Venice Biennale: Arsenale

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August 31, 2010

I was once told, "If you ever go to the Venice Biennale, you will see all of the architecture that the world will be seeing for the next two years."  So here I am, at the opening of the 2010 Biennale, drinking in two years' worth of architectural innovations and provocations and storing it for the future. The first of our slideshows covers my encounters at the Arsenale—and will surely quench the thirst of your eyeballs.

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  The Arsenale area of Venice is one of the largest military ports in Europe, and its existing structures provide backdrop to one part of the Biennale every year.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    The Arsenale area of Venice is one of the largest military ports in Europe, and its existing structures provide backdrop to one part of the Biennale every year.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  "The setting of the Arsenale is a beautiful way to maximize the character of each participant. People come here and meet architecture, and architecture meets people," said Biennale Director Kazuyo Sejima at one of the symposiums held on Saturday.  One great Sejima highlight of the biennale not to be missed: if you don your 3D glasses in the Wim Wenders pavilion, you can watch her and Nishizawa freewheel gleefully through their Rolex Learning Center in Switzerland...on segways.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    "The setting of the Arsenale is a beautiful way to maximize the character of each participant. People come here and meet architecture, and architecture meets people," said Biennale Director Kazuyo Sejima at one of the symposiums held on Saturday.  One great Sejima highlight of the biennale not to be missed: if you don your 3D glasses in the Wim Wenders pavilion, you can watch her and Nishizawa freewheel gleefully through their Rolex Learning Center in Switzerland...on segways.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  The opening piece, "The Boy Hidden in a Fish" by Chilean artists Smiljan Radic and Marcela Correa, was inspired by the need for protection and refuge after the earthquake. A stoic, yet peaceful sanctuary, it was constructed from a solid granite shell and a cedar wood box that creates a inhabitable void at the intersection.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    The opening piece, "The Boy Hidden in a Fish" by Chilean artists Smiljan Radic and Marcela Correa, was inspired by the need for protection and refuge after the earthquake. A stoic, yet peaceful sanctuary, it was constructed from a solid granite shell and a cedar wood box that creates a inhabitable void at the intersection.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  As I entered the third room, the air was heavy with the sense of precariousness. Anton Garcia-Abril & Ensamble Studio constructed 'Balancing Act,' two weighty, horizontal structures that incise the space diagonally and counteract the existing columns of the Arsenale building.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    As I entered the third room, the air was heavy with the sense of precariousness. Anton Garcia-Abril & Ensamble Studio constructed 'Balancing Act,' two weighty, horizontal structures that incise the space diagonally and counteract the existing columns of the Arsenale building.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  On one end of the top piece sits a boulder; the other end seems to be supported by a giant spring. Whether or not the gravitational force of the former is equal to the normal force of the latter, the visitor feels unsettled and awe-inspired while traversing the room.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    On one end of the top piece sits a boulder; the other end seems to be supported by a giant spring. Whether or not the gravitational force of the former is equal to the normal force of the latter, the visitor feels unsettled and awe-inspired while traversing the room.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  Transsolar + Tetsuo Kondo Architects from Germany created a cloud at building scale by mechanically controlling the heat and humidity at different heights. The path snakes through the cloud and leans against the existing columns for support, allowing people to experience it from below, within, and above.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    Transsolar + Tetsuo Kondo Architects from Germany created a cloud at building scale by mechanically controlling the heat and humidity at different heights. The path snakes through the cloud and leans against the existing columns for support, allowing people to experience it from below, within, and above.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  Through climate engineering, the bottom layer is kept at 18 degrees Celsius and 40 percent relative humidity; the middle layer, at the bulk of the cloud, is a warmer 25 degrees at 100 percent humidity; the top layer is the hottest, at 36 degrees and 60 percent humidity.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    Through climate engineering, the bottom layer is kept at 18 degrees Celsius and 40 percent relative humidity; the middle layer, at the bulk of the cloud, is a warmer 25 degrees at 100 percent humidity; the top layer is the hottest, at 36 degrees and 60 percent humidity.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  Designed by architecten de vylder vinck taillieu, the concept of this house is to combine seven different houses into one. With a reflective mirror as the base, playful sketch models and intricate plan/section drawings on the other side, one starts to see the process of how all of the different roof angles and interior spaces are resolved inside the volume.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    Designed by architecten de vylder vinck taillieu, the concept of this house is to combine seven different houses into one. With a reflective mirror as the base, playful sketch models and intricate plan/section drawings on the other side, one starts to see the process of how all of the different roof angles and interior spaces are resolved inside the volume.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  So...do you see it? Titled 'Architecture as air: study for chateau la coste' by junya.ishigami+associates, the project is supposed to be a full-size study of a building, with specially designed columns that are "rather void-like...and dissolve into the transparent space." At first, I raised my eyebrows because I thought I was being fooled, staring at the emperor in his new clothes. Later, I found out that the delicacies of the structure had been demolished only days earlier by a mischievous Venetian feline.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    So...do you see it? Titled 'Architecture as air: study for chateau la coste' by junya.ishigami+associates, the project is supposed to be a full-size study of a building, with specially designed columns that are "rather void-like...and dissolve into the transparent space." At first, I raised my eyebrows because I thought I was being fooled, staring at the emperor in his new clothes. Later, I found out that the delicacies of the structure had been demolished only days earlier by a mischievous Venetian feline.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  Studio Mumbai prepared a work-place to showcase models, large-scale mockups, and sketches, highlighting traditional materials and building techniques.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    Studio Mumbai prepared a work-place to showcase models, large-scale mockups, and sketches, highlighting traditional materials and building techniques.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  Titled "Thebuildingwhichneverdies," the potentially biomimetic and borderline grotesque sculpture perplexes visitors in the pavilion by French architects R&Sie(n).  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    Titled "Thebuildingwhichneverdies," the potentially biomimetic and borderline grotesque sculpture perplexes visitors in the pavilion by French architects R&Sie(n).

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  Amateur Architecture Studio of China displays their 'Decay of a Dome,' the exploration of a western form with traditionally Chinese construction techniques.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    Amateur Architecture Studio of China displays their 'Decay of a Dome,' the exploration of a western form with traditionally Chinese construction techniques.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  Hans Ulrich Obrist was invited by Kazuyo Sejima to interview all of the Biennale participants, an endeavor modeled after the 24-Hour Interview Marathon that launched the 2006 Serpentine Gallery. I sat here for awhile in this transformed audio/visual library, where Obrist framed a place where visitors can 'meet' the architects while resting their weary limbs.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    Hans Ulrich Obrist was invited by Kazuyo Sejima to interview all of the Biennale participants, an endeavor modeled after the 24-Hour Interview Marathon that launched the 2006 Serpentine Gallery. I sat here for awhile in this transformed audio/visual library, where Obrist framed a place where visitors can 'meet' the architects while resting their weary limbs.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  This grouping of random objects and spaces, assembled by Mark Pimlott and Tony Fretton, is supposed to evoke both and urban and interior space, somewhere in between a piazza and a salone. A piazzasalone, if you will.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    This grouping of random objects and spaces, assembled by Mark Pimlott and Tony Fretton, is supposed to evoke both and urban and interior space, somewhere in between a piazza and a salone. A piazzasalone, if you will.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  Berger&Berger designed 'ca va', a prefabricated movie theater with reference to physical deformations of acoustic compositions, as well as the meeting of films and their audience.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    Berger&Berger designed 'ca va', a prefabricated movie theater with reference to physical deformations of acoustic compositions, as well as the meeting of films and their audience.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  Immense models of the Taichung Metropolitan Opera House in Taiwan display the organic concept of intermeshing horizontal and vertical tubes in Toyo Ito's pavilion.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    Immense models of the Taichung Metropolitan Opera House in Taiwan display the organic concept of intermeshing horizontal and vertical tubes in Toyo Ito's pavilion.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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  My favorite exhibit of the Arsenale, "The Forty Part Motet," is quite arguably the least architectural. Artist Janet Cardiff placed 40 speakers strategically around the space in an oval, with each speaker broadcasting the voice of one chorus member. I slowly walked the perimeter of the oval, trying to pluck out each individual voice at a time—which became very intricate because melodies and echos often jumped from one individual to another. But when standing in the center, one can hear the entire beautiful—even sculptural—chorale by the Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis, coming together all at once.  Photo by: Tiffany Chu
    My favorite exhibit of the Arsenale, "The Forty Part Motet," is quite arguably the least architectural. Artist Janet Cardiff placed 40 speakers strategically around the space in an oval, with each speaker broadcasting the voice of one chorus member. I slowly walked the perimeter of the oval, trying to pluck out each individual voice at a time—which became very intricate because melodies and echos often jumped from one individual to another. But when standing in the center, one can hear the entire beautiful—even sculptural—chorale by the Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis, coming together all at once.

    Photo by: Tiffany Chu

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