When Rem Koolhaas gave the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale the theme Fundamentals, he promised to create a research-based exhibition that would consider both the universal and place-specific aspects of the discipline. Serving as a counterweight to the multidisciplinary but single-country-focus of Monditalia, which fills the Arsenale at the Venice Biennale, the Central Pavilion in the Giardini is hosting The Elements of Architecture, which looks at the basic components of building around the world: the floor, walls, windows, stairs, elevators, etc. Based on a book of the same name, the exhibition juxtaposes the mundane and the cutting edge, building science with artistic interpretations, historical facts with speculative futures. The gallery devoted to "walls", for instance, has a row of examples different construction techniques from different historical periods. Beginning with stone fragments, the collection includes a lathe and plaster wall, which ably illustrates the artistry that can turn plaster into confection-like moldings, and ends with a glass fire wall and a tensile kinetic wall by Barkow Leibinger. This range is both obvious and interesting, illustrating the diversity of even architecture's most basic elements. A nearby room devoted to "toilets" includes a throne-like Roman toilet—on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London—a curious Victorian mechanical example, a 19th century flowered urinal, as well as contemporary loos. Just inside an alcove is footage of mid-20th century police busts of men having illicit sex in public restrooms—often through entrapment. The grainy footage adds a somber note to the otherwise giggle-inducing gallery. The gallery on "roofs" includes a fascinating look at an 11th century Chinese building code, which details the elaborate roof assembly of many Chinese buildings. A collection of salvaged English windows—Gothic points and leaded glass—contrasts with a factory window system made by machine (at top). Though the factory-built windows have every advantage over their leaky wooden predecessors, one can't help but be charmed by the "Englishness" of the historical objects. The room devoted to "facades", organized by Alejandro Zaero-Polo, is perhaps the most satisfying, with full scale mock-ups from Herzog & de Meuron to Jean Prove (exhibition view at left). Curtain walls, highly insulated panels, green walls, rain screens, double facades, and other elements are explained in detail, and their strengths and limitations are put up for debate. (The text on green walls is called "Greenwashing," though the text is less controversial than one might expect. The system on display includes both live plants and smog-eating coatings, so the curator asks which is more effective or important, the feel-good foliage or the invisible coating?) Large group exhibitions usually feel both inspiring and scattershot, and Fundamentals is no exception. The Elements of Architecture helps ground this Biennale in the real world, allowing other pavilions and participants to freedom to speculate and dream.
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AN just had a quick Arsenale walkthrough of Radical Pedagogies: ACTION-REACTION-INTERACTION by creator and Princeton professor Beatriz Colomina. The Arsenale has been given over in this biennale to Monditalia, a single-theme exhibition with exhibits, events, and theatrical productions engaging Italian architecture with politics, economics, religion, technology, and industry. In this installation the other festivals of la Biennale di Venezia—film, dance, theatre, and music—will be mobilized through the architecture event to contribute to a comprehensive portrait of the host country. In Radical-Pedagogies, Colomina's team (that includes Britt Eversole, Ignacio G. Galán, Evangelos Kotsioris, Anna-Maria Meister, Federica Vannucchi, Amunátegui Valdés Architects, and Smog.tv) has created a wondrous wall display of the effects of the radical years in Italy and as their influence spread around the world to architecture schools and movements on every content. The display is a wall of information that, rather than make definitive claims to all inclusiveness, uses an open-source strategy to feature what's known so far about the these multiple international movements and that asks others to add their own information to the wall. The wall includes original journals, fantastic period images of major protagonists from Giancarlo de Carlo, Manfredo Tafuri, and many others. The display makes use of augmented reality that allows users with mobile devices to scan the display which then creates an interactive display of films, videos, images, and other displays. Its is a not-to-be-missed part of Monditalia in the biennale.
The 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale has published a list of events around Venice during the opening three days of the biennale. Below is a list of collateral events not to be missed if you're in Venice. Thursday, 6/5/2014 10am-7pm Venice Biennale - Opening Preview - Rem Koolhaas - Fundamentals Location: Giardini and The Arsenale 10am-7pm OfficeUS: Storefront for Art & Architecture Location: U.S. Pavilion, Giardini 4:30-7pm Hans Ulrich Obrist's Marathon Location: Swiss Pavilion 6:30pm Liz Diller's Culture Shed talk Location: Swiss Pavilion Friday, 6/6/2014 10am-7pm Venice Biennale - Opening Preview - Rem Koolhaas - Fundamentals Location: Giardini and The Arsenale 10am-7pm OfficeUS: Storefront for Art & Architecture Location: U.S. Pavilion, Giardini 10:00am Zaryadye Exhibition Press Preview Location: Santa Maria della Pieta 11:00am Zaryadye Panel Discussion - Charles is speaking! 'Polis 21" Public Space and The Urban Commons Location: Santa Maria della Pieta 1:00pm Zaryadye Exhibition Preview Location: Santa Maria della Pieta 7pm-12am Charles' Birthday Party! Location: The Peggy Guggenheim Collection 12am BIG Biennale Rooftop Party (Bjarke Ingels Group) Location: Calle del Cafetier 287 30124, Venice Saturday, June 7th The Biennale opens to the public. You may purchase tickets and find useful information to the Biennale here. Other sites to check out: Palazzo Grassi - A beautiful Doug Wheeler awaits you. Also wander through this exquisite Palazzo dodging through video rooms and emerging the other side, viewing slightly self conscious contemporary art and an Irving Penn exhibit at the top. Punta della Dogana - The Tadao Ando converted space greets you with more of the of the moment Pinault Lite fare - worth a wander through this architecturally contrasted space. Sebastiao Salgado, Casa dei tre Oci Prada Fondazione; Preview 4th June, Ca Corner della Regina, Calle Corner, 2215 - a sound exhibit.
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.
The board of the Venice Biennale announced today that Phyllis Lambert is the 2014 recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for the 14th Architecture Biennale, Fundamentals. Best known for championing the selection of Mies van der Rohe to design the Seagram Building for her family and for founding the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Lambert has worked as an architect, author, curator, and advocate for contemporary architecture and historic preservation. In a statement, board chair Paolo Barata praised Lambert's contribution to the field:
Not as an architect, but as a client and custodian, Phyllis Lambert has made a huge contribution to architecture. Without her participation, one of the few realizations in the 20th century of perfection—the Seagram Building in New York—would not have happened. Her creation of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal combines rare vision with rare generosity to preserve crucial episodes of architecture's heritage and to study them under ideal conditions. Architects make architecture; Phyllis Lambert made architects.She will be presented with the award on June 7 at the Biennale.
From the abandoned foundations of the ill-fated Chicago Spire to the ghosts of would-be Tribune Towers galore, Chicago’s unbuilt legacy could rival the iconic skyline it actually achieved. An exhibition on display downtown, dubbed City Works: Provocations for Chicago’s Urban Future, confronts the city with its alternative skyline in the form of a panoramic wall design and a “Phantom Chicago” iPhone app. The overall effect evokes “a dream but also a nightmare,” in the words of curator Alexander Eisenschmidt. It also presents “a series of urban environments that are typical for Chicago,” meditating through the work of four prominent local designers on some of the city’s contemporary challenges: waterways, industry, shelter, and vacancy. To borrow Eisenschmidt’s metaphor, the aim is to turn potential nightmares into visionary dreams. Studio Gang’s work on urban waterways is well-known and their work here, titled “Reclaiming the Edge,” reprises the vision they laid out in Reverse Effect and other publications: a riverfront community and restored natural habitat nourish each other in a kind of urban symbiosis. After years of legal wrangling, Chicago’s Water Reclamation District will soon disinfect the wastewater it dumps back into the river, signaling some substantive progress on water quality. Meanwhile the Chicago Riverwalk grows along the waterway's main branch. UrbanLab / Sarah Dunn & Martin Felsen present “Free Water District,” a vision that also draws on Chicago’s aquatic resources. Rust Belt cities share many challenges stemming from deindustrialization, but they also share a common asset: water. UrbanLab’s piece envisions a Great Lakes region revitalized by water-focused industries, in a “megastructure-scaled public/private land/water partnership.” Stanley Tigerman offers a rumination on shelter in both the spatial and spiritual sense with “Displacement of the Gridiron with the Cloister.” His target is the “ineffable in architecture,” which is philosophical enough to mean many things to many people who might have very different ideas of the city’s urban aspirations. “The Available City” by David Brown displays a similar yearning, manifesting the city’s 15,000 city-owned vacant lots as blots of color bubbling up amid fractured neighborhoods. The bright colors, which appear to denote potential programs for unused space, could mean anything — adaptive reuse, public space, space-age capsule hotel — but the important thing is they reanimate dead spaces that total an area twice the size of the Loop. All four panoramas will eventually connect, sharing continuous topographic or development features. But until the closing days of the show they remain separate, traveling slowly along dotted lines that traverse the small exhibition space. “By pulling them apart,” Eisenschmidt said, “there’s a little suspense.” City Works, adapted from the 2013 Biennale in Venice, returned to its city of origin May 24. And these “provocations” are not Eisenschmidt’s first. In 2011 the University of Illinois at Chicago professor’s Visionary Chicago (reviewed here for A|N by Philip Berger) stirred conversation about bold building while the real estate market languished. The free show is open at Expo 72, 72 E. Randolph St., seven days per week through September 29. Listen to a conference on the topic, held September 22, 2012 and recorded by WBEZ. Watch 50 meters of the "Phantom Chicago" wall panorama scroll by:
Starting Memorial Day, Chicago's Millennium Park will host the U.S. debut of a bright array of public design projects, many of which appeared at the 2012 Venice Biennale. Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good will feature 84 works, including more than a dozen for Chicago and several that also appeared in Venice. One Venice Biennale carryover will be the slew of pull-down banners created by Brooklyn design studio Freecell and Berkeley-based communication design firm M-A-D. An “outdoor living room” for Millennium Park, designed by Wicker Park firm MAS Studio, is among the new installations. The space will serve as an outpost for the exhibition, according to MAS director Iker Gill, shading visitors with a canopy of more than 700 moving acrylic panels with a lively color palette. Local woodworker John Preus of Dilettante Studios will salvage lumber for the wood support structure and seating. The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events brought the design contest to Chicago for its first U.S. showing. Programs will take place at the Cultural Center, in the pop-up pavilion in Millennium Park, and at various offsite locations through September 1. Here’s a video of Freecell and M-A-D’s banner project from the biennale:
Koolhaas Controversy: OMA to Turn Venice Palazzo into a Department Store and Venue for the 2014 Biennale
After much controversy, Rem Koolhaas' firm OMA has been granted permission to transform a historic Venice palazzo that is currently a post office into a department store and venue for the 2014 Venice Biennale. Fashion retailer Benetton bought the site, the Fondaco die Tedeschi, five years ago for more than $68 million. OMA, which is currently keeping busy in Miami, modified its original plans for the redesign to to appease opponents to the project. The updated scheme attempts to interfere with the original architecture as minimally as possible. An escalator planned for the central atrium is no longer included and the need to demolish a section of the roof has been sidestepped. In the new design, the rooftop terrace is propped above the building. Project architect Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli asserted that the department store would not be a typical one since art events, film festivals, and architectural biennales will be given space in the palazzo along with local arts and crafts venues. In the manner of a typical department store, however, the space will also be shared by international retail outlets. Opposition movements are not yet satisfied with OMA’s modifications. Heritage group Italia Nostra complained in court last year that “serious damage to the building’s physical integrity and historical identity” would be unavoidable if the plan was allowed to proceed. Salvatore Settis, an art historian, accused Benetton of purchasing planning approval. The retailer allegedly promised to give over $7 million dollars to the city. Koolhaas, who is directing the 2014 Venice Biennale, chose "Fundamentals" as its title. It will focus on historic architecture as opposed to contemporary, which has been the primary subject of previous biennales. Koolhaas aims to expose the erasure of national architectural identities by global architecture during the last 200 years, which, he says, has created a monotonous built environment.
Just a few weeks before the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, the New Yorker published a profile by Jon Lee Anderson (“Letter from Caracas: Slumlord”). The subject of the profile was less Chavez and more a Chavez-era phenomenon, the so-called Tower of David in downtown Caracas. “It embodies the urban policy of this regime, which can be defined by confiscation, expropriation, governmental incapacity, and the use of violence,” Guillermo Barrios, dean of architecture at the Universidad Central in Caracas, told Anderson. Torre David is a 45-story vertical slum that blossomed in an unfinished 1990s office tower developed by banker David Brillembourg. The mini-city of 750 souls that took root in the building’s remnants is notable for its self-made eco-system—there’s a butcher, bodegas, jerry-rigged plumbing, and electricity. Torre David, in the form of a pop-up arepa restaurant, was the subject of an entry at 2012 Venice Biennale by the Zurich-based firm Urban Think Tank (one of whose principals is Alfredo Brillembourg, cousin of the late David) with photographer Iwan Baan and writer Justin McGuirk. The installation won the Biennale’s highest honor, the Golden Lion, and the project is now the subject of a book and film. Despite picking up the Lion d’Or, critiques of the project were immediate and continue to grow. Monica Ponce de Leon, a Caracas native and dean of architecture at University of Michigan, wrote to AN: “What has been left out of the conversation is the really deplorable living conditions of those who inhabit the towers, the socioeconomic forces giving them no choice but to live there, without basic sanitation services, security, or basic rights. Ignored in the debates is the arrogance of a discipline that reconstructs a vernacular cantina for their leisurely enjoyment.”
The Storefront for Art and Architecture is bringing Aircraft Carrier, the 2012 Israeli pavilion at the Venice Biennale, to New York. The exhibit—one of the most pointedly political statements at the biennale—confronts the influence of the United States and its foreign policy in the Middle East and how it has affected Israeli architecture. The pavilion points to the year 1973 and the OPEC oil crises as a watershed in global capitalism when American strategic interests helped enable a new level of corporate architecture in Israel. The resulting reflected glass skyscrapers set against the optimism of Tel Aviv's White City could not be more a poignant modernist image. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by German publisher Hatje Cantz and edited by the curators, which contextualizes the phenomena in larger transformative processes. The book include texts by Milton Friedman, Justin Fowler, and Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen and visual works by participating artists Florian Holzherr, Nira Pereg, Jan Tichy, Assaf Evron, and Fernando Guerra. Exhibition Opening: March 7, 2013, 7PM Exhibition: March 7 - April, 29 2013
The 14th installment of the Venice Architecture Biennale, to be spearheaded by Rem Koolhaas, will be called Fundamentals, the architect announced today at a press conference today. "Fundamentals will be a Biennale about architecture, not architects," Koolhaas said in a statement. "After several Biennales dedicated to the celebration of the contemporary, Fundamentals will focus on histories – on the inevitable elements of all architecture used by any architect, anywhere, anytime (the door, the floor, the ceiling etc.) and on the evolution of national architectures in the last 100 years." The Biennale will take place from June 7 through November 23, 2014. Rem Koolhaas full statement: Fundamentals will be a Biennale about architecture, not architects. After several Biennales dedicated to the celebration of the contemporary, Fundamentals will focus on histories – on the inevitable elements of all architecture used by any architect, anywhere, anytime (the door, the floor, the ceiling etc.) and on the evolution of national architectures in the last 100 years. In three complementary manifestations – taking place in the Central Pavilion, the Arsenale, and the National Pavilions – this retrospective will generate a fresh understanding of the richness of architecture’s fundamental repertoire, apparently so exhausted today. In 1914, it made sense to talk about a “Chinese” architecture, a “Swiss” architecture, an “Indian” architecture. One hundred years later, under the influence of wars, diverse political regimes, different states of development, national and international architectural movements, individual talents, friendships, random personal trajectories and technological developments, architectures that were once specific and local have become interchangeable and global. National identity has seemingly been sacrificed to modernity. Having the decisive advantage of starting work a year earlier than the Biennale’s typical schedule, we hope to use this extra time to introduce a degree of coordination and coherence among the National Pavilions. Ideally, we would want the represented countries to engage a single theme – Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 – and to show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in favour of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language in a single repertoire of typologies. The First World War – the beginning of modern globalization – serves a starting point for the range of narratives. The transition to what seems like a universal architectural language is a more complex process than we typically recognize, involving significant encounters between cultures, technical inventions and imperceptible ways of remaining “national.” In a time of ubiquitous google research and the flattening of cultural memory, it is crucial for the future of architecture to resurrect and expose these narratives. By telling the history of the last 100 years cumulatively, the exhibitions in the National Pavilions will generate a global overview of architecture’s evolution into a single, modern aesthetic, and at the same time uncover within globalization the survival of unique national features and mentalities that continue to exist and flourish even as international collaboration and exchange intensify…
Rem Koolhaas has been named director of the 2014 Venice Biennale, the 14th edition of the architecture exhibition. Koolhaas, a leading thinker and persistent provocateur in the discipline, succeeds David Chipperfield. "The Architecture Exhibitions of the Biennale have gradually grown in importance internationally," said Biennale President Paolo Baratta in a statement. "Rem Koolhaas, one of the most significant personalities among the architects of our time—who has based all his work on intense research, now renowned celebrity—has accepted to engage himself in yet another research and, why not, rethinking." Chipperfield's exhibition, called Common Ground, which sought to identify continuities across cultures, time periods, and architectural approaches, divided critics. Koolhaas will take a different approach: "We want to take a fresh look at the fundamental elements of architecture—used by any architect, anywhere, anytime—to see if we can discover something new about architecture.”