The 13th Venice Architecture Biennale, directed by David Chipperfield and titled Common Ground, closed on 25th November 2012, attracting 178,000 visitors. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting installations.
From Arsenale: The Torre David Gran Horizonte installation - which garnered a Golden Lion for best project - by Urban Think Tank studio shows a documentary and photographs about the abandoned office building that is occupied by inhabitants of the Caracas favelas. An ambiguous installation that showcases a typical restaurant that could be located in the vertical slum lends itself to multiple, varied, and contradictory readings. The installation and the prize were disowned both by the government of Venezuela and the association of architects in that country.
From Poland’s Pavilion: “Making the walls quake as if they were dilating with the secret knowledge of great powers” is a remarkable installation (it earned a Jury Special Mention) of the Polish Pavilion by the artist Katarzyna Krakowiak, in which sound and space fuse into an intense atmosphere. Visitors walk near the walls, through the pavilion, and experience the architecture in a rather different and peculiar way. All the sounds are live and internal to the pavilion; they have been amplified so visitors can listen, hear, eavesdrop, and feel the building. It becomes a living thing, didactic, frightening and quite mysterious at the same time.
From Central Pavilion: The OMA installation collects works of architecture by civil servants in five European countries driven by local authorities in the 1960s and 1970s. The mix is still modern and refreshing, featuring works made for the greater good, without personal ambitions. A legacy made with common sense, rigor, control and optimism. A selection of humble masterpieces achieved by bureaucrats.
From Arsenale: Exploring the links between timber and brickwork, the Irish architects Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey present Vessel, a wooden structure (passage, chamber, and funnel) in raw dialogue with the layered brick construction of the site, the historic Arsenale. Shipbuilding and archaic constructions are thus re-examined.
From the Nordic Pavilion: Celebrating 50 years of the Nordic Pavilion designed by Sverre Fehn, 32 young architects from Finland, Norway, and Sweden expressed their ideas for a conceptual "Light House" that merges architectural character (site, material, tectonics, light) of the pavilion, the environmental/cultural character of the Nordic region, and the core principles and techniques of every participant and practice. The featured models seek to evoke feelings, sensory experiences, and concepts, rather than objectively describe reality. Openness, lightness, depth of experience, rest, emotional resonance, and "noble poverty" come to figure out the up-to-date assertion of an architecture identity in Nordic countries.
From the Central Pavilion: The winner of the Silver Lion, this installation features large scale models of the Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s Serra Dourada Stadium in Brazil and Grafton Architects’ UTEC university campus in Lima. The influence that the Brazilian Pritzker prize has had on the Irish architects is revealed by the researched subjects as “built geography," “abstracted landscape," “landscape and infrastructure,” and “the horizon and the human being” (suggestive of a comparison of the landscapes of Machu Picchu in Peru and Skellig Michael off the west coast of Ireland). It also explores the possibilities of the ‘Free Section’ as a representation and work resource for big scale projects that encourage fluid, generous, open, and massive spaces.
From Japan’s Pavilion: Toyo Ito brings together three young Japanese architects (Kumiko Inui, Sou Fujimoto and Akihisa Hirata) to collaborate in the design a "Home-for-All" for people who lost everything in the city of Rikuzentakata because of the tsunami of 2011 in the north of Japan. Golden winning Lion for the Best National Participation, the project exudes humanity, is one of the clearest examples of real collaboration in the design process of a home. The result transcends disaster relief architecture and gives a glimpse of what could become an architecture that embodies the desires, user daily habits and a particular comprehension of the inner logic of a place through a professional method that is willing to dilute their personality and authorship to a minimum. A future and promising path for architecture.
From the Central Pavilion: The architect Juan Herreros materialize the theme of the Biennale through large scale technical documents of constructive details, facade cross-sections, and abstracted models of unmentioned projects, in order to illustrate his idea of Common Ground in current architectural practice, in which technique acts as an amalgam of diverse disciplines and where the architect is no longer a conductor but a member of a multi-polar, interdisciplinary team, also enriched by those who occupy and share the building.
From Germany’s Pavilion: The Germany Pavilion focuses its impeccable Reduce/Reuse/Recycle installation on recent works in Germany that share a particular approach to Architecture as a Resource in times of austerity. It is a modest but intelligent intervention that invites us to rethink the concept of green architecture and the appreciation and care of relatively recent built heritage. A simple, clear and didactic installation, which is some relief in a biennial sometimes crowded by unprofitable information.
From Arsenale: A mold of Palladio’s Villa Rotunda is the center of a larger installation in which FAT architecture practice explores the concept of copying and transformation in architecture. Ines Weizman scrutinizes the ownership disputes regarding Adolf Loos’s Baker House design. An intricate yet fascinating copyrights thriller presented through diagrams and letters. San Rocco invites visitors to produce a library from other books photocopies. Architectural Doppelgängers presents a series of photographs of actual architectural copies facing their respective originals. A state-of-the-art installation.
From the Central Pavilion: The installation The Banality of Good - paraphrasing Hanna Arendt - by Crimson Architectural Historians presents an analysis of the New Towns evolution, a sample of six cities built from the '50s to the present, showing the inversion and subversion of New Towns' founding ideals of emancipation, social equality, and progress, where values as the "just", the "moral" or the "good" have been abandoned and replaced by process, profit, efficiency, and expediency. The exhibition is a well-founded critique of the drift that has taken hold of urban planning since the middle of last century to the present day.
From Gaggiandre The Gaggiandre at the Arsenale, two docks built between 1568 and 1573 designed by Jacopo Sansovino flanked by arched walkways are the frame and inspirational source for the sculpture ‘Radix’ made by Portuguese architect Aires Mateus, an arch supported by three points and an imaginary fourth corner hanging over the Venitian Lagoon. A harmonic place to stay and rest where history, sensitivity, technology, culture and a certain affection to the site comes into the common ground that the biennale stands for.
From the Central Pavilion: "40,000 Hours" is the estimated time that took the students to make this selection of models. It is showcased as a tribute to the collective effort at schools of architecture around the world. Same materials, similar dimensions, and anonymous models for the different projects let us take a look at upcoming ideas and tactics of new architects as well as the state of academic practice through diverse institutions. Finally, special mention deserves MVRDV architects alongside The Why Factory with their ‘Freeland’ video-installation. It presents a refreshing idea of urban planning in which government agencies are put aside to make way for the self-organizing ability of individuals, which have a lot of freedom but are also responsible for supplying their own needs and grant certain urban values and community services. Will we see the DIY urbanism in the near future? More than images or photos, here are the links to the videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMoQCRweXdU http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSwtduhoHOU