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.
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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.
Santiago Calatrava has been ordered by a Spanish court to pay $4 million for problems plaguing a municipal building he designed in Oviedo in Northwest Spain. While the final fee is lower than an initial ruling, such legal problems have become something of an unfortunate calling card for the Spanish architect. The Palacio de Congresos de Oviedo was completed in 2011 and features the soaring forms and white ribs that tend to populate Calatrava's work. The suit stems from issues involving the construction of the building as well as the project's final budget, which exceeded original estimates. Calatrava's fairly loose interpretation of budgetary restrictions has come under fire throughout the architect's prolific career. He is also in the midst of a legal battle regarding an opera house in Valencia whose final cost of $455.6 million—four times greater than its original budget—was not enough to ensure structural stability for more than a decade. Part of Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences that the architect had a major role in designing, the concert hall is the biggest fish in a sea of problems besetting the complex. Practicality has also not always been a strong suit for the architect. Bridges in Venice and Bilbao have both developed reputations for the extreme slipperiness among other issues. An airport he designed for the latter city was found lacking in a sheltered arrivals hall, a problem that Calatrava himself was forced to remedy. And the list continues. Assuming all goes according to plan, by 2015 New Yorkers will be able to witness what may be the zenith of the troubled beauty that has come to define Calatrava's works. The World Trade Center Transporation Hub represents his avian aesthetic at its most striking. However, the project's completion date is six years behind schedule, while its initial budget of $2 billion has since swelled to $4 billion.
Architecture and urban design apps are appearing so fast its hard to keep up with the latest new site to investigate city history and growth. But a new one—Archipelago Town-lines—is the result of a 3 year-long research on three key places: Berlin, Beirut, and Venice. It uses original photo galleries, video, and audio content and interactive data visualization features, as a guide for new urban geography, history, and lifestyle of these three very different cities. These places are then place holders for the analysis of contemporary urban trends, in order to propose a new possibility for growth. A second app second section puts forwards a new model for urban growth based on 9th century Venice and the figure of the archipelago whose archetype is to be found in a place built in the impossible like Venice, namely a place in which un-built areas have the same importance as built ones. The third section of the app features video interviews of prominent architects, urban planners, and academicians, specifically produced for it, that suggest imaginary path and different reading of the urban phenomenon stimulated by the app itself. Archipelago Town-lines has been released in English as an app for the iPad. In April, it will be available for Amazon Kindle Fire and all tablets operating on an Android platform. It's worth a download!
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.”
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.
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.
Before the 2012 Venice Biennale opens on August 29, Zaha Hadid Architects has released its own preview of the firm’s pavilion to be displayed at the Giardini and the Arsenale in Venice. The pavilion will be one of 66 projects in the 13th International Architecture Exhibition at the Biennale, entitled Common Ground. The purpose of theme, stated exhibition director David Chipperfield, is to “reassert the existence of an architectural culture, made up not just of singular talents but a rich continuity of diverse ideas united in a common history, common ambitions, and common predicaments and ideals.” The work of Zaha Hadid Architects, a pleated metal canopy which the firm refers to as the Arum shell, reacts to this theme in plan and presentation. In a statement, the firm acknowledged within a lineage of work including that of Frei Otto in the instillation on display at the Biennale—a lineage which will be on display alongside the Arum shell. The installation will also be a progression on the firm's own work on tensile structure and lightweight shells as elements of each form are developed together in the finished product. The firm has also released a concept animation, detailing the development of the canopy’s design, a process described as elaborating on Frei Otto’s work on combining material and structure with the firm's own addition of “environmental as well as structural logistics.”
Known for his bright, modernist pieces, Venice designer and fabricator Ilan Dei gets up close and personal at his eye-catching pop-up on 1650 Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Made out of three converted shipping containers rendered in brilliant colors with an emphasis on indoor-outdoor living, the installation exudes an inviting appeal even on this busy, uber-trendy street. “1650 Abbot Kinney has been an empty lot and a site for pop-ups for many years. I drive or cycle by everyday to and from our design studio,” said Dei, who quickly pounced when the site became available. The shipping containers divide the store into three different areas. One section is reserved for selling Dei’s Cord Collection of outdoor furniture, his Namibia collection, and a selection of home accessories. Another section is open for curators: currently Wilshire Boulevard-based Edward Cella Art & Architecture Gallery, who will be showing new and recent works by artists including Brad Miller, Ruth Pastine, and Joni Sternbach. The final zone is a community area for classes and workshops. With the launch of his own product label, “Ilan Dei Venice,” the store provides the designer the chance to get real-time feedback. The pop-up, which will be running until the end of September, is also a testing ground of sorts for Dei's upcoming off-the-grid eco-hotel near Lake Isabella in the Sierras. The containers will become a permanent part of that project.