Posts tagged with "Venice Architecture Biennale":

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Traditional and unconventional materials abound at the Venice Biennale

At this year’s Venice Biennale, the title and theme "Reporting from the Front" charges architects from around the world to present projects that “make a difference” on the front lines of the world’s current challenges. A range of topics—refugee immigration, militarized space, social housing, spaces of education, and more—are addressed throughout the show. Though the discussion varies, one concept seems to pervade the show: the novel or uncommon use of materials. The study of material usage isn't outside normal architectural practice. However at this particular Biennale, the conversation surrounding materials, form, and space is taken to an extreme. This is most prevalent throughout the portion of the show that is specifically curated by head curator Alejandro Aravena. The central pavilion and the Arsenale, the two major spaces of Aravena’s show, are filled with projects that present the literal physicalness of materials. This focus on materials is first evident in the main entrances of both spaces. To discuss waste, and take an inward look at the Biennale itself, Arevena reconfigured thousands of pounds of plasterboard and steel studs from the 2015 Art Biennale. The plasterboard was broken and staked into masonry-style walls; the steel studs hang on end from the ceiling. Continuing into the central pavilion, the space opens up to reveal a soaring brick masonry arch by Paraguay-based Solano Benítez. Rather than a typical brick arch, the bricks were configured into thin members, giving the arch a lightness and seeming fragility. Subsequent rooms engage other materials in similarly unconventional ways. Epic bamboo structures and living plant walls are presented by Colombia-based Simón Vélez and Vietnam-based Vo Trong Nghia, respectively. In an exhibit entitled Mud Work! by Germany-based Anna Heringer, a full scale mud structure is built in the center of the gallery. The material studies continue into the Arsenale. As with a handful of other projects, China-based Wang Shu looks at local and traditional building technologies in a series of brick and tile vignettes. International building consultants Transsolar’s contribution is completely composed of light and a thin vail of artificial fog. An entire space is dedicated to a series of sunlight beams coming through the roof of the building into the dark space. Polish architect Hugon Kowalski works in a material nearly polar opposite of Transsolar’s in his garbage and trash-filled exhibit. In more than one case, small structures are built with board-form concrete or simply stacked bricks. Metal scaffolding is utilized in multiple exhibits as well. As a whole, the show is decidedly tactile. There is a great deal to touch and many spaces have a decidedly strong, yet not necessarily unpleasant, smell. Though not completely devoid of models and drawings, most of these typical modes of representation are presented in the National Pavilions, of which Aravena has much less influence. The significance of this strong emphasis on material practices could be read in many ways. Without a frame of reference outside the exhibition, visitors might focus on a proliferation of traditional building techniques and materials. Considering a broader context though, one could easily question the definition, and engagement, of what Aravena defines as the “front” of architectural issues around the world. If Aravena’s assessment is accurate, perhaps we should be expecting to see more and more architect-designed “vernacular” in the coming years.
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Not part of the official Biennale, The Architecture Lobby to premier booklet at the New Zealand Exhibition

The Architecture Lobby is the most progressive architecture non-profit organization in the United States. It should be in the Arsenale and part of Reporting From the Front. That is not happening, so the Lobby has scrambled to participate in two collateral events. The Architecture Lobby will debut its edited booklet, Asymmetric Labors: The Economy of Architecture in Theory and Practice at the 2016 at the New Zealand Exhibition (Palazzo Bollani, Castello 3647, Venezia). This afternoon event will take place from 15:00-17:00, Friday 27 May 2016. Later that day, the Lobby will participate in Architects Meet in Fuoribiennale (Palazzo Widmann, Calle Widmann, 30121 Cannaregio, Venice).
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Venice welcomes its first “nation in exile” whose pavilion highlights a little-known refugee crisis

This is the first time in the Venice Architecture Biennale's 15 seasons that a "nation in exile" has been invited to set up a pavilion alongside established nation-states. The Western Sahara Pavilion, organized by Manuel Herz with the National Union of Sahrawi Women, engages the culture of the Sahrawi, an ethnic group from the disputed territory that was forced to flee into neighboring Algeria during a war with Morocco and Mauritania in the 1970s. Today, between 48,000 and 194,000 Sahrawis live in Algerian refugee camps, unable to return to a territory whose sovereignty is recognized by only 40 nations worldwide. As temporary spaces of exception turned into permanent places of residence, the Sahrawis adopted and invented novel sets of urban and architectural practices. Rabouni, the first camp established in 1976, became a capital of the semi-sovereign, displaced nation: The city contains a parliament, national archive, museum, and other institutions that confer permanence. For the tent-shaped pavilion, over 30 women wove tapestries that depict buildings, maps, and conditions in the camps. The organizers of the pavilion argue that by shaping space in this way, refugees are using institutions as tools for social liberation. Organizing via government is not a new or radical method of self-determination, but pavilion organizers hope that their presence in Venice with internationally recognized countries will invigorate debate around sovereignty, deterritorialization, and shaping space in an increasingly post-national world.
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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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Digital Copies on display in Venice at “A World of Fragile Parts”

One of the more intriguing parts of the 15th Architecture Biennale in Venice is the addition of three "special pavilions." One is the Applied Arts Pavilion, which is home to the exhibition A World of Fragile Parts, a joint collaboration of La Biennale di Venezia and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). It was conceived as a 21st century version of the plaster castings that were made by the museum in the 19th century for the Cast Courts, which opened in 1873, to showcase the most grandiose plaster casts (including the famous Trajan’s Column in Rome). In the face of recent catastrophic events, such as the cultural destruction by militant groups, and environmental disasters brought about by climate change, curator Brendan Cormier is asking, "What do we copy and how? What is the relationship between the copy and the original in a society that values authenticity? And how can such an effort be properly coordinated at a truly global and inclusive scale?" With exhibition design by London's extraordinary Ordinary Architecture, the sprawling exhibition contains a number of plaster relics from the V&A, in addition to contemporary artists' works that deal with copying. The Other Nefertiti by Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, from 2015, is an illegally-obtained 3D scan of the bust of Nefertiti. The original has been held at the Neues Museum since its unveiling in Berlin in 1924, despite pleas to return it to its Egyptian home. The pair of artists secretly scanned the bust using a staged Kinect Xbox controller. #NefertitiHack is an "ethical art heist" and resulted in the files being downloaded and printed for display at the exhibition in Venice. Sam Jacob Studio is displaying a 1:1 scanned replica of a shelter from the Calais ‘Jungle’ refugee camp. The CNC-milled synthetic stone sculpture elevates this ad-hoc object of survival into an artwork. The mark of the machine is left, and parts of the tent are rendered in low-resolution, with the digital faceted geometry intact. Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) responded directly to the ISIS crisis, producing a copy of a part of Palmyra’s destroyed Triumphal Arch, which was destroyed in 2015. IDA used a computerized stone cutter to print the digital model that was created using photogrammetry, where hundreds of images are processed to produce a 3D file. It is part of the Million Image Database, an effort by the IDA to document world heritage through the distribution of special 3D cameras to volunteers around the world. “The increasing accessibility of 3D scanning and printing couldn’t be timelier in the context of cultural preservation, as the threat of destruction and damage of our global material heritage rises. A World of Fragile Parts poses questions related to the legitimacy, ownership and significance of copies while highlighting their preservation value as they allow for physical, but also for cultural, emotional and political survival," said Cormier.
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The Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid exhibits at the Venice Biennale

The Venice architecture biennale has released a list of 19 official collateral events taking place around the city during the biannual (in even years) event. It’s a fascinating list of projects, installations, national design programs, and it’s diversity shows why this is still the best event in the architecture calendar. But there are also dozens of unofficial events worth checking out. Here are two: Building in Paris by Frank Gehry at the Esapce Louis Vuitton (Calle del Ridotto 1353, 30124 Venezia) and Zaha Hadid at the Palazzo Franchetti on Campo Santo Stefano. The Gehry exhibit claims to “retrace the story of Frank Gehry’s dream through a selection of scale models themed by program, project design, interior spaces, “icebergs,” and glass sails. This exhibit also features an installation by Daniel Buren that incorporates the glass roof of the Esapce Louis Vuitton. The Zaha Hadid exhibit is a retrospective of the late, spectacular architect and was quickly assembled by Patrik Schumacher as a memorial. Both of these are on view through the run of the biennale, November 29th. Building in Paris May 27 – November 26, 2016 Monday – Saturday, 10:00am - 7.30pm, Sunday, 10.30am - 7.30p Espace Louis Vuitton Venezia, Calle del Ridotto 1353, 30124 Venezia #FondationLouisVuitton Zaha Hadid May 27 – November 26, 2016 Monday– Sunday, 10:00am - 6:00pm (10 euro entry fee, group rates available) Palazzo Franchetti
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Peter Cook, Patrik Schumacher, Odile Decq, and more will gather at this year’s Fuoribiennale in Venice

If you're in Venice for the 2016 architecture biennale, don’t just stay in the Arsenale or Giardini. Some of the most compelling events again this year take place in various out-of-the-way (bring your GPS) venues. A format of public discussions has developed that opens up to various audiences and themes like Robert White’s Dark Side Club, which began at midnight and featured spectacular dinners. The most public and accessible of events like these were begun by Luigi Prestinenza’s Fuoribiennale and are always staged at Palazzo Widmann on Calle Widmann (30121 Cannaregio). This year it begins on Thursday May 26 and runs through the day and, on Friday May 27, ends with a party celebrating the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at 19:30. Fuoribiennale usually promotes and supports the work of young architecture practices and the positions of young critics and, again this year, the afternoon of Friday May 27 will devoted to featuring these groups and practices. AN will be speaking in the evening with Peter Cook, Patrik Schumacher, Aaron Betsky, Hani Rashid, Benedetta Tagliabue, Nanne de Ru, Hans Ibelings, Angelo Costa, Sophie Lovell, Dagmar Richter, Carlo Ratti, Lola Sheppard and others. For more information on the Fuoribiennale, visit this link here.
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Reporting from the Front (in Venice)

In Venice today, there is much less energy then last year's Biennale. There was much hype around Rem Koolhaas and his ambitious, almost spectacular direction. Today, Aravena's understated energy is seen throughout the exhibitions and programming. We got a first look inside the main exhibition at the Central Pavilion. The projects presented are a mixture of research and practice, loosely categorized under a social agenda. The curators gathered a group of very beautiful projects, which oscillate between scrappy and high design, but most are executed well. The majority of projects are not just about framing a condition or local solution, but they also present a design response to it. The first thing visitors see when entering the Central pavilion is a huge masonry arch by Solano Benitez. These brick are arranged using simple formworks made by "unqualified laborers" in Paraguay. Two masons on a cherry picker completed the project, which "turns scarcity into abundance," allowing us to urbanize cities faster and cheaper. Simon Velez's bamboo structures have taken him years of battling logistics and code issues. His use of the highly sustainable material is documented alongside models of these buildings. Across the room is an installation by Vietnamese architect Vo Trang Nghia; he's is bringing plants and agriculture to Ho Chi Mihn City, whose urban landscape has less greenspace than most large cities in the world. The projects in the pavilion are all very beautiful, but it remains to be seen what will come of this collection. Some of the works seem to be more of an aesthetic project than a social one, while others are very much political. Does that make the whole show an aesthetic project? If this is an agenda-based show, are we to learn from it? Is it about appreciating the novelty of some of these projects, or is it about taking the concepts and techniques with us? Will architects listen?
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Detroit in Venice: The U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

The United States Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Bienniale, entitled The Architectural Imagination, is opening for its six month run this weekend. Curated by Monica Ponce de Leon and Cynthia Davidson, the pavilion highlights 12 architecture firms speculating on four sites in the city of Detroit. Organized by the University of Michigan, the pavilion takes a focused look at a city that has become a popular topic in urban and architectural conversations. Each of the pavilion’s four rooms is dedicated to one site, with three projects each. The sites include Dequindre Cut/Eastern Market, a triangular city-owned site in Mexicantown, a riverfront site at the US Post Office, and the long abandoned 40 acre Packard Plant. Each office was given free range to define the program and form of there project. Projects ranged from a governmental district focused on refugee immigration by Andew Zago to a material reclamation plant by T+E+A+M. Each office was given a four-foot-by-eight-foot table on which to present two large scale models. Walls behind each model are dedicated to drawings, renderings, and process work. The Offices involved include: 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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The Architect’s Newspaper’s first report from the Venice Biennale

AN is back in Italy for the 2016 the Venice architecture biennale—this time with three full-time reporters and two very busy writers. We are covering every national pavilion in the Giardini and installations selected by biennale curator Alejandro Aravena in the spectacular Arsenale and Corderie. We have a few early insights about what Aravena is proposing for this version of the biennale but we want to visit them before commenting and posting on our website. We will be blogging what we find compelling and troubling in-and-out of the official pavilions, offsite palazzos, and public spaces all over la serenissima. The biennale is, for the first time, starting to take on the trappings of a commercial trade fair or convention. For the past two or three iterations of the biennale, there have been more nations without formal pavilions renting buildings around the city. For example, in 2012 Mozambique’s small installation showcased that country's colonial Portuguese buildings. The biennale has never entirely been free of commercialism either. But this year we are seeing a growing number of product manufacturers, architects, and practices coming to Venice and renting space to simply display their wares. They propose hourly meetings with the international design media and hope to play up the celebrity of the event to claim they “were at Venice.” Let’s not forget the architectural biennale was created out the student and worker protests of the late 1960s and has always narrowly tread a region between the commercial and the ideal. Does this mean that the Venice biennale is now like any commercial trade show? We hope to report on this trend and find those installations that have long made this the most important architect event in the design calendar.
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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.