I visited 2016’s Venice Architecture Biennale across two main locations; The Giardini and The Arsenale. The Giardini is a picturesque area of parkland in East Venice on the banks of the Bacino di San Marco and was created by Napoleon Bonaparte as a public garden. It now houses 30 permanent pavilions created by iconic architects of the twentieth century, each a representative for a participating country in which to showcase their artistic offerings. The Arsenale is an area of renovated twelfth century dockyard which once served the purpose of providing naval fleets, The Republic of Venice’s military strength. The large warehouses now operate as event spaces; in this case, an exhibition space for the Biennale.
The theme of 2016’s Biennale, ‘Reporting From The Front’ was set by it’s director, the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, and aims to evoke conversation about the quality of life in our built environment. I found great interest in this theme and find myself wanting to be apart of the discussion in many ways; recently more so than ever due to the rising attention placed on the displacing of alarming numbers of people. My primary opinion is not exceedingly political or economical but instead is rather simple; feeling safe in ones home is a human right.
. Giardini .
Firstly the Giardini. The gardens open out to a plethora of unique buildings in a variety of architectural styles. For example, the British pavilion is a neoclassical structure with pillars framing the threshold of the symmetrical building. Contrastingly, the Nordic pavilion is a vast and minimal space constructed almost entirely from pale coloured concrete, and accessed via large, wood-framed glass panels. Inside each pavilion is an exhibition by that country adhering to the theme; I’ve selected a few that I personally thought were evoking.
. Czechoslovakia .
Care For Architecture
Exemplum of the Slovak National Gallery or Asking Arche of Architecture to Dance.
The scale red structure of the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava is designed to question whether soviet architecture in the countries of Slovakia and the Czech Republic can be disassociated with the communist regime or whether it should be demolished
. Switzerland .
A Pure Encounter with Architecture
Conceived by architect Christian Kerez, the cavernous, cloud-like formation offers visitors a chance to have a “pure encounter with architecture”. The design stands to showcase the potential of combining digital technology with traditional architectural methods.
. Australia .
Architecture, Culture and Identity in Australia
The Pool represents a location for numerous key political and social events throughout the country’s history. The room is filled with sensory elements such as a scent of chlorine and the reflection of light off the ripples across the walls and ceiling. The voices of eight culturally important Australian figures can be herd through the speakers lining the wall.
. Arsenale .
The first impact the Arsenale was an exhibition by the Biennale itself; a room showcasing the amount of materials that were taken from the dismantling of the festival two years
previous. 90 tonnes to be specific. The walls were built using vast amounts of plasterboard piled on top of one another as bricks, with the occasional shelf acting as a stand for a small screen to show the dismantling. Suspended from the ceiling was an impressively intimidating number of steel supports. As designers become more and more aware of their social responsibility to design sustainably, this was a fitting and dramatic response to the theme.
. Slovenia .
A Curated Library Addressing the Notions of Home and Dwelling
The aim of Home@Arsenale was to create a hub of information and invited industry professionals to fill it with books on home design. This space also serves as an interactive area where people can sit and immerse themselves in their reading.
. Ireland .
Níall McLaughlin, Yeoryia Manolopoulou
The Irish pavilion, for me, targeted the theme in an altogether different way. Using suspended projectors and speakers, the exhibition aims to give an insight into the fragmented experience of a dementia sufferer, demanding that architects and designers take their struggle into consideration as part of their thought process. I felt that this was an incredibly moving installation about the consciousness of the human mind; something I’m sure most of us take for granted.
In his trip to South America, Bruce Chatwin encountered an old lady walking in the desert carrying an aluminium ladder on her shoulder. It was German architect Maria Reiche, studying the Nazca lines. Standing on the ground, the stones did not make any sense; they were just random gravel. But from the height of the ladder those stones became a bird, a tree, or a flower. Maria Reiche did not have the resources or the technology to study the lines from above the desert. But she was creative enough to still find a way to achieve her goal. The modest ladder is the proof that we shouldn’t blame the harshness of constraints for incapacity to do our job.
Against scarcity: inventiveness.
Curatore della Biennale Architettura 2016