Quickly becoming the most must-see installation at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale is the first-time exhibitor, the Holy See. Ten fully-realized Vatican Chapels fill the gardens of San Giorgio Maggiore Island, a few vaporetto stops from the main events in the Giardini and Arsenale. Each designed by different offices form around the world, participants included the likes of London-based Norman Foster, New York-based Andrew Berman, Santiago-based Smiljan Radic, and Portugal’s Eduardo Souto de Moura, to name a few. An eleventh pavilion is dedicated to Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund and his Skogskapellet and Woodland Chapels in Stockholm. The Asplund Pavilion contains models and drawings of the two influential Nordic chapels. Designed by Francesco Magnani and Traudy Pelzal, the shingled structure references the woodland chapels iconic roof. Architectural photographer Tom Harris provided these exclusive images to AN from the day of the opening.
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Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination is an exhibition that shows the Catholic Church’s influence on fashion designers in imagery and symbolism, and the sumptuous garments and artifacts that inspired them. Exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Fifth Avenue flagship in the Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries for Byzantine Art, medieval galleries and sculpture hall, and the Robert Lehman Wing, and at the Met Cloisters in Washington Heights, it puts fashion in the context of the museum’s holdings—paintings, tapestries, decorative arts and architecture—a signature strategy of curator Andrew Bolton, who employed this technique in China: Through the Looking Glass in the Chinese Galleries and Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century in the Wrightsman Galleries. By contrast, The Vatican collection of clothing and jewelry, on loan from the Papacy, is displayed in the Anna Wintour Costume Center in a self-contained display (one descending, one is greeted by a priest’s cassock designed by artist Henri Matisse which resemble his cutouts, that was part of his commission for the interiors of the Chapel du Rosaire in Vence, France). Music by Samuel Barber, Gabriel Fauré, George Frideric Handel, Ennio Morricone, Michael Nyman, and Franz Schubert serenades you through the galleries. Heavenly Bodies was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with partner Liz Diller taking the lead. The 150 fashion ensembles from the early 20th century to the present, by designers who were largely raised Catholic are either ornate, or by contrast, monastic, usually dramatic, and sometimes over the top; they are set off by DS+R’s refined, solid and decidedly neutral platforms, vitrines, and pedestals in steel, concrete, and acrylic. Diller says she was channeling Carlo Scarpa (1906—1978), the Italian architect who infused contemporary aesthetics into historic building renovations, often museums; Castelvecchio Museum in a 14th-century Verona fortress, Fondazione Querini Stampalia in a 16th-century palazzo, Museo Canova in Possagno, and Pallazo Abatellis in Palermo. Diller, too, has found spareness and balance in her interventions, capitalizing on this collision of contrasts. The elegant custom display units include scored concrete pedestals that support cruciform metal tubes capped by a plinth that carries mannequins; clear acrylic boxes on dark gray-scored flooring; long horizontal metal tubes to hang multiple vestments; and a large cantilevered platform emerging from both sides of a partition to hold papal robes flat. “Fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another,” said Bolton. He cited the "parallels between a traditional fashion runway presentation and the liturgical processions of the Roman Catholic Church…theatrical spectacles that rely on the tropes of performance.” This dialogue is particularly strong at the Cloisters, where the physicality of the buildings heightens the interplay; the Cloisters is a pastiche of architectural elements from European monasteries, abbeys, and chapels that were dismantled stone-by-stone and reconstructed on a cliffside site overlooking the Hudson. One example is in the Gothic Chapel, which features pointed-arched stained glass windows and seven tombs with figurative sculpture effigies. John Galliano’s armored ensemble lies recumbent between two crypts, hovered over by Gareth Pugh’s black zippered outfits perched high on pedestals, while Olivier Theyskens’s red-headed figure in a black gown, fastened with hooks-and-eyes, stands below stained-glass windows in a row with female statues. In another instance, large, dramatic haloed lighting that spills onto darkened floors is featured both at the Cloisters on a Balenciaga-clad bride in the Romanesque Fuentidueña Apse, a semicircular apse with a single-aisle nave, and on Fifth Avenue in the Medieval Sculpture Hall spotlighting Dior-, Valentino-, and McQueen-dressed mannequins. The layout of these galleries mimics the longitudinal plan of a church, with a central nave and side aisles. The pairings of fashion with appropriate environments can be satisfying. The “monastic silhouettes and minimalist sensibilities…deceptively simple, pared-down” in monochromatic palettes of black, white, and brown by Geoffrey Beene, Madame Grès, Claire McCardell, and Rick Owens are very much at home in the Cloisters’ austere Cuixa Cloister and Pontaut Chapter House. In the Glass Gallery, overlooking the Cloisters’ Cuxa, Bonnefont, and Trie Gardens, rows of trees are interspersed with fashion by Dior, Valentino and Takahashi that were inspired by the paintings Adam and Eve (1526) by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (ca. 1490–1500), and Van Gogh’s Wheat Fields paintings. Similarly, the Unicorn Tapestry is paired with Thom Browne’s white puff of a wedding dress. Perhaps the most simpatico pairing is in the Nine Heroes Tapestries Room, where the fashion seems to directly mirror the Met’s art collection: Craig Green’s ensembles, which Women’s Wear Daily called “warrior monk,” closely resemble the French tapestries that depict King Arthur, Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Hector, and Christian and Hebrew heroes in color, texture, and style. Amusingly, Philip Treacy’s hats “in their architectural magnificence” with winged cornettes (think The Flying Nun) and molded forms in a series called Madonna Rides Again were inspired by the Burg Weiler Altarpiece which hangs behind it. Bolton writes, “The influential theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote his magnum opus based on the belief that we first perceive the mystery of God through beauty, not truth.” Here is beauty in abundance in a rich and reverent setting.
The 16th Venice Architecture Biennale curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara will feature national pavilions from several first-time exhibitors. Responding to the Biennale’s Freespace theme in manifold ways, the new participants deal with everything from humanity’s relationship to the environment to faith and religion. Saudi Arabia Commissioned by the Misk Art Institute, Saudi Arabia’s first Biennale pavilion, called Spaces in Between, will explore both the fragmentation and connection brought on by uneven urbanization and suburbanization. Turki and Abdulrahman Gazzaz, the brother founders of architectural design consultancy Brick Lab, will be realizing the project, which includes an installation of resin cylinders (the petroleum origin of which references the nation’s oil reserves that have fueled rapid urban development), sand from different regions of Saudi Arabia, and infographics. Venue: Arsenale Holy See The Vatican commissioned curator and historian Francesco Dal Co to select ten architects to contribute to Vatican Chapels, a collection of small chapels by architects from across the globe on Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore. The Holy See hopes that the chapels will not feel tied to the traditional church form, only requiring that they each have a pulpit and an altar, and have the ability to be reconstructed elsewhere. Visitors will enter Vatican Chapels through the Asplund Pavilion, which will present an exhibition of drawings by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund that is informed by his 1920 Woodland Chapel. Designed by Venice-based MAP Studio, the Asplund Pavilion will serve as both an anchor and as a point of departure for the rest of Vatican Chapels. The participating architects are Andrew Berman (United States), Carla Juaçaba (Brazil), Eduardo Souto de Moura (Portugal), Eva Prats & Ricardo Flores (Spain), Francesco Cellini (Italy), Javier Corvalán (Paraguay), Norman Foster (United Kingdom), Sean Godsell (Australia), Smiljan Radic (Chile), and Terunobu Fujimori (Japan). Venue: Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore Pakistan Curated by Karachi-based architect and scholar Sami Chohan, The Fold will be Pakistan’s first presentation at the Biennale. Exploring the dense, informal settlements of Pakistan’s most populous (and the world’s third largest) city, Karachi, The Fold considers open space in the face of constant contraction. As a city that has grown 20-fold in the past 70 years, Karachi’s constricted public space often cannot take the form of parks and other traditional open spaces. Instead, public space grows from the social interactions that limn the corridors of these narrow settlements—constructing a dense form of urban “openness.” Venue: Giardini della Marinaressa – Giardino di Levante Antigua and Barbuda Curated by landscape architect Barbara Paca, Antigua and Barbuda’s exhibition at Venice will be known as Environmental Justice as a Civil Right. The exhibition centers on three sites in Antigua and Barbuda, using them to interrogate the relationship between architecture and the environment by way of models, drawings, and other objects. Venue: Don Orione Artigianelli, Dorsoduro 919 Guatemala Stigma, curated by Stefania Pieralice, Carlo Marraffa, and Elsie Wunderlich, explores notions of virtual and utopian architecture. Responding to the crises of language, narrative, and meaning in postmodernity, the projects from Regina Dávila, Marco Manzo, Adriana Padilla Meyer, Studio Domus, UR Project, and Elsie Wunderlich imagine a “virtual city.” The pavilion will exhibit an array of models, monuments, and "large planispheres." Venue: Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello, Cannaregio 4118 Lebanon Lebanon’s first pavilion at the Biennale will gather numerous individuals, architects, artists, researchers, and institutions to reflect on unbuilt land and its use and disuse. Primarily focusing on the Beirut River and its watershed, the centerpiece of The Place that Remains, as the pavilion will be known, will be a comprehensive 3-D territorial model. The pavilion is curated by architect and Assistant Professor of Architecture at the Lebanese American University Hala Younes. Venue: Arsenale [googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d11121.408953772161!2d12.342916809924194!3d45.43572791299231!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x0%3A0x326075048d72cf38!2sDon+Orione+Artigianelli!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1526049177751&w=600&h=450]
Following the reveal of the Asplund Pavilion, a precursor to the ten chapels that the Vatican will be presenting at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, Foster + Partners has released renderings for the United Kingdom’s contribution. First announced in January, the Holy See’s pavilion, Vatican Chapels, will be built on San Giorgio Maggiore, a forested island across from St. Mark’s Square, and consist of ten temporary chapels meant to embrace the reverence of nature. The designs released by Foster + Partners show a serpentine timber pavilion that curves through the Venetian woods, with three distinct sections supported by cross-shaped structural elements. A series of perforated vertical slats will drape the exterior of the chapel, letting visitors glimpse the surrounding woodland while also dappling the interior with light and shadow. In a statement sent to AN, the final idea for the chapel arose from the concept of three symbolic crosses draped with a “tent-like membrane”; ultimately the crosses became anchoring masts and the membrane transformed into the lattice shown in the renderings. The chapel will be supported largely in part through tensioning between the different components. “Our project started with the selection of the site,” said Norman Foster in a statement. “On a visit to San Giorgio Maggiore, close to Palladio’s magnificent church and the Teatro Verde, we found a green space with two mature trees beautifully framing the view of the lagoon. It was like a small oasis in the big garden, perfect for contemplation. Our aim is to create a small sanctuary space diffused with dappled shade and removed from the normality of passers-by, focused instead on the water and sky beyond.” The 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale is the first time that the Vatican will be represented at the festival. In describing their design approach, the Church emphasized that the chapels–each built by a team from a different country–are meant to express Catholicism through that country’s unique history with the religion. After the conclusion of the Biennale, the chapels will be sent all over the world to serve in areas lacking dedicated houses of worship. Foster + Partners’ chapel is being constructed in partnership with Italian furniture manufacturer Tecno. The pavilion’s opening ceremony will be held on May 25, and will remain on display through November 18, 2018.
At a press conference this morning, Vatican officials revealed more details surrounding the Holy See pavilion, Vatican City's first-ever foray into the Venice Architecture Biennale. The pavilion, which was first announced in January, will consist of ten full-scale chapels that can reconstructed and deployed to parishes anywhere in the world. Vatican Chapels, as the project is officially known, will be erected in a forest on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, opposite St. Mark's Square. The ten chapels are intended to symbolically reference the Ten Commandments ("a sort of decalogue of presences"). Each structure will contain a pulpit and an altar, two traditional features of a Catholic place of worship. A Holy See press release described the thinking behind the directive:
"A visit to the ten Vatican Chapels, then, is a sort of pilgrimage that is not only religious but also secular. It is a path for all who wish to rediscover beauty, silence, the interior and transcendent voice, the human fraternity of being together in the assembly of people, and the loneliness of the woodland where one can experience the rustle of nature which is like a cosmic temple."Before setting foot inside the ten spaces, visitors will enter the Asplund Pavilion, an exhibition of drawings of Gunnar Asplund's Woodland Chapel, a space of worship the Swedish architect constructed inside Stockholm Cemetery in 1920. In this work, the Holy See said Asplund "defined the chapel as a place of orientation, encounter and meditation, seemingly formed by chance or natural forces inside a vast forest," a brick-and-mortar manifestation of life's progress. The Church is encouraging the participating architects, including the U.K.'s Norman Foster, to respond to the themes Asplund suggested in his Woodland Chapel, but more radically. Designed by Venice-based MAP Studio, the Asplund Pavilion will balance the ten architects' ten chapels, which, the Church said, will not be like typical churches. Instead, they will be designed "without any reference to generally recognized canons, and without being able to rely on any model from a typological viewpoint ..." The design proposals have not been made public at this time, though the Church has confirmed they will be sited in a wooded area on San Giorgio Maggiore. With few exceptions, pavilions are associated with places, and specifically nation-states, but the Holy See, which is based in Vatican City, represents the Catholic Church the world over. Although this will be the first time the Church has entered the Venice Architecture Biennale, Vatican City participated in the Venice Biennale in 2013 and again in 2015. The art biennale is held in odd years while architecture biennale takes place in even years. Today, ALPI released renderings of MAP Studio's design for the Asplund Pavilion. The exterior, pictured at top, is clad in 9,000 composite wood shingles by the Italian company ALPI, while the interior, above, features display nooks for Asplund's drawings. 3/21/18: This post has been updated with new renderings and more information about the Asplund Pavilion.
NORBERT HAS LEFT THE BUILDING Two issues ago, we brought your attention to a lawsuit in which Reed Construction Data accuses the McGraw-Hill Construction Group of industrial espionage, mail fraud, and racketeering. Norbert Young, president of the construction group, which includes Architectural Record, was mentioned twice as the alleged spy supervisor. Since then, an internal memorandum on November 9 seems damning in its terseness: “I wanted to inform you that Norbert Young has left The McGraw-Hill Companies.” That’s it. No reason given, no thank you for years of service—just the name of the person-in-charge-for-now and a boilerplate pledge to sound leadership and innovation. Cold. THE POPE AND THE ARCHITECTS The Catholic Church works in mysterious ways. One day it’s condemning, the next embracing. Eavesdrop’s eyebrow arched upon seeing that Pope Benedict XVI had invited 500 artists, architects, musicians, film directors, and one Italian prima ballerina to meet him for a “dialogue”—the Pope did all the talking—between the Catholic church and the arts. Half of the 500 mostly Italian invitees accepted, and among the blessed were Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Mario Botta, Santiago Calatrava, and David Chipperfield. It gets stranger. Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the director of the Pontifical Council for Culture, organized the event as “the first of many initiatives to bridge the widening gap between spirituality and artistic expression.” At a news conference, he proclaimed that this gap is evident in the art and architecture of many modern churches, which he said “do not offer beauty, but rather ugliness.” Then *Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, cast more stones at modern architecture by adding, “Nowadays, many people live in the dreary outskirts of cities in ugly houses. They go to church, and it’s uglier still!” Eavesdrop begs his pardon and stammers that we didn’t come all the way to the Sistine Chapel to be insulted. Renzo Piano, Tadao Ando, and Richard Meier have built Catholic churches recently. Surely they are among those Ravasi acknowledged at the press conference as having pleased their parishioners. Or perhaps this backhanded compliment was aimed right at ’em: “Great modern architects do not want interference with the purity of their buildings.” GOT THE UGLIES Let Curbed.com and Vanity Fair anoint the Best; VirtualTourist.com has gone rogue with its second annual list of the “World’s Top 10 Ugly Buildings.” Only two U.S. structures made the cut: John Johansen’s 1967 Mechanics Theater in Baltimore and Haigh Jamgochian’s 1962 crumpled Markel Building in Richmond. And Yes, Virginia, Libeskind’s Royal Ontario Museum addition made the list, too.