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:
Posts tagged with "Venice Architecture Biennale":
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.”
"Venice Architecture Biennale 'cannot get any worse' says Wolf D. Prix," read the headline on Dezeen's August 30 wire post. In a press release titled “The Banal,” Prix declared that that architects participating in the biennale are “playing” while the profession is “sinking into powerlessness and irrelevance” at the hands of politicians, bureaucrats, and investors. The broadside caused a stir in Venice during he opening and in the blogosphere but now it appears that Prix was never in Venice for the biennale in the first place and thus had not seen the exhibition he denounced. His office claims that Prix has been misunderstood and "the critique addressed the theme of the exhibition, not the show or its execution," according to a spokesperson for the firm. Mr. Prix has a right to critique David Chipperfield’s chose theme, “Common Ground.” He makes some valid points comparing the biennale to a Venetian Carnival where "one can imagine all the architects in Pierrot costumes surrounded by masked critics and dancing the Dance Banale." The bi-annual fair does have its "hollow, arduous, exhausting, bleak and boring moments," as Prix argued but also displays of pure elation, beauty, critique, and poetry. It’s a trade show like no other and one really does have to attend to feel its "hollow" and beautiful moments and insights. In the 2008 biennale Mr. Prix displayed his iconic 1969 "Feedback Space" plastic bubble that one had to see and enter to really understand. Perhaps Mr. Prix should remember that his recreated plastic bubble argued for and required "physicalness." It comes off like sour grapes that Mr. Prix, who was not exhibiting at this biennale, lambasted it without seeing it himself. I wonder if he would be pleased if journalists critiqued his BMW “Welt” building without actually visiting it in Munich?
The Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale has in recent years been a bit of a snore. The space has been filled most recently in 2010 with unconvincing drawings of older Russian cities and earlier (2008) with models of Ordos McMansions. But this year the pavilion's interior was spectacularly reconfigured with walls of glass QR codes in its central space forming a digital dome, but the display's heavy-handedness brought to mind earlier periods of Russian single mindedness and even totalitarianism. It seems those in charge of this year's Venice effort finally realized what kind of pavilion makes an impact in the giardini on harried biennale visitors and journalists and went for the full design monty. But the tensions in contemporary Russian society were also highlighted on Thursday during the Golden Lion awards presentation ceremony when a few hundred feet away a crew of cocktail-dressed and balaclava-wearing young Russian women "occupied" the exterior of the pavilion to make the case for the Pussy Riot band back in Russia recently jailed for hooliganism. A rumor quickly spread that actual members of the band who had escaped Russie were present at the protest. Were these actually Pussy Rioters or sympathizers? No one was sure but it sure beat listening to the Biennale directors and bureaucrats drone on about Common Ground as the press rushed over from the dreadful press conference.
Between glass curtain walls and art installations, birds just can’t catch a break. For their Venice Architecture Biennale project Pigeon Safari Swiss artist Julian Charrière and German photographer Julius von Bismark captured, airbrushed, then released the pigeons of St. Mark’s Square. The resulting rainbow-colored flock has caused Biennale-goers and tourists alike to do a double take. Charrière told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, “Pigeons make up part of our urban landscape, but we view them as though they are an unrecognizable mass, whereas each one has its own identity.” While a newly teal pigeon may imagine itself a peacock, conservationists expressed concern that the birds’ unusual colors would deter mating.
It's been a hot and highly stimulating few days at the Venice Biennale. David Chipperfield's theme, "Common Ground," which sought to establish connections across architecture culture, has proven surprising divisive. Some loved the elegant progression of projects in the Arsenale, which included everything from expressionist displays by Zaha Hadid, to neo-postmodern confections by FAT, to a hand built house by Anupama Kundoo, all of which managed to mingle thanks to Chipperfield's tasteful curation. Some formalists griped that the show was regressive, while more socially engaged architects thought it too estheticizing. Still, every Biennale must crown its winners. This year's Golden Lion for the international exhibition went to Torre David/Gran Horizante by Urban-Think Tank (Alfredo Brillembourg and Herbert Klumpner) and Justin McGuirk, an investigation, featuring photography by Iwan Baan, of an informal community built in an abandoned, unfinished skyscraper in Caracas. The team created an bar inside the Arsenale which featured food, music, drinks, and neon lights to showcase their work and transform the atmosphere of the overall exhibition. The Silver Lion, for a promising practice, was give to Grafton Architects (Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara) for their investigation of the work of Paolo Mendes da Rocha. Cino Zucchi was given a special mention by the jury as well. The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement was given to the widely admired Portuguese architect Alvara Siza Viera, who was asked to build a site specific work behind the Arsenale. In his remarks, David Chipperfield noted that though Siza works in isolation, his work "exudes worldliness." The Japanese Pavilion was given the Golden Lion for Best National Pavilion. Their Pavilion featured a post-tsunami rebuilding project led by Toyo Ito. Pavilions by Russia, Poland, and the United States were all given special mentions. Wiel Arets, Robert A.M. Stern, Benedetta Tagliabue, and Alan Yentob served as jurors.
The Architect’s Newspaper is on the ground in Italy for the 2012 Venice Biennale. Here’s the second edition of a three-part series on the best of the Biennale, brought to you by The Architect’s Newspaperand Il Giornale Dell’Architettura. (View the first issue here.)