Elena Collins joined WAN in 2011 and is currently part of the events and awards teams. She also regularly writes features and comment pieces for the site and is now off to Venice for the preview and opening of La Biennale di Venezia from 27-29 August 2012. Follow all the latest news from Venice on WAN’S Live Venice blog which Elena will be regularly updating with images, news and interviews from the City of Bridges.
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This year’s exhibition in the Czech and Slovak Pavilion will belong to the project Asking Architecture which presents more than 18 artists and creatives groups from the Slovak Republic and Czech Republic. It is an unconventional installation which relies solely on virtual and augmented reality and reveals itself only after the visitor makes a step towards a collateral communication with the exhibited projects and the artists themselves.
The exhibition leaves the pavilion without any conventional physical exhibits. However, 26 installations from 18 artists and creative groups are delivered through a technology of augmented reality. Custom made tablet software will encourage the visitors to leave rich video of comments that will be used to catalyse a further development projects.
The Asking Architecture project questions whether there are emerging approaches to architecture in the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic and probes it’s historical and socio-cultural background with attention to its international relations,trying to find out whether it is a new concept at all or rather a fundamental return to the basis of architecture coming from outside the discipline.
The U.S Pavilion organised by the Institute for Urban Design on behalf of the U.S Department of the State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is devoted to the theme Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good. The exhibit features 124 urban interventions initiated by architects, designers, planners artists and everyday citizens that bring positive change to neighbourhoods and cities. The selection was narrowed down after a search process that included an open call for projects realised in U.S cities in recent years, which yielded over 450 submissions.
The exhibition captures one of the most compelling contemporary urban trends, wherein individuals are taking it upon themselves to create projects that expand the amenities,comfort, functionality, inclusiveness, safety and sustainability of cities. From park let’s to pop-up markets, sharing networks, and temporary architecture, Spontaneous Interventions highlights viable citizen-led alternatives to traditional top-down urban revitalisation tactics.
Together, these projects offer an opportunity to examine the history of the American city, painting a critical and dynamic portrait of its most pressing issues today and a vision of its future.
At heart, Spontaneous Interventions is a reflection of country’s complex attitudes towards civic participation, social justic, and the built environment.
To capture some of the atmosphere of the La BIennale di Venezia, here are some snaps from around the Giardini where the national pavilions are located.
Walking through the Giardini
Outside the Czech Republic Pavilion
A little canal in the Giardini
The view on the water bus on the way to the festival
Each pavilion in Venice had something unique and different to offer but perhaps the pavilion that spilt the opinions of the public the most was the Russian Pavilion.
the space is divided into two rooms. The first is a pitch black room full of white dots with white light shinning out of the them. When you get close to the peep hole their is an image or text regarding the scientific towns and cities that were dotted across the soviet union which were a secret from the outside world. The exhibition space is an clever device to make you feel you are spying into a hidden world.
In contrast the second room is three spaces covered in QR codes. On arrival you are given a tablet and asked to scan each code to discover the plans for a new city of science located near Moscow.the city will include a new university and homes for more than 500 firms working in 5 distinct fields of science.
The Russian pavilion is certainly eye catching and distinctive but I felt the QR code room was rather lifeless, there was a lack of conversation and interaction among the visitors in the room. I felt I couldn’t relate to the project as seeing it through a screen made it less accessible and I could of accessed the same information from my desk at work.
The first stop on my trip to La Biennale di Venezia was to see the main exhibition curated by David Chipperfield who themed this year’s festival of architecture under the title of ‘Common Ground’. At a packed press conference he explained how he had selected a group of inspiring architects to bring the theme to life.
Chipperfield divulged how he struggled to decided if the frame of the biennale this year should be thematic or free but at the core of it he wanted architecture which presented ideas and concepts that architects and the public could share. The notions behind the theme include: What does architecture give socially, what ideas do we all share, how various concepts affect us, and the building of knowledge.
He also stressed that the biennale was is no way an exclusive conference for architects but a place where ideas can be shared by all members of the public, where the exhibition could be a building ground of knowledge. A theme focused around a culture of architecture and not around superstar architects.
However a few questions were raised in the press conference around the topic of ‘superstar architects’. A couple of critics leapt forward to accuse Zaha Hadid’s contribution of being an example of her work which didn’t follow the theme, to which he cooly replied ‘her work is a tour de force but she is presented in a less complete way and we have pushed architects out of their comfort zone’.
From the point of view of the general public and not of the architect the exhibition is a compelling collection of ideas where architecture is turned into art in lyric, poetic and moving ways. A must see exhibition. The piece which stood out for me was Norman Foster’s mixed-media piece with artist Charles Sandison and film director Carlos Carcas. A dramatic whirlwind of videos, sound and lighting which presented architecture in a stunning manner which engulfed the audience as part of the piece of art.
Images: The press conference, Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster
As the opening of the La Biennale di Venezia draws closer, I will be jetting off to The City of Water on behalf of WAN to get a sneak preview of what’s in store at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition, directed by David Chipperfield and titled Common Ground.
The official opening will be taking place on the 29th August which will include an awards ceremony where Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza will be receiving the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. However, I’ve been luckily enough to get to Venice two days before the opening, in time to see the press previews of some of the most exciting pavilions to date, along with visiting some of the collateral events.
On the agenda so far I will be chatting with The Australian Institute of Architects about their exhibition, Formations: New Practices in Australian Architecture, dropping into the British Pavilion to catch up with curator Vicky Richardson since our last discussion about The Venice Takeaway and off on a boat trip to celebrate the opening of the Finnish and Nordic pavilions.
Not only this I will going to see this year’s WAN Hotel of the Year Award winners The Oval Partnership who are curating this year Hong Kong pavilion, visiting The Way of the Enthusiasts, An exhibition dedicated to the relationship between Russian history, art and architecture. In my busy schedule I will also be having a tour with of the Canada pavilion, chatting with the Dutch curators as well as visiting the Swizz and German Pavilion.
The whole time I will there, I will be keeping you up to date with all the latest news from Venice including photos, interviews and tours. Also keep an idea out on twitter @worldarchnews where I will be tweeting my snaps and news. Next stop La Bella Italia…