On Common Ground

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.

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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.

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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.

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Images: The press conference, Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster

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