OUR TOP 8 AT THE VENICE BIENNALE 2018, ‘CAUSE WE COULDN’T CHOOSE JUST 5
Originally written for Mood Board Magazine: https://www.moodboardmag.com/biennale2018/
Pavilion of Denmark, showcasing sustainability and interdisciplinary design, curated by Natalie Mossin; Photo Tatjana Crossley
This year’s Venice Biennale exhibited a wide range of interpretations of ‘freespace’, from empty pavilions to wild flower landscapes. The curators, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara described, the exhibition
“encourages reviewing ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the well being and dignity of each citizen of this fragile planet.
Freespace can be a space for opportunity, a democratic space, un-programmed and free for uses not yet conceived. There is an exchange between people and buildings that happens, even if not intended or designed, so buildings themselves find ways of sharing and engaging with people over time, long after the architect has left the scene. Architecture has an active as well as a passive life.
Freespace encompasses freedom to imagine, the free space of time and memory, binding past, present and future together, building on inherited cultural layers, weaving the archaic with the contemporary.”
Some were exceptional; others left much to be desired. The most successful ones were the installations that engaged with the viewers to create an experience. Here are a few highlights…
Swiss Pavilion, ‘Svizzera 240: House Tour’ curated by Alessandro Bosshard, Li Tavor, Matthew van der Ploeg and Ani Vihervaara; Photo George Guida
Switzerland, The Golden Lion Winner, produced an ‘Alice in Wonderland’-like pavilion, drawing attention to the ‘ordinary’ found in contemporary housing interiors and making it extraordinary. By toying with scale, the domestic space becomes a playground for exploration, accentuated by the fact that little children loved running around within the spaces just as much as the adults did. It was an immersive space that had its occupants intrigued with the many perceptual shifts, making them giants in some spaces and Lilliputians in others.
Argentinean Pavilion, ‘Vertigo Horizontal’ curated by Javier Mendiondo, Pablo Anzilutti, Franciso Garrido, and Federico Cairoli Horizontal; Photo Tatjana Crossley
Another immersive environment, Argentina’s pavilion, entitled Vértigo Horizontal, delights with its installation of an endless landscape that storms, twinkles and shines. The space invites guests to peer in from specific points along a long rectangular glass box and surrounds them with an open expanse, using both visual and auditory stimuli, that examines territory and place. It would be easy to spend hours at this pavilion watching the weather change over the field-scape and being transported away, fully absorbed in the environment.
The Australian Pavilion, ‘repair’ curated by Baracco+Wright Architects with Linda Tegg; photo Tatjana Crossley
It seemed many pavilions decided to make nods to nature in an effort to discuss ‘freespace’ and Australia’s pavilion created an ethereal installation once again (as they did with their pool installation in 2016). Guests to the pavilion were invited to weave in and out and to sit amongst the wild flowers. It encouraged a sort of frolicking amongst the occupants, many becoming quite playful and hiding amongst the plants to then pop their heads out like how I imagine a wallaby would. It was another pavilion that encouraged play while being incredibly simple.
The Pakistani Pavilion, ‘The Fold’ curated by Sami Chohan; photo Tatjana Crossley
The Pavilion for Pakistan, situated just outside the Giardini, was playful in a different, more constructive, way. By placing 4 swings within the small space, it encouraged communication and collaboration in order for everybody to swing freely. Occupants had to work together so as not to collide into one another. Additionally, two ‘love seats’ at the entry side required users to let one another know when they sat down or stood up. It was so successful because it allowed for interaction between users in order to activate the space in a positive way.
Gumuchdjian Architects, Great Britain; photo Tatjana Crossley
Walking through the Arsenale, few things caused me to double take but approaching the models crafted by Gumuchdjian Architects I could see that there was something special about them that drew me in. The beautiful models are of a project proposal for the design of several public cultural spaces along a 750 km trail in Armenia in order to bring villages and travelers together and inspire creative activity within it. They depict interventions that bridge landscapes, arenas and patios that connect communities, and design solutions that bring people into the nature of the Transcaucasian Trail.
The Mexican Pavilion, ‘Echoes of a Land’ curated by Gabriela Etchegaray; photo Tatjana Crossley
Similarly, landscape and terrain were explored by the Mexican Pavilion, which produced breathtaking CNC’ed stone models begging to be touched. It showed how contemporary Mexican architecture responds to, contrasts and uncovers the diverse terrain. Quoting the pavilion description, “architecture is read as a node that intertwines and reveals: landscape, history, geography, culture, politics, economy, art, literature, music.”
The Indonesian Pavilion, ‘Sunyata The Poetics of Emptiness’ curated by Ary Indrajato, David Hutma, Adwitya Dimas Satria, Ardy Hartono, Jonathan Aditya Gahari, and Johanes Adika Gahari; photo Tatjana Crossley
The Indonesian Pavilion explored ideas of emptiness and liberation from normal notions of ocular-centrism using swooping planes of paper that bounced light and shadow in dramatic ways. Visitors were invited to walk through the paper, becoming a part of this light and shadow performance. It created a ritual-like space using simple material and form, people passing through in a processional and reverent way.
The Vatican Chapels, Norman Foster; photo Tatjana Crossley
Worth the ferry trip, Vatican City’s 1st Biennale pavilion consists of several small pavilions. Each addressing the prompt, to create a chapel, in nuanced ways. Norman Foster designed one of the more thoughtful chapels on the site. This sanctuary is structurally minimal yet complex and incorporates nature- allowing for blossoming jasmine vines to make their way up the timber beams, light to scatter through the perforations, and providing a view to the sea behind the ‘alter’. It successfully creates a space for contemplation within the natural environment.
This year’s architecture Biennale was successful in its more experiential interpretations of the theme. Rather than just aggrandizing architects and projects from each country it generated pavilions that began to think about the user interaction with the installation in order to provoke thought around ‘freespace’.
Referencing Gulliver’s Travels
Similar to but smaller than a kangaroo; native to Australia