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Venice Biennale: Giardini

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Although the Venice Architecture Biennale invades all nooks and crannies of the four-square-mile island, most of the festival's big-hitters reside under the roof of only one building, the Italian pavilion at Giardini. As we round out our 2010 Biennale overview, we highlight the exhibits that not only left us pondering, but also left us hopeful for the future of architecture.

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  Cerith Wyn Evans opened with neon text from "The Changing Light at Sandover," a poem by James Merrill -- where the protagonist's setting, like that of this physical text, evokes a sense of suspension in space.
    Cerith Wyn Evans opened with neon text from "The Changing Light at Sandover," a poem by James Merrill -- where the protagonist's setting, like that of this physical text, evokes a sense of suspension in space.
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  Composed with transparent slabs placed at 350mm intervals, the Primitive Future House by Sou Fujimoto Architects explores the variety of spaces created by these layers.  Using 350mm as the main unit of measurement, they recreated the height of chairs (350mm), the 700mm height of desks (350 x 2), and the 175mm height of stairs (350 / 2) in a house-like topography.
    Composed with transparent slabs placed at 350mm intervals, the Primitive Future House by Sou Fujimoto Architects explores the variety of spaces created by these layers.  Using 350mm as the main unit of measurement, they recreated the height of chairs (350mm), the 700mm height of desks (350 x 2), and the 175mm height of stairs (350 / 2) in a house-like topography.
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  With playfully drawn graphics and animated models, Aldo Cibic's 'Rethinking Happiness' exhibit highlights different units of separate lifestyles, and attempts to unify them into mixed uses and new collaborations. (For example: herb garden + bike parking, golf driving range + agricultural station, etc.)  This is their portrayal of Superbazaar, an emerging public space/subway station/hotel/concert hall/market/day care center/lots of other programs being planned on the edge of northern Milan.
    With playfully drawn graphics and animated models, Aldo Cibic's 'Rethinking Happiness' exhibit highlights different units of separate lifestyles, and attempts to unify them into mixed uses and new collaborations. (For example: herb garden + bike parking, golf driving range + agricultural station, etc.)  This is their portrayal of Superbazaar, an emerging public space/subway station/hotel/concert hall/market/day care center/lots of other programs being planned on the edge of northern Milan.
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  One strikingly simple, yet memorable pavilion was that designed by Portugal's Aires Mateus e associados, titled 'Voids.' In the action of extracting volumes, they connect a positive building form with its corresponding negative space -- a relationship that always exists inherently, but one that I have never seen so clearly and understandably articulated.
    One strikingly simple, yet memorable pavilion was that designed by Portugal's Aires Mateus e associados, titled 'Voids.' In the action of extracting volumes, they connect a positive building form with its corresponding negative space -- a relationship that always exists inherently, but one that I have never seen so clearly and understandably articulated.
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  Andrea Branzi explores the concept of an 'infinite world,' choosing to portray this notion using large models surrounded by mirrors. Each attempts to symbolize a manifesto-type suggestion for the future of cities; some of the more provocative ones include 'the city as a high-tech favela,' 'the city as a living plankton,' and 'the city as a personal computer every 20 square meters.'
    Andrea Branzi explores the concept of an 'infinite world,' choosing to portray this notion using large models surrounded by mirrors. Each attempts to symbolize a manifesto-type suggestion for the future of cities; some of the more provocative ones include 'the city as a high-tech favela,' 'the city as a living plankton,' and 'the city as a personal computer every 20 square meters.'
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  Atelier Bow-Wow displays what they do best -- delivering different interpretations of the concept of 'microhouse' -- in rows of seductively immaculate models.
    Atelier Bow-Wow displays what they do best -- delivering different interpretations of the concept of 'microhouse' -- in rows of seductively immaculate models.
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  A feather of wit in a sea of gravity at Giardini (the pavilions at theArsenale were a bit more light-hearted), Tom Sachs mocks the successes and failures of modernism through the devices of Le Corbusier.  Here, he presents a model juxtaposing the form of Villa Savoye with that of a McDonald's, collectively titled the 'McBusier.'
    A feather of wit in a sea of gravity at Giardini (the pavilions at theArsenale were a bit more light-hearted), Tom Sachs mocks the successes and failures of modernism through the devices of Le Corbusier.  Here, he presents a model juxtaposing the form of Villa Savoye with that of a McDonald's, collectively titled the 'McBusier.'
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  Swiss architect Christian Kerez fills up an entire room with a looming structural mockup of his steel-constructed Leutschenbach School in Zurich.  With its strong horizontal planes and diagonal piercing members, this skeletal concept is also present in his Holcim Competence Center (which was displayed in wood in a second room. Why was he the only one with a second room, does anyone know?)
    Swiss architect Christian Kerez fills up an entire room with a looming structural mockup of his steel-constructed Leutschenbach School in Zurich.  With its strong horizontal planes and diagonal piercing members, this skeletal concept is also present in his Holcim Competence Center (which was displayed in wood in a second room. Why was he the only one with a second room, does anyone know?)
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  A clever installation by Pezo von Ellrichshausen Architects from Chile, this exhibit places two similar buildings in two different conditions. In front of large, backlit panoramas, the small cube sculptures seem drastically singled-out, detached, and devoid of context.
    A clever installation by Pezo von Ellrichshausen Architects from Chile, this exhibit places two similar buildings in two different conditions. In front of large, backlit panoramas, the small cube sculptures seem drastically singled-out, detached, and devoid of context.
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  British firm Caruso St. John and German artist Thomas Demand built a full-scale mock-up of 'nagelhaus,' double-height shell of a structure that seems to be deliberately cumbersome.  It is to be sited in Zurich, with an existing railway passing through it -- and the entire concept refers to a persevering little house in Chongquing, China that remained standing while its entire surrounding neighborhood was demolished.
    British firm Caruso St. John and German artist Thomas Demand built a full-scale mock-up of 'nagelhaus,' double-height shell of a structure that seems to be deliberately cumbersome.  It is to be sited in Zurich, with an existing railway passing through it -- and the entire concept refers to a persevering little house in Chongquing, China that remained standing while its entire surrounding neighborhood was demolished.
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  A glance into the visually cacophonous cafe at Giardini.
    A glance into the visually cacophonous cafe at Giardini.
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  In contrast, the reading room adjacent to the bookstore at Giardini was a peaceful, appreciated expression of forms inspired by Alvar Aalto.
    In contrast, the reading room adjacent to the bookstore at Giardini was a peaceful, appreciated expression of forms inspired by Alvar Aalto.
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  Sejima also included a room for a Lina Bo Bardi retrospective, the celebrated Italian-Brazilian female modernist. Drawings and diagrams line the walls, around an intricate 1:50 scale model of the SESC Pompeia building in Sao Paulo (which was actually crafted by SANAA).
    Sejima also included a room for a Lina Bo Bardi retrospective, the celebrated Italian-Brazilian female modernist. Drawings and diagrams line the walls, around an intricate 1:50 scale model of the SESC Pompeia building in Sao Paulo (which was actually crafted by SANAA).
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  OMA's pavilion took a forceful, critical view on the debate of architectural preservation. Due to a universal growing sense of nostalgia, OMA argues against our desire to preserve "everything" and the diminishing window of time between construction and preservation. "The area declared immutable through various regimes of preservation is growing exponentially. A huge section of our world (about 12%) is now off limits..." 
Displayed on the bottom level was furniture designed specifically for Nazi clients by Paul Ludwig Troost, all of which was white-washed and initially condemned to the basement of Munich's Haus der Kunst post-1945.  It was only in 2007, when OMA and Herzog & de Meuron were invited to rehabilitate the Haus, when the 'repressed' furniture was brought to light, and had to be ironically de-white-washed.
    OMA's pavilion took a forceful, critical view on the debate of architectural preservation. Due to a universal growing sense of nostalgia, OMA argues against our desire to preserve "everything" and the diminishing window of time between construction and preservation. "The area declared immutable through various regimes of preservation is growing exponentially. A huge section of our world (about 12%) is now off limits..."  Displayed on the bottom level was furniture designed specifically for Nazi clients by Paul Ludwig Troost, all of which was white-washed and initially condemned to the basement of Munich's Haus der Kunst post-1945.  It was only in 2007, when OMA and Herzog & de Meuron were invited to rehabilitate the Haus, when the 'repressed' furniture was brought to light, and had to be ironically de-white-washed.
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  There are regular architectural models, and then there are SANAA's models.  Sprawled out on the floor from wall-to-wall, using only the crispest of white paper, SANAA's rendition of their tear-drop-shaped Teshima Art Museum and the surrounding Seto Inland Sea is pristine and ethereal, right down to the shadowy abstract black globules that characterize their signature scale figures.
    There are regular architectural models, and then there are SANAA's models.  Sprawled out on the floor from wall-to-wall, using only the crispest of white paper, SANAA's rendition of their tear-drop-shaped Teshima Art Museum and the surrounding Seto Inland Sea is pristine and ethereal, right down to the shadowy abstract black globules that characterize their signature scale figures.

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