The life of an independent architecture curator is always tenuous at best. They develop a concept for an exhibit then pitch it to multiple venues in academia and museums and spend three to four years realizing the project. The financial rewards for such projects are minimal, but usually cover the curator’s costs and allow them a modicum of profit. If the curator is good at doing all it takes to realize their projects—corralling architects to finish installations, creating catalogues, communicating with the media, etc.—they will often be asked to organize and curate a biennale or triennale. Such publically financed exhibitions are extravaganzas of architecture (or they attempt to be) and all of them try to compete with the influence of the Venice Biennale—the first and still the most important of the international architecture surveys. These celebrations are a big prize for the mostly young and aspiring curators who walk the globe, and a rare chance to actually get paid for their work. But the most recent Lisbon Architecture Triennale—Close, Closer—which was curated by Beatrice Galilee, José Esparza, Mariana Pestana, and Liam Young—was a successful attempt to introduce an entire new generation of architects to an international audience. Despite its success, the organization that put the exhibit together has told its curators and designers (some of whom invested their own money in the project) that they will not be receiving their contracted fees. The final dispute ended this month, after a year and half of negotiations. It is true that the Portuguese economy is suffering from the fallout of the Euro collapse, but to decide to cut the fee for a contract two years after the event is unethical and poor behavior, even in the world of architectural exhibitions.
Posts tagged with "Venice Architecture Biennale":
More than 60 design firms across four continents will contribute to a new festival of design that aims to become the largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America, co-artistic directors Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda announced Tuesday. The Chicago Architecture Biennial kicks off October 3 and lasts through the year, comprising one-time events and ongoing exhibitions across the city. The festival will be based at the Chicago Cultural Center, but activities will extend to sites including Millennium Park, Michigan Avenue's City Gallery, 72 East Randolph Street, and the Theaster Gates–rehabbed Stony Island Arts Bank. Chicago officials announced the biennial in June. Until now details were scant on the festival, which takes after the Venice biennale. Questions remain, however, on the content of the participating designers' expected contributions, and on the city's ability to fund what has been advertised as a major tourist draw with global cultural significance. Oil giant BP agreed to donate $2.5 million for the inaugural show—a contribution that was reportedly solicited personally by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And Tuesday Biennial organizers announced a $1 million gift from SC Johnson. But the city’s still looking to raise at least half a million dollars more. “The Biennial team affirms with confidence that the fundraising goal will be met,” said a spokeswoman. The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and the Graham Foundation will present the show, with programming in partnership with the American Institute of Architects and the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Iwan Baan will exhibit a photo series about Chicago, the organizers announced in November, and the show will pay homage to Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman, who in 1977 helped mount a seminal conference that gave today's biennial its name: The State of the Art of Architecture. Here's the full list of participating firms, as of April 14: Al Borde (Quito, Ecuador) allzone / Rachaporn Choochuey (Bangok, Thailand) Andreas Angelidakis (Athens, Greece) Andrés Jaque / Office for Political Innovation (Madrid, Spain; New York, USA) Aranda\Lasch (Tuscon, USA; New York, USA) Assemble (London, UK) Atelier Bow-Wow (Tokyo, Japan) Iwan Baan (Amsterdam, Netherlands) Erin Besler / Besler & Sons (Los Angeles, USA) Tatiana Bilbao S.C. (Mexico City, Mexico) Bjarke Ingels Group / BIG (Copenhagen, Denmark) Santiago Borja (Mexico City, Mexico) Carlos Bunga (Barcelona, Spain) Bureau Spectacular / Jimenez Lai (Los Angeles, USA) Csutoras & Liando (Jakarta, Indonesia; London, UK) Design With Company (Chicago, USA) El Equipo de Mazzanti / Giancarlo Mazzanti (Bogota, Colombia) Frida Escobedo (Mexico City, Mexico) Didier Faustino (Paris, France) Moon Hoon (Seoul, Korea) Indie Architecture + Paul Preissner Architects (Denver/Chicago, USA) John Ronan Architects (Chicago, USA) Johnston Marklee (Los Angeles, USA) junya.ishigami+associates (Tokyo, Japan) Kéré Architecture / Francis Kéré (Gando, Burkina Faso; Berlin, Germany) Kuehn Malvezzi (Berlin, Germany) Anne Lacaton & Jean-Philippe Vassal and Frederic Druot (Paris, France) Yasmeen Lari / Heritage Foundation Pakistan (Lahore, Pakistan) Lateral Office (Toronto, Canada) LIST / Ido Avissar (Paris, France) MAIO (Barcelona, Spain) Marshall Brown Projects (Chicago, USA) Mass Studies / Minsuk Cho (Seoul, Korea) MOS / Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample (New York, USA) New-Territories / Francois Roche & Camille Lacadee (Paris, France/Bangkok, Thailand) NLÉ / Kunlé Adeyemi (Lagos, Nigeria; Rotterdam, Netherlands) Norman Kelley (Chicago, USA) OFFICE / Kersten Geers David Van Severen (Brussels, Belgium) Onishimaki + Hyakuda Architects (Tokyo, Japan) OPEN Architecture/ Li Hu & Huang Wenjing (Beijing, China) Lluís Ortega / Sio2arch (Chicago, USA; Barcelona, Spain) otherothers / David Neustein & Grace Mortlock (Sydney, Australia) Pedro&Juana (Mexico City, Mexico) Pezo von Ellrichshaussen (Concepcion, Chile) Plan:b Arquitectos / Felipe Mesa & Federico Mesa (Medellin, Colombia) PORT (Chicago, USA) Productora (Mexico City, Mexico) RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances] (Amsterdam, Netherlands) Bryony Roberts (Los Angeles, USA; Oslo, Norway) RUA Arquitetos (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) Rural Urban Framework (Hong Kong) SO-IL (New York, USA) Sou Fujimoto Architects (Tokyo, Japan) studio Albori (Milan, Italy) Studio [D]Tale (Harare, Zimbabwe; Capetown, South Africa; London, UK) Studio Gang / Jeanne Gang (Chicago, USA) TOMA (Santiago, Chile) UrbanLab / Sarah Dunn and Martin Felson (Chicago, USA) VTN / Vo Trong Nghia Architects (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) WAI Architecture Think Tank (Beijing, China) Weathers / Sean Lally (Chicago, USA) Amanda Williams (Chicago, USA) WORKac+ Ant Farm / Amale Andraos & Dan Wood, Chip Lord & Curtis Schreier (New York, USA) A full list of the festival's sponsors and partners is available on chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org.
In a recent Q&A with the Boston Globe, Daniel Libeskind made it clear that when it comes to books, he doesn't just look at the pictures. Titles on the architect's current reading list reflect a predilection for essays and short stories—Borges, Melville, and Walter Benjamin, among others. He told the Globe that he keeps a set of Edgar Allan Poe stories on his bedside table. With so many tomes simultaneously clamoring for his attention, it would be fitting if Mr. Libeskind's library furnishings included his Reading Machine (above)—one of three contraptions he designed for the 1986 Venice Biennale. But alas, the device is no more, having met a bizarre fate. Based on Renaissance engineer Agostino Ramelli's 1584 "Book Wheel" invention, Libeskind's version ended up in a Venetian warehouse after the show. Eventually it was shipped to Geneva for an exhibition at the Palais Wilson. The day before the installation, though, the machine was incinerated, victim of a terrorist's firebomb.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's announcement that Chicago would launch an international festival of art and architecture—its own take on the famous Venice biennale—drew jeers and cheers from the design community both near and far from The Second City. AN called for the show aspiring to be North America's largest architectural exhibition to go beyond tourism bromides. Now the upstart expo has a name, as well as its first show. The inaugural Chicago architecture biennial will begin in October 2015, and will be called “The State of the Art of Architecture,” in reference to the controversial conference organized in 1977 by architect Stanley Tigerman. Tigerman's show celebrated the postmodern rejection of Chicago's old masters like Mies van der Rohe, forging the position of architectural protest group The Chicago Seven. A press release from the organizing committee alludes to the upcoming exhibition's wide scope:
More than a profession or a repertoire of built artifacts, architecture is a dynamic cultural practice that manifests at different scales and through various media: buildings and cities, but also art, performance, film, landscape and new technologies. It permeates fundamental registers of everyday life—from housing to education, from environmental awareness to economic growth, from local communities to global networks.The biennial's first commission was announced Wednesday by co-directors Joseph Grima—a former curator of the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and director of the Ideas City platform of the New Museum—and Sarah Herda, director of the Graham Foundation and AN editorial advisor. Renowned photographer Iwan Baan will contribute an original photo essay about Chicago featuring aerial shots taken at sunrise. The work will “capture the city during a moment of its daily routine,” according to the press release. “Like the Biennial itself, Baan’s expansive photographs interpret Chicago as a realm of architectural possibility, past and future.” The free festival's home base will be the Chicago Cultural Center, but organizers say it won't be restricted to downtown. “Using the city as a canvas, installations will be created in Millennium Park and other Chicago neighborhoods, including new projects and public programs developed by renowned artist Theaster Gates on Chicago’s south side,” reads a press release. “The Biennial will also feature collateral exhibitions and events with partner institutions throughout the city, and will offer educational programming for local and international students.” Tigerman, whose 1977 exhibition is the inspiration for the 2015 show's title, sits on the biennial's International Advisory Committee, which also includes architects David Adjaye, Elizabeth Diller, Jeanne Gang, and Frank Gehry, along with critic Sylvia Lavin, Lord Peter Palumbo and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Ty Tabing, former executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance and founder of Singapore River One, will serve as the biennial's executive director. Oil giant BP has agreed to donate $2.5 million for the show, but Mayor Emanuel is reportedly seeking $1.5 million more.
[Editor's Note: The Venice Architecture Biennale is still on through November 23 and it's still proving to be controversial. Professor Peter Lang shares his thoughts on Rem Koolhaas' event here.] A Tale about the Magician Koolhaas who plays Prospero, lives on an island in the Venetian Laguna, and brings a Tempest to the Venice Biennale. Miranda: O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't. —William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I, ll. 203–206 (Aldous Huxley quoted this line from the Tempest for the title of his dystopian novel Brave New World published in 1931) In choosing to take a different perspective on the 14th edition of the Architecture Biennale in Venice directed by Rem Koolhaas, I decided to skip the standard blow-by-blow critique, and instead confront what I believe is the greatest enigma behind this controversial event. Up till now, the majority of critics taking a look at this year’s exhibition find fault with Koolhaas’ method, not so much with his madness. But the key to the exhibition is not in its studied aloofness, but in its insubordination—Koolhaas is determined to shake up the Biennale institution by any means possible. In all likelihood it didn’t start out this way. Koolhaas went about his business to remake the Biennale as did any major curator in the past, but Koolhaas is ambitious, and he set the stakes very high. To remake the Biennale, Koolhaas would need to dismantle the entire institution in order to rid it of its nearly century old infrastructure, complete with archaic “nationalist” pavilions, an array of inflexible labyrinthine spaces and gigantean maritime buildings, and a legacy of incredibly dated architectural categories. Koolhaas must at some point hit a frustrating impasse, compelling him to look for alternative best practices. It might have been around then that he hit upon the Tempest. The Tempest has an incredible allure for the kind of intellectual figure who won’t be compromised. The Shakespearean play itself lives on and on: it morphs continuously through time into an incredibly wondrous amalgam of human drama and personal transcendence. The Tempest is a malleable condition, and can double as a playbook for utopian practices, a manual for post-colonial discourse, or a stage for feverish fantasies. Prospero, the ex-Duke of Milan was a man of great vision and curiosity. While his methods may not be commonly practiced today, he would be of great inspiration to someone like Koolhaas who also faced insurmountable odds. Prospero ruled by sorcery, commanded over an army of slaves, spirits, half humans and fairies. His supernatural powers were based on his immense intellect, drawn from his great library in Milan of which a portion accompanied him in his escape from the city. His strongest affections are reserved for his daughter, Miranda. But the most important cue Koolhaas probably takes from Prospero is dramaturgical, that all spectacle is one big illusion, and that the scenes and characters are but figments of one’s imagination. Prospero evokes the “stuff dreams are made on.” He reveals the insubstantial world of the theatrical craft, masking fiction from truth. Continue reading the rest of Peter Lang's essay here.
Chicago, in a bid to boost its tourism industry and cultural cachet, will host an international design exhibition next year modeled after the Venice Biennale, which every two years draws contributions from architects and artists from around the world. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the Chicago Architecture Biennial Tuesday. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin, Emanuel said he hopes to use the city’s reputation as a hub for modern architecture to encourage economic development:
"Obviously there's an economic benefit in tourism and travel. Chicago will continue to be seen worldwide as an epicenter of modern architecture… The real question is: Why wasn't Chicago doing this before?"The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and the Graham Foundation will present the show, which will be based in the Chicago Cultural Center. The Chicago Architecture Foundation, whose annual Open House Chicago will coincide with the start of the initial biennial, will help coordinate the first exhibition, which is planned for October 1, 2015 through January 3, 2016. Oil company BP donated $2.5 million for the first show. Kamin reported that Emanuel personally solicited BP’s grant funding, and that the city’s still looking to raise $1.5 million more. While the Chicago event makes no secret of taking after its prestigious namesake in Venice, there will be several differences from that event, which reportedly drew more than 175,000 visitors in 2012. Admission to Chicago’s event will be free, and the show will not have national pavilions. It will have a theme, which has yet to be determined, and will seek to compete in an increasingly crowded field of international design exhibitions. Venice has mounted its exhibition 14 times in 34 years, deviating occasionally from its biennial schedule. If Chicago’s initial event is deemed a success, officials say they’ll duplicate it every two years. Joseph Grima, who co-curated the Istanbul biennial in 2012, and Graham Foundation Director Sarah Herda will co-direct the inaugural Chicago event. Another Chicago-based design curator, Zöe Ryan of the Art Institute of Chicago, is coordinating Istanbul’s next biennial, which will run concurrently with Chicago’s.
The spectacular Venetian Arsenale at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale is devoted to the history of post-World War II architecture and urbanism. Italy, perhaps more than any country in the world, revels in its architecture and cityscape. It is still a place where architecture means more than simply building—it's a knowledge for describing and thinking about the world. This, it turns out, is true even for its youngest designers who assembled in the arsenal on Sunday, June 8 for a discussion, "Towards a New Avant Garde." Created and organized by the young research group Superscript it ranged over three 90-minute discussions and several key themes emerged in the discussions, including the need of architects to engage the public directly, the importance of evolving new forms of communication and criticism, and the value of capitalizing on opportunities to be proactive. Given the dire financial situation of the Italian economy it should not come as a surprise that young architects in the country are, like many radical Italian groups from the 1960s, are looking outside the country for opportunity. Editor David Tommaso Ferrando advocated exploring new forms of criticism using images and social media. “Criticism has to change because the media is changing,” said Ferrando. "With the opportunities to connect and work globally today, identity becomes less defined by nationality and more by an individual’s point of view and how they engage with the profession." In a session called Collective Action the young practitioners still living in the country discussed searching for alternative models of practice that will allow them to practice. They are increasingly turning to urban design and planning strategies that have them engage with local citizens and building users, but, unlike these profession in the United States, they have not abandoned form to public policy but instead are looking back to radical practices of the 1960s like Superstudio for models. In the finals session devoted to Economics the young participants looked ahead—past the economic recession of the present times and asked reflecting on a quote from architect Marco Lampugnani, how do you “create value, not things?” Architecture, if not building, is alive in Italy!
While most of the attendees at the recently opened Venice Biennale were thinking about the basic Elements of Architecture a younger generation of architects were concerned about something even more basic: how to earn a living. In a series of Arsenale round table talks called Stay Radical created by New York–based Superscript, young Italian architects talked about the difficulties of earning even the most basic living wage in their country devastated by recession and a historic system of wage depression. Meanwhile the New York group, The Architect's Lobby took matters into their own hand and with megaphones held a protest just outside entrance to the Venetian Giardini (above). Led by architects Yolande Daniels and Manuel Shvartzberg, surrounded by Carabinieri, the Italian paramilitary police, the young architects shouted the demands and manifesto of the Lobby:
We are precarious workers; these are our demands: 1. Enforce labor laws that prohibit unpaid internships, unpaid overtime; refuse unpaid competitions. 2. Reject fees based on percentage of construction or hourly fees and instead calculate value based on the money we save our clients or gain them. 3. Stop peddling a product - buildings - and focus on the unique value architects help realize through spatial services. 4. Enforce wage transparency across the discipline. 5. Establish a union for architects, designers, academics and interns in architecture and design. 6. Demystify the architect as solo creative genius; no honors for architects who don't acknowledge their staff. 7. Licensure upon completion of degree. 8. Change professional architecture organizations to advocate for the living conditions of architects. 9. Support research about professional labor rights in architecture. 10. Implement democratic alternatives to the free market system of development.
At the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, Rem Koolhaas set the theme "Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014" for the national pavilions, and many countries took it up through the lens of domesticity. The Taiwanese American designer Jimenez Lai examined the spaces and rituals of Taiwanese life with his exhibition Township of Domestic Parts. Lai created "superfurniture," overscaled, Memphis-inflected installations that interpreted ideas such as museum-like living rooms—part shrine, part show place, reserved only for guests. The result is a fantasy hangout space, which conjures up memories of childhood. Inside the neoclassical German Pavilion, the organizers built a modern house. The two structures intersect and "absorb" one another—a sofa is split by a wall, an outdoor fireplace undercuts the monumentality of the pavilion's central atrium. The pavilion turns amusing and strange—the kitchen is entirely formed by a glass wall and resembles a scientific lab—the installation is one of the best-crafted of the Biennale, though its meaning is largely opaque. The French Pavilion skewered Modernism as it met the realities of modernity. The central portion included a model of the house at the center of Jacques Tati's film Mon Oncle. The gallery behind includes a beautiful collection of prefabricated panels designed by Jean Prové, but also includes videos that detail the failure commercial failure of prefabricated architecture. The exhibition takes a decidedly sinister tone in the side gallery, which looks at an unsuccessful modernist housing development outside Paris, which was later used as an internment camp for French jews during the Holocaust. By asking the national participants to consider "Modernity" as a condition rather than "Modernism" as a style, Koolhaas has provided a useful framework for examining 20th century architecture in the culture of the 20th century. But few seemed prepared to engage with the state of architecture and culture today.
The Florentine architecture group Superstudio enjoyed the penultimate moment on the world architecture stage at the 1972 MoMA exhibition, The New Domestic Landscape. However, by the end of that decade with worldwide radical politics on the wane and postmodernism on the rise, the Florentines found their radicale arguments and practice marginalized and they began to move away from architecture towards other sorts of design initiatives. But before the group left the international stage, they created one last potent architectural statement: La Moglie di Lot and displayed it at the 1978 Venice Biennale of Art. The piece consisted of an iron frame with a table on which were placed four basic architectural forms constructed of salt, like a round Coliseum (see below). The frame has a taller high-rise like armature that help up plastic tubes that dripped water down on the forms. Each mass slowly disappeared or eroded into nothingness like Superstudio's careers and hopes for radical change in culture and the architecture profession. The frame from Moglie disappeared after 1978 but now a gallerist from Genoa has reconstructed a new frame (in fact, he built three of them for sale), and it is on display the 2014 Venice Biennale in the Moditalia Arsenale.
The 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale is a bit like walking into a giant research project. If the exhibition The Elements of Architecture is not necessary thrilling to the spirit it is at least full of ideas on the basics of construction. It is possible to walk through a dozen times and come away with new information and concepts. Here is a quick look at several of the ideas in this intellectual project masquerading as an exhibition.