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.
Posts tagged with "Golden Lion":
The 2016 Venice Biennale is now open to the public until November 27, 2016. "Reporting From the Front" is Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena's manifesto of sorts, a gorgeous aesthetic project with a slightly less clear political overlay. In this Biennale, he was looking to share success stories from engaged practitioners who are working to address the problems facing the world, such as inequality, crime, waste, traffic, and segregation. AN had three editors and a cadre of writers scoping out all of the main exhibition, the national pavilions, auxiliary events, and any other interesting things happening in the city during the opening. We selected 20 of our favorite moments and have awarded them AN Lions, a different take on the Biennale. This collection should also serve as a guidebook of sorts so that visitors throughout the summer can get some perspective on what to see, and how to get to the good stuff, without taking a whole week! 1. Pavilion of the Western Sahara In one of the bolder moves of the Biennale, Aravena assigned Swiss architect Manuel Herz and the Western Sahara a small spot on the lawn where last year sat a wooden replica of Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-ino, constructed by the Architectural Association. This year’s small, tent-like structure occupied a prominent space in the Giardini, giving the contested nation-state of a place alongside Belgium, the Netherlands, and Finland. The Western Sahara is a region that has been occupied by Morocco, so Herz commissioned a set of photos by Iwan Baan, and a set of large carpet-like tapestries produced by National Union of Sahrawi women in the “permanent” refugee camps where the Sahrawis have been living since the occupation forty years ago. 2. A World of Fragile Parts — Special Project Applied Arts Pavilion A project of the Victoria and Albert Museum and curated by Brendan Cormier, the exhibition shows the complex history of copying, including its role as a form of preservation, museological imperialism, resistance, and reportage. Starting from the plaster casts of the V&A’s 19th century Cast Courts, Cormier gathered contemporary projects that explore copying as an active engagement with the geopolitics of art, architecture, and culture. An illegally scanned bust of Nefertiti is on display, made possible by two artists who “took” it digitally from Germany’s Neues Museum in solidarity with Egypt’s pleas to return it to its original location. 3. Zaha Hadid Retrospective — Palazzo Franchetti If you have been wondering why the passing of Zaha Hadid was so important, then this show will let you into the discussion. If you already loved her work, this show will make you love her more. With original paintings, models, and drawings filling every inch of a baroque palazzo, this show presents Hadid's work that has rarely been seen anywhere else. 4. Bravoure — The Belgium Pavilion The Belgium Pavilion takes a look at the effects of scarcity on architecture. The pavilion, which has not been completely refinished since the last biennale, is filled with projects that blur the lines between built and speculation. The large images by Filip Dujardin are a highlight. 5. Fair Building — The Poland Pavilion This pavilion highlights the dirty little secret of architecture: The workers who build (and sometimes die) in construction. Architecture is social in construction, reception, and use, yet those who actually construct buildings are invisible to most architects. This pavilion, appropriately installed inside a grid of scaffolds, calls for “Fair Trade” buildings that recognize the value of construction labor. 6. Our Amazon Frontline — The Peru Pavilion In this pavilion titled "Our Amazon Frontline," the Peruvians highlight the traditional native visions of the ecologically valuable Amazon with modern ones and try to restore dignity to the native peoples of the region. A beautiful pavilion with an elegant-but-cheap display system of ropes holding plywood displays that focus on modular schools for the children of the region. It’s easy to miss but don’t! 7. Baltic States Pavilion — The Baltic Pavilion One of the most interesting venues—the spectacular Palasport gymnasium just around the corner from the Arsenale entrance—was the perfect venue for a sprawling, three country Baltic exhibition. The three countries banded together to display the history of resource extraction in their region. The display of post-Soviet infrastructures and the geologies, for some, will be a welcome large-scale project in the sea of smaller interventions at the Biennale.
8. Aires Mateus — Central Pavilion Mezzanine This installation is a response to those critics who argue that, while they agree with Aravena’s crises theme, there is no beauty in this biennale. This small, easy-to-miss installation tucked away in the Central Pavilion mezzanine is all about beauty. It argues that beauty is not an added layer of good taste but the capacity to capture and express human desires. The dark space was an inspiration to stumble into after a long day of forensic research.
9. The Class of 6.3: Rebuilding Nine Schools after the 2014 Chiang Rai Earthquake — The Thailand Pavilion This beautiful installation hidden in the back of the Arsenale takes the "building on stick" trope to a new level by suspending hundreds of wooden buildings that are attached to a spring-loaded plywood floor. This produces a chilling, quaking effect that provides the underlay for the nine projects. The earthquake-proof educations facilities are models above the sea of shaking buildings. 10. Home Economics: Five new models for domestic life — The British Pavilion Led by Jack Self, Shumi Bose, and Finn Williams, the British Pavilion addresses structural problems in the late capitalist housing market. It is a slightly more cynical version of Aravena’s position on scarcity. They propose new models of living that are rooted in real estate models and lifestyle arrangements. While it is impossible to escape the logic of the market, the British Pavilion looks at its structural foundations, from mobile technology to minimum furnishings to getting a mortgage, and projects possible futures ranging from inflatables to a bunk-like unit. 11. The Architectural Imagination — The U.S. Pavilion If only because of, or in spite of, the controversy surrounding the U.S. Pavilion, it is well worth seeing. Controversy aside, the pavilion holds some of the most beautiful drawings and models in the entire biennale. If you don’t agree with what you see, simply download the augmented reality app from Detroit Resists to see the pavilion through a new lens. 12. Makoko Floating School by Kunlé Adeyemi/NLÉ — Arsenale We have all seen Kunlé Adeyemi’s floating school barge on the internet for the last couple of years. It makes a celebrity appearance at this year’s biennale after a trip down the Grand Canal. Perhaps it's like the “Reporting From the Front” version of Aldo Rossi’s Teatro del Mundo, the floating companion to Strata Novissima (1980). Adeyemi originally designed the floating school structures for the lagoons of Lagos, Nigeria, where access to education is an ongoing struggle. The version that appeared in Venice is actually a second generation Floating School that has bigger structural members. The original was decommissioned and has since come down in Lagos. 13. Masonry arch by Solano Benítez/gabinete de arquitectura — Central Pavilion A spectacular start to the Central Pavilion, this brick structure hovers over visitors, giving a beautiful form to what Aravena calls “scarcity.” The architects claim it is built with just bricks and unqualified labor, which might be an exaggeration, but nonetheless, it is a stunning piece of architecture, and it won the Golden Lion for a reason. 14. Heroic: Free Shipping — The Serbian Pavilion The sublime Serbian Pavilion takes a look back in on architecture and critiques the treatment of freelance and intern workers. The boat shaped blue room is devoid of architectural proposals, and instead is meant to be a respite from the rest of the show. The pithy description and pile of thousands of intern rejection letters at the entrance give you something to read while recharging in the space. 15. Making Heimet. Germany, Arrival Country — The German Pavilion The German Pavilion is a must-see, especially if you have been to a past biennale. Winning a battle to alter the historic building, the curators cut four large entrances in exterior walls, changing the entire space of the pavilion. The wall graphics are a bit heavy handed and the message of openness is a bit literal, but it is a great place to rest and congregate. 16. The War on Bending — Ochsendorf, Block, and DeJong This exhibit in the Arsenale makes a case for compression in building. Rejecting the flatness and tension, the War on Bending produces a spectacular vaulting space that is held in place completely be compression. Of many of the material-based projects in the show, this one is the clearest in showing how old and new technology can be blended to make evocative space. 17. Blue: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions — The Dutch Pavilion The Dutch Pavilion is a simple but brilliant idea to highlight United Nations peacekeeping mission buildings that can be usefully repurposed if and when the peacekeepers move on. Curated by Malkit Shoshan of the think-tank FAST, it highlights the spatial challenges and opportunities of this complex situation and proposes that design be made part of peacekeeping buildings and be based on the conditions that arise post-peacekeeping mission. 18. Reboot — The Uruguay Pavilion The Uruguayans challenged visitors to don "invisibility cloaks" and steal items from other pavilions. The action is a response to the concept of informality, as the curators claim that illegality is "a main component of informality beyond its pauperism and hypocritical perception." The objects will be shipped back to Montevideo for an exhibition that reports from the front. You may have a hard time seeing the actual object, however, as the action has caused some controversy and some of the pricier booty has been returned, while the rest is hidden away. 19. Nordic Pavilion The Nordic Pavilion has a deceptively simple setup, as projects are presented bluntly on flyers. The curators constructed a wooden pyramid that acts as a social condenser and blocks the iconic trees in Sverre Finn's famous building that many call the most beautiful in the Giardini. The new construction is a metaphor for the relationship of contemporary architects with the masters of Nordic architecture's past. The pyramid obscures the trees, but still allows visitors to see them. It also gives a new perspective on the eight-foot-deep lightwell-roof-structure for which the building is known. Go climb the installation and look at the exquisite detailing of the board-formed concrete beams. 20. Wayward Eye: The Photography of Denise Scott Brown — Palazzo Mora This exhibition of Denise's photos "from Venice to Venice" shows her broad range of interests in the 1950s and 1960s: automobile cities of the American Southwest, social change, multiculturalism, action, everyday architecture, “messy vitality,” iconography, and Pop Art. There is quite a bit to see in this show, which also includes strip signs and a Rezzonico-Tourisissimo chandelier, purpose-made for the show in Murano alongside her pictures of 1950s Venice and 1960s California and Nevada.The Thailand Pavilion title "Class of 6.3", profiles 9 rebuilding efforts for schools after the 2014 earthquake. Spring loaded floors make the model shake. #biennalearchitettura2016 A video posted by The Architect's Newspaper (@archpaper) on
The board of the Venice Biennale announced today that Phyllis Lambert is the 2014 recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for the 14th Architecture Biennale, Fundamentals. Best known for championing the selection of Mies van der Rohe to design the Seagram Building for her family and for founding the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Lambert has worked as an architect, author, curator, and advocate for contemporary architecture and historic preservation. In a statement, board chair Paolo Barata praised Lambert's contribution to the field:
Not as an architect, but as a client and custodian, Phyllis Lambert has made a huge contribution to architecture. Without her participation, one of the few realizations in the 20th century of perfection—the Seagram Building in New York—would not have happened. Her creation of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal combines rare vision with rare generosity to preserve crucial episodes of architecture's heritage and to study them under ideal conditions. Architects make architecture; Phyllis Lambert made architects.She will be presented with the award on June 7 at the Biennale.
It's been a hot and highly stimulating few days at the Venice Biennale. David Chipperfield's theme, "Common Ground," which sought to establish connections across architecture culture, has proven surprising divisive. Some loved the elegant progression of projects in the Arsenale, which included everything from expressionist displays by Zaha Hadid, to neo-postmodern confections by FAT, to a hand built house by Anupama Kundoo, all of which managed to mingle thanks to Chipperfield's tasteful curation. Some formalists griped that the show was regressive, while more socially engaged architects thought it too estheticizing. Still, every Biennale must crown its winners. This year's Golden Lion for the international exhibition went to Torre David/Gran Horizante by Urban-Think Tank (Alfredo Brillembourg and Herbert Klumpner) and Justin McGuirk, an investigation, featuring photography by Iwan Baan, of an informal community built in an abandoned, unfinished skyscraper in Caracas. The team created an bar inside the Arsenale which featured food, music, drinks, and neon lights to showcase their work and transform the atmosphere of the overall exhibition. The Silver Lion, for a promising practice, was give to Grafton Architects (Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara) for their investigation of the work of Paolo Mendes da Rocha. Cino Zucchi was given a special mention by the jury as well. The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement was given to the widely admired Portuguese architect Alvara Siza Viera, who was asked to build a site specific work behind the Arsenale. In his remarks, David Chipperfield noted that though Siza works in isolation, his work "exudes worldliness." The Japanese Pavilion was given the Golden Lion for Best National Pavilion. Their Pavilion featured a post-tsunami rebuilding project led by Toyo Ito. Pavilions by Russia, Poland, and the United States were all given special mentions. Wiel Arets, Robert A.M. Stern, Benedetta Tagliabue, and Alan Yentob served as jurors.
Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira has been awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. The announcement was made today by Biennale board director Paolo Baratta and director David Chipperfield, who noted Siza's authority on designing with bold forms, shaping light, and creating reflective compositions. “Secured by his isolated location, he exudes worldly wisdom. Experimenting with forms of extreme geometry he manages to produce buildings of great rigor. Developing an architectural language that is uniquely his, he seems to speak to all of us. While his work exudes the security of judgment, it is clearly intensified through cautious reflection. While we are dazzled by the lightness of his buildings, we feel the seriousness of their substance," Baratta and Chipperfield said in a statement. “It is difficult to think of a contemporary architect who has maintained such a consistent presence within the profession as Álvaro Siza. That this presence is maintained by an architect that lives and works at the extreme Atlantic margin of Europe only serves to emphasise his authority and his status,” according to a statement. “Since the early appreciation of the Boa Nova restaurant and the swimming pools at Leca de Palmeira and a reputation confirmed by the early houses, Siza has maintained a unique position in the architectural galaxy. This position is full of paradox. Siza has upheld a consistent production of works at the highest level, yet without the slightest hint of the overt professionalism and promotion that has become part of the contemporary architect’s machinery. Apparently running in the opposite direction to the rest of the profession he always seems to be out in front, seemingly untainted and undaunted by the practical and intellectual challenges he sets himself." Siza will be officially honored during a ceremony on Sugust 29, 2012.
The 2010 Venice architecture biennale closed on Saturday—at least for media representatives, as journalists were required for the first time to turn in their press passes and enter as public citizens (tickets, $25). I hated giving up that pass as it allowed me access to the exhibitions both at the Arsenale and in the giardini, home of the national pavilions. Though Venice is hardly a major military installation there are canals in the area that are off-limits to civilians; a water taxi driver informed my group that only a special permit would get us into the canal so I produced my press pass and he said “va bene” and he drove us up the canal. The power of the press! I walked the exhibition again but this time trying to imagine the message it was communicating to the public rather than to professionals. It was now no longer possible to speak with the designers of the installations who were made available for the press to help explain their projects. In one bay of the Arsenale, for example, an elaborate recording studio space had been created in which Hans Ulrich Obrist dramatically interviewed biennale participants live during the vernissage but there was now only silent faces of interviewees on isolated flat screens with voices accessible by head phones. The fantastically elegant installation Architecture as Air: Study for Chateau la Coste by the Japanese architect Junya Ishigami was still there, that highlight of jury day that was later, as we reported, knocked down by a rampaging cat the night before the opening. Now as you walk by the piece, its a huge bare room with monofilament fragments scattered across the floor, a mere memory of the installation that won the Golden Lion for the best project in the exhibition. Small groups of workers are trying to figure out how to reconnect the piece, while at a computer, some five techies try to figure out how to put it back together again before the end of the biennale. Visitors still wonder by, not sure what to make of the mess. In fact, the Venice biennale, like any architecture exhibition, communicates with two audiences between which its curators and directors must always mediate: the professional and academic architecture community, including the design press, and the public, particularly young students from Italy and Europe. This problem of how to display architecture to different audiences is of course an issue with any architecture exhibit, but in Venice it takes on added meaning because architects have looked to the biennale as the most experimental and trend-setting event in the architecture world. Yet its curators—from the first by Vittorio Gregotti (“On the Subject of the Stucky Mill”) to this year’s Kazuyo Sejima (People Meet in Architecture)—always claim they are thinking of the public first when they create their biennales. Which always leads them to being slammed by the design press for elitism and lack of concern for the public. The question of how to display architecture in an exhibition is not an easy one to answer but criticism most often focuses on each biennale’s emphasis on art-like installations rather than on attempts to grapple seriously with the important architecture and urban issues of the day. Gregotti, for example claimed that when it comes to presenting architecture “communicating with the public is practically impossible” but then he did the first biennale in which he claimed: “I wanted to make a clear and certain declaration that the biennale was open to the public, to Venice and to non-specialists.” Even the curator of the famous 1980 Strada Novissima exhibition in the Arsenale, Paolo Portoghesi, asserted at the time that architecture had lost its ability to “speak to the common people.” But this lack of communicating was behind the creation of his cinematic facades lining both sides of the Arsenale. The best exhibitions of architecture, according to biennale president Paolo Baratta, are the ones that are the most cinematic and entertaining. Yet it is equally true that the best ones are those that inspire without preaching. How well did the 2010 biennale do in this regard? This is the fourth Venice biennale that I have attended and this year there seemed to be even more displays of art-like installations than before. Mostly, they focused on the nature of design as a way of inspiring people to recognize the power of architecture. But then the question is, whether design in the absence of urbanism is architecture or just design? The great thing about the biennale is that there is always something for everyone to love (or to hate) regardless of their position. The Kingdom of Bahrain’s national pavilion consisting of actual hand-hewn shacks imported for display and judged the best by the biennale team of jurors, proved that architectural ideas and concerns can be displayed in an exhibition setting. Throughout the biennale many exhibition spaces were, in fact, examples of architectural ideas on display that didn’t need to resort to strategies of artistic practice. It should be noted that in the biannual complaining— for which opportunities abounded at such venues as Raumlabor Berlin’s inflatable bubble space, Volume journal’s Dutch pavilion, and Robert White’s Dark Side club soireés—concerns about cost and exclusivity of its message are now getting more serious. There were many people speculating that the biennale format may have outlived its usefulness and should be abandoned. Some of this is a reflection of the ubiquity of communications and image-making on the web, but it is also a feeling that money would be better spent on solving more demanding issues, like poverty and affordable housing. I know from experience that staging a biennale in a national pavilion cost in excess of $400,000, and there are rumors that this year the Austrian pavilion cost in excess of $800,000, while the Germans at their pavilion showed only drawings and it still cost $650,000. If you add up all the pavilions, the Arsenale, the giardini, not to mention the parties and airfare, this is a $20 million to $30 million affair, an increasingly flashy two-month party. How much longer can, or should, we carry on? Look for a final blog post on the Golden Lions, the national pavilions, and the events surrounding the biennale.