, Silvije Novak, Veljko Oluic, Helena Paver Njiric, Lea Pelivan, Toma Plejic, Goran Rako, Sasa Randic, Idis Turato, Pero Vukovic, Tonci Zarnic—who used a huge amount of Croatian taxpayers’ money to build it, was never exhibited there because it has collapsed infamously, like a melted custard pastry, on its way. In spite of the fact that irreparable damage was caused by the structural failure, nobody took responsibility for the biggest fiasco in the history of Croatian architecture.
I was at the Venetian Giardini with several other journalists on the day the pavilion was meant to arrive, and we watched as the pavilion appeared in the hazy lagoon but never quite made it to the dockside, so in the spirit of Venice we settled in at the Giardini bar and enjoyed a spritz. In an email, one of the designers, Leo Modrcin, explained that “the Croatian pavilion was damaged during the transportation from Croatia to Venice. It required additional bracing for longer trips and exposure to the sea’s elements. The recommended removable scaffolding frame was not installed due to time and funding constraints. The lashing of the structure was executed by the towing company, but was obviously inadequate.” Obviously! But pavilions are by nature temporary and ephemeral, and this one at least looked great! We all know how important media images are to architecture, and it still remains one of my favorite pavilions in Venice.

Venice 2010> Storming the Arsenale & Rem in da Haas

Nothing much to report from yesterday, as it was a day of formal openings when very little was in fact open to the press or public. It was mostly a day of introductory speeches by biennale directors and city and government officials. Frank Gehry presented some models, made a few brief remarks, and then everyone headed for the hallway, where we had our first free prosecco and great little appetizers. Journalists and media types stood around asking about where the best parties were to be had in the coming days (more on this later). Today—after two days of too many speeches and press conferences—the biennale finally opened the doors of both the Arsenale and the national pavilions in the giardini, and everyone had their first chance to officially see if people really do meet in architecture. I ran through the projects installed in the Arsenale and in the afternoon the Italian pavilion in the giardini, which is of course not the Italian pavilion but simply a large exhibition space. The gigantic Arsenale has only 15 installations this year, giving each vast amounts of space in which to confront visitors. Most are therefore huge installations and are really engaged in design pyrotechnics more than displays of building models. They are architecture, but in what is fast becoming a kind of biennale style, halfway between design and art. These include a 3-D film by Wim Wenders of SANAA’s Rolex Center and a smoke-filled cloud room with a long spiral ramp that is a pale replica of Diller and Scofidio’s Blur Building from 2002. Another space titled Architecture as Air: Study for Chateau La Coste by the architect Junya Ishigami is constructed from a field of thin monofilament pieces precisely arrayed across the space like a barely visible Fred Sandback string sculpture. Ishigami’s piece is indecipherable and most visitors simply pass through, but I was told by some young workers that it was meant to be a self-supporting line house until a cat ran through last night and it came crashing down. Can this be true? Anyway, it’s a good story. Like what happened yesterday to Aaron Betsky, who curated the biennale in 2008. He was turned back at the door because he did not have the right credentials. When he protested that he had been the curator two years ago, an official replied: “So what are you doing at the biennale this year?” In the afternoon, I saw the Italian pavilion, which Italian curator Luca Molinari has filled with a more diverse body of work than displayed in the Arsenale, ranging from installation projects to artworks and models. It’s hard in a quick blog post to summarize the work in this enormous pavilion without flattening out the diversity here or reverting to clichés. It deserves more thought and attention and individual consideration and that’s what I will try and do in an upcoming post. But if there is a theme in the Italian pavilion, it is that more than a few critique or try to update the notion of utopia either in its early idealization—or the more recent consideration of it as not a model worth considering. There is Tom Sachs' installation of slightly torn paper Corbusian prototypes on the one side, and Aldo Cibic’s wonderful small-scale utopian landscape of idealized building types, from high-design, high-density housing to bland suburban cul de sacs. In between these are all sorts of architectural thoughts, but none more thoughtful than Rem Koolhaas and a history of his Office for Metropolitan Architecture, a tribute to his winning this year’s Golden Lion. I did have a chance to check out the British pavilion and see its wonderful muf-designed wooden "medical school" theater and miniature Venetian estuary complete with crabs and snails. Both show the advantage of having designers of muf’s ability curating an exhibition. Finally, the Ryue Nishizawa-curated Japanese pavilion is also rethinking utopia, in this case a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Metabolist movement. It brings back the movement but argues in fact that the city is organic and, as Aaron Levy claims, “beyond politics.” Now for the important stuff: The best party so far was the Audi Urban Futures event at the fabulous and long-vacant Misericordia space, which a Venetian friend used as a basketball court when she was a child. The highlight of the party was the announcement that the Future Award (worth 100,000 euros) was won by Jurgen Mayer H., an architect of great design talent who is now beginning to emerge as an international force. With the biennale finally underway, I’m beginning to wonder if Sejima is right, and people meet in architecture, or, as Italian critic Luigi Prestinenza Pugliese says, does this show prove that “architects don’t really like people?”

Venice 2010> The Black Shirts are Coming!

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

Ordinary Spaces

      Inside Palazzo Giustinian Lolin, up a narrow stone stair in a grand salon with silk walls, dim frescoes, and blue-ish gold brocade curtains, the computer monitors talk about the lives of ordinary rooms with a quiet precision that feels like a salve after days of can-you-top-this architecture installations. Ireland does not have a pavilion at the Biennale and has developed a rep for impressive off-site exhibitions and “The Lives of Spaces” is one of a handful of especially effective shows determined to treat buildings as buildings in spite of the “beyond” biennale theme.  

       The simple premise treats literally of the lives of buildings—birth/construction; inhabitation; aging; demolition—independent of, or at least seriously questioning, the staying power of any architectural intention. There’s a lyric video meandering through a 1971 country villa by the Irish Miesian Robin Walker with a Seamus Heaney voiceover reading from his poems about “poetic fossils”. Walker’s enviable flush lines and clean framing devises are generous enough to create spaces where steam condensing on a window seems as purposeful a part of the whole experience as the sleek steel faucet.  Then there’s a brand new library in Waterford by McCullough Mulvin Architects shown on side-by-side monitors. In one, just upon completion—that favorite time of architects for photography sessions—the view is all about architecture and its precision volumes painstakingly related. In the other, it’s a room loaded for use, right down to the Harry Potter book carousels. The message that daily life obliterates many a fine architectural gesture is a healthy cautionary.

     The Arsenale is scant on buildings you’d like to know more about but this tiny show offers up a few, including the Bocconi University in Milan by Grafton Architects. It’s Brutalist, but at the same time as layered as a casbah and obviously beloved by its day-to-day occupants. Look it up. And then on to the endgame of them all: ruins. Silent stills record the demolition of Maze/Long Kesh Prison, a detention center for members of the IRA and potent symbol of the Troubles, as it awaits its next life—probably not without ghosts—as a new national stadium.  Seamus Heaney’s “poetic fossils,” indeed.

 

 

 

About that pipeline project…

Sarah Palin isn't the only one with pipelines on the brain: The Estonian installation in the Giardini recreates a section of Gazprom's proposed Nord Stream pipeline, that would run directly from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea. Naturally, some of the Baltic countries aren't wildly enthusiastic about this. Estonia doesn't have a pavilion of it's own, but that may be a good thing. The group placed a 63-meter-long yellow pipe running from the entry of the Russian pavilion: Goes straight past the Japan pavilion (hey, geographical accuracy isn't the point): And spits out—you guessed it—directly in front of the imposing German pavilion: Gas Pipe 3 Maybe it's a one-liner, but like every good joke, it is sharp and to the point.

Bridge To Nowhere

Taiwanese Group Interbreeding Field are making bridge follies all around the Giardini.

Lost in the Giardini

The maze-like Italian Pavillion hold the work of more than two dozen architects from all over the world, and while the vast majority of it was not produced for the Biennale, it is well worth tasking the time to get lost inside. It starts out impressively: The grand entrance hall, wallpapered in a dense hot orange-and-white graphic print, frames a spare and enigmatic installation by Ai Wei Wei and Herzog & de Meuron.A framework of massive bamboo poles supports a series of tiny bamboo chairs that are seemingly strapped into place. When I wandered through, it was still very much in progress—stacks of raw material were piled on one side of the room, and while a few assistants had knocked off work to check out something on the computer, the three artists were taking a walk-through to check it. In a preliminary walkthrough—and believe, there will have to be many more before before I've seen it all—I was struck by how many of the architects hewed to Biennale curator Aaron Betsky's idea of looking beyond architecture, and outside building. One firm, Ecosistema Urbano of Madrid, developed a massive wall graphic with a few nuggets they've picked up over the years. 10 Things We Have Learned from the City is deceptively straightforward - top-down, formally-based planning is probably bot a great idea, and the like—but smart, since not all of their colleagues have managed to do the same. They also know their audience, because it looks good: the graphics are in larger-than-life 3D, and a series of blue-and-red paper glasses hang on string from the ceiling. One of the most provocative installations there was at the philosophical heart of the pavilion (and I think the physical heart, too, but I was pretty turned around by then). Upload City, organized by Saskia van Stein, presents 100 videos culled from the web, each of which somehow depicts space. These are made by civilians (or non-architects, more precisely) for the most part, so range from a happy-go-lucky YouTube-esque mash-up of cute animals in their habitats to what looked a heck of a lot like a promotional product of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce. Each of these is shown on a small screen strapped to one of the massive concrete columns in the cavernous space; visitors plunk down on massive silver pillows and settle in for a watch. It's a really interesting idea, but I had trouble getting more than a few videos up on my screen, so for me at least, footage of hula skirts and turquoise water is going to have to do until I can get back there. (Which I may soon - it looks like a fantastic place to sneak off for a catnap.)

Biennale Opens

[Editor's Note: This post was written Sunday.]

It is two days before the opening of the Venice architecture Biennale and as commissioner of the United States pavilion I have been in Venice for a week mounting the exhibition. The Biennale opens on Wednesday for “important media” and the next three days for the rest of the press and anyone else that can find a ticket. This always sets up a huge scrum at the entrance to the grounds between the haves (those with passes) and the have-nots in the media.

But yesterday I was invited to the roof of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to watch the Venice regatta . The regatta is supposed to be a race of gondolas but is really a great Sunday afternoon passeggiata of colorful boats paddling down the Grand Canal.

Back at the U.S. pavilion we are still not quite finished and I decide to walk around the biennale ‘giardini’ grounds to test the stress levels of other curators. Directly on axis with the U.S. pavilion somebody has constructed a nearly a 40 foot high solid steel building out of scaffolding floor slats. It’s just next to the Spanish pavilion but no one seems to be around to explain the amazing structure?

In the “Old Europe” corner of the giardini the Swiss pavilion will include a brick laying robot named R/O/B but he/she is still in a shipping container. The British curator Elias Woodman shows me through his pavilion which features housing designed by architects that Peter Cooks at dinner last night labeled "the Whisperers.” But Elias has created a fantastic catalog on the history of British Housing--compared with similar events in Europe. In the front of the Brit’s pavilion an enormous yellow steel pipe shoots out of the Russian pavilion and makes it way towards the west. It is apparently the creation of the Estonians who mean it to suggest the connection of oil or natural gas from Russia to the rest of Europe.

The Japanese have created a beautiful glass greenhouse in front of their pavilion but it must have cost as much to fabricate and build as the entire U.S. pavilion’s budget? Next to the ours is the most beautiful pavilion in the giardini--the Scandinavian, created by Pritzker winner Sverre Fehn.

Then lunch at Trattoria dai Tosi where a really good 4 course working mans lunch is 15 Euros--well that’s 12 Euros for Venetians and 15 for everyone else. You can try sitting in the far back of the hot Venetian dining rooms to get the better price but then 3 euros is a small price to pay for this perfect little spot.

Back to the Italian pavilion, curated by Aaron Betsky and EmilianoGondolfi, which is still nearly empty as I walk over the meet ‘Stalker’ Lorezo Romito.Lorenzo is creating an I Ching room to determine the future of architecture. I am supposed to be throwing the I Ching“to determine the future of American architecture.” But Lorenzo is nowhere to be seen, his room empty.

Walking through this enormous pavilion I run into Gondolfi who shows me around the few displays that are in construction. I did come across L.A. architects Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues, alums of last year's P.S. 1 summer pavilion, up on a scaffold carefully weaving draped string into an inverted baroque dome. The crew in the U.S. pavilion must be missing me, so I head back to the building in the center of the giardini. Back to work on Monday and then maybe a trip to the Arsenale.