Posts tagged with "Venice Architecture Biennale":

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Why hasn’t the U.S. Department of State announced the U.S. Pavilion for the Venice Architecture Biennale?

When is the U.S. Department of State going to announce the commissioners of the 2018 American pavilion for the Venice Biennale of Architecture? It’s full year away from opening but, in fact, it's getting late in the process to create, fund, and install the exhibition. The American pavilion was for many years (the Biennale of Architecture began in the 1970s) a casual affair and officials would sometimes wait until last minute and simply call Philip Johnson and ask him for a theme—and to help fund the pavilion. In 2008, the State Department, the federal agency that organizes and partially funds the pavilion, began to systematize the pavilion's creation by implementing a traditional RFP process to select a theme and curators. The Department asked the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to organize a jury of peers to select the pavilion for Venice and, it was hoped, other national art and architecture exhibitions like Istanbul and Cairo. This has been the system since 2008 and has helped make the process more democratic and easier to organize. But what is up with the State Department announcement for 2018? We understand that the exhibition has been funded (by both the State Department and the NEA) and the NEA has passed on their recommendation of the top two applications. However, the deputy secretary at the State Department seems to be sitting on the announcement? One source claims that at least one of the finalists has been told they are in the running and the non-finalists informed (there were apparently a record number of recommendations this year) but at least one of the groups that submitted a proposal has not been contacted. Is this inaction a result of the Trumpian incompetence that we hear is spreading all over Washington or is there is simply no interest in having a pavilion at Venice in 2018?
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The 2018 Venice Biennale will focus on generosity and thoughtfulness within architecture

Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, who are both principals at Dublin-based Grafton Architects and are curating the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, have disclosed their agenda for the Biennale. Titled Freespace, Farrell and McNamara explained at a press event that the 16th Biennale will exhibit "a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture's agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself." Officially, La Biennale Architettura 2018 will be known as The 16th International Architecture Exhibition Freespace and will begin on May 26th, running through November 25. At the press event held yesterday at Ca’ Giustinian in Venice, Farrell and McNamara elaborated on their plans, defining Freespace as the following:
  • Freespace describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture's agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself.
  • Freespace focuses on architecture’s ability to provide free and additional spatial gifts to those who use it and on its ability to address the unspoken wishes of strangers.
  • Freespace celebrates architecture’s capacity to find additional and unexpected generosity in each project - even within the most private, defensive, exclusive or commercially restricted conditions.
  • Freespace provides the opportunity to emphasise nature’s free gifts of light - sunlight and moonlight, air, gravity, materials—natural and man-made resources.
  • Freespace encourages reviewing ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the well being and dignity of  each citizen of this fragile planet.
  • Freespace can be a space for opportunity, a democratic space, un-programmed and free for uses not yet conceived. There is an exchange between people and buildings that happens, even if not intended or designed, so buildings themselves find ways of sharing and engaging with people over time, long after the architect has left the scene.
  • Freespace encompasses freedom to imagine, the free space of time and memory, binding past, present and future together, building on inherited cultural layers, weaving the archaic with the contemporary.
Farrell and McNamara continued, adding that the Biennale will showcase works of architecture—built and/or unbuilt—that exhibit "modulation, richness, and materiality of surface; the orchestration and sequencing of movement, revealing the embodied power and beauty of architecture." The pair also stated that they wish for the Biennale engage visitors emotionally and intellectually and to invoke discussion on architecture's contribution to humanity. In this sense, Farrell and McNamara's agenda is a riff on Alejandro Aravena's previously curated Reporting From the Front, which took a more hedonistic approach in addressing the overlap between architecture and global social issues. The Irish duo concluded their statement by saying:
We are interested in going beyond the visual, emphasizing the role of architecture in the choreography of daily life. We see the earth as Client. This brings with it long-lasting responsibilities. Architecture is the play of light, sun, shade, moon, air, wind, gravity in ways that reveal the mysteries of the world. All of these resources are free. It is 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. Architecture that embodies these qualities and does so with generosity and a desire for exchange is what we call Freespace. “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in” - Greek Proverb.
About Grafton Architects: 
Farrell and McNamara founded Grafton Architects in 1977 and made their first Biennale appearance in 2002. In 2012, their firm won the Silver Lion for a promising practice. Their projects are mostly institutional—for universities, schools, and governments—and are spread across the globe. Most recently, their Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) building, seen above, won the inaugural 2016 RIBA International Prize.
Their statement in full, along with President of La Biennale di Venezia, Paolo Baratta's remarks, can be found here.
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Iwan Baan captures Makoko floating down the Grand Canal

There is always much to make one feel angry and discouraged and the Venice Architecture Biennale (more on that later). But then something unexpected and magical happens to save the day and remind us why this event (and city) is so special and worth coming to every year. NLÉ's Makoko Floating School project is well known, but a new one was constructed for the Biennale and floated down the Grand Canal to be stationed at the Giardini. In this case I was not able to be a witness to this floating event, but I ran into photographer Iwan Baan in the Arsenale and he forwarded this to me. I could not resist sharing this video. Thank you, Iwan!
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The United States Pavilion designs for Detroit at the Venice Biennale

This year's United States Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon, will feature 12 offices from across the country. Entitled The Architectural Imagination, the exhibition explores designs for Detroit, Michigan as a space for architectural speculation. Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan was selected to organize the exhibition, which will be open from May 28th through November 27th in Venice Italy. Curators Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon selected the 12 teams of architects from more than 250 submissions. They are: A(n) Office, Detroit, Michigan Marcelo López-Dinardi; V. Mitch McEwen BairBalliet, Columbus, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois Kelly Bair; Kristy Balliet Greg Lynn FORM, Los Angeles, California Greg Lynn Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Atlanta, Georgia Mack Scogin; Merrill Elam Marshall Brown Projects, Chicago, Illinois Marshall Brown MOS Architects, New York, New York Hilary Sample; Michael Meredith Pita & Bloom, Los Angeles, California Florencia Pita; Jackilin Hah Bloom Present Future, Houston, Texas Albert Pope; Jesús Vassallo Preston Scott Cohen Inc., Boston, Massachusetts Preston Scott Cohen SAA/Stan Allen Architect, New York, New York Stan Allen T+E+A+M, Ann Arbor, Michigan Thom Moran; Ellie Abrons; Adam Fure; Meredith Miller Zago Architecture, Los Angeles, California Andrew Zago; Laura Bouwman
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BairBalliet uses novel spatial techniques to speculate on future Detroit development for the Venice Biennale

For this year’s U.S. Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale, 12 teams from across the country were selected to design speculative architecture for Detroit. Entitled the “Architectural Imagination,” the pavilion will focus on presenting urban ideas that could be used around the world. One of the offices chosen is the Columbus, Ohio- and Chicago-based BairBalliet. Comprised of Kelly Bair, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Architecture, and Kristy Balliet, an assistant professor at the Knowlton School of Architecture at the Ohio State University, BairBalliet was formed specifically for the biennale. Given a 26-acre site on Detroit’s west side along the Detroit River, near the Corktown neighborhood, BairBalliet set out to produce a project that would connect the neighborhood to the water.

Bair and Balliet also have their own practices, Central Standard Office and Balliet Studio, respectively. The new office has come to develop a larger project: “Originally we joined forces because we saw some similarities in our work, but I also think we have specific things that we work on individually. The more we worked together though, I found that some of Kristy’s work filled in where my project was lacking,” Bair said, also explaining how they were able to work while living in different cities. “We used the Chicago Biennial weekend as a launching point for the project. That weekend was our first of several in-person charrette weekends, filling in with daily conference calls and remote work sessions between visits.”

The duo used an unexpected digital medium to communicate during the initial design: “In the beginning we used GIFs as a means to prepare for collaborative design calls. These would build up a narrative and a visual attitude to which the other could react,” said Bair. The GIFs were collections of stills that were curated and timed to convey a sense of their thoughts about everything from site strategies to formal decisions. Bair and Balliet found that the flickering of animated drawings facilitated a way of seeing the project in which ideas could be combined and reconfigured into completely new strategies.

Part of the design process included meeting with local Detroiters about the chosen site’s future. The team was exposed to the visions of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Projects Detroit Future City, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation as well as local neighborhood residents. What they took away was a sense of the site’s strong connection to the core of downtown and the evolving adjacent neighborhood as the riverfront continues to develop.

For the design, which will be revealed in Venice, nearby programs, including light-industrial, small-scale residential, and retail, are overlaid with leisure spaces as the project unfolds towards the river. Conceptually, BairBalliet thought of the project as a new port-of-call, a place that is never experienced the same way twice.

BairBalliet’s bas relief and site model, along with other visual media, will be unveiled at the Venice Biennale, opening May 28th. The U.S. Department of State selected the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan to organize the exhibition of the United States Pavilion in the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon are Co-Curators of the U.S. Pavilion.

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In Cathedrals of Culture, Wim Wenders and Robert Redford Explore Monuments of Architecture

In 2010, director Wim Wenders created a 3D video installation at the Venice Architecture Biennale about the Bolex Learning Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, called If These Walls Could Talk. The ability to visually explore the building and simulate being inside the space that the medium affords inspired him to team up with Robert Redford to create a 3D series called Cathedrals of Culture, which will be shown at the IFC Center in New York beginning on May 1. And talk they do. There are six half-hour films, all by different directors, shown in two programs, and five of them are narrated by the buildings themselves. Each is given a voice, which describes the feelings and observations of the structures. So we hear in the first person from the Berlin Philharmonic (Hans Scharoun), the Oslo Opera House (Snohetta), Halden Prison (EMA), The National Library of Russia (Yegor Sokolov), and the Centre Pompidou (Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers). Only the Salk Institute (Louis Kahn) doesn’t employ this technique and is the most successful program. At Salk, it's the perfect melding of brief and building, science and art, the two sparking each other off to make magic. It is now complemented by a like-minded film. Directed by Robert Redford and with stunning cinematography by Ed Lachmann and music by Moby, the film captures the essence of the building and molds the spaces. Kahn’s structure clearly affects the work of the scientists, who speak about "genius loci," the spirit of place. There’s a wonderful image of the staff assembled in a circle and then fanning out across the plaza, like a living organism. We see and hear both Jonas Salk and Louis Kahn, and learn that they raised each other’s game and made a better building; Salk insisted Kahn throw out the first design, and Kahn rebuts that the client isn’t an architect. Then Salk says "eventually Lou Kahn became quite a biologist, and I came to appreciate the importance of aesthetics…to bring out the spirit and soul of man." The campus is filled with light, which hits home when Edward R. Murrow asks Salk who owns the patent for the polio vaccine?: "The people," he replies. "Would you patent the sun?" In the same program is the Centre Pompidou by Karim Ainouz, a Brazilian filmmaker who studied architecture. He spends most of the episode inside the building, maximizing 3D by floating through tunnels, galleries, elevators, back-of-house spaces and the main hall which is treated like an airport arrival and departure lounge. The shot of a window washer gliding up the clear glass-walled escalator holding a sponge in one hand followed by a squeegee in another and letting the upward glide of the moving staircase do the work is pure ballet. The voice of the building is Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum in London and former editor of Blueprint magazine, who intones "In a digital century, a world of flickering pixels… a machine for culture that I am, which once seemed so violent, so threatening, has the nostalgic charm now of a steam engine." IFC Center. http://www.ifccenter.com Part 1: The Berlin Philharmonic. Director, Wim Wenders The National Library of Russia. Director, Michael Glawogger Halden Prison. Director, Michael Madsen Part 2: The Salk Institute. Director, Robert Redford The Oslo Opera House. Director, Margreth Olin Centre Pompidou. Director, Karim Ainouz
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2014 Venice Biennale kicks off with a major off-site presence

AN is already in Venice preparing an edited list of the best of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. The biennale in years past was confined to the spectacular Arsenale and the pavilion-filled giardini (some of the pavilions were designed by Carlo Scarpa), but one of the big changes in the past two biennials is the number of off-site events, pavilions, and installations that now participate in the architecture fair. For the first time the official biennale has published a listing of the considerable number of ancillary events around Venice. But arriving here we discovered that there are many more events taking place than are officially listed on the biennale website. For example, in the Serra dei Giardini and in the Cini-Venier Naval Institute, the Swedish art and architecture residency program, Botkyrka Konsthall, opens the Fittja Pavilion. The pavilion artists are presenting work inspired by the philosopher and farmer Masanobu Fukuoka in their thinking about how a new arts institution can be built through the element of chance and unexpected encounters. This garden installation includes New Yorker Lind Roy. The organizers are reevaluating the architecture and city planning of the 1960s and 1970s Sweden, a fascinating exercise (one we should be doing in New York) that shows why the biennale is still the most energizing and intellectually-challenging event on the architecture calendar. If you cannot make to to Venice, follow the biennale right here on the AN website.
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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?”
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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.