Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Venice: Arsenale - 13th International Architecture Biennale Exhibition.

Venice: Arsenale - 13th International Architecture Biennale Exhibition. Common Ground is the theme given to this year’s International ArchitectureBiennale Exhibition by its director English architect David Chipperfield. “With this year’s theme, Common Ground, we go back to talking about architecture – explains the Biennale’s president Paolo Baratta - to help architects emerge from the crisis of identity they are going through, and at the same time offering the public a chance to look inside architecture, make it familiar and discover that something can be asked of it, that something different is possible, that we are not condemned to passive acceptance.” Civil society is made up of individuals and institutions. These do not always seem capable of identifying the requirements for organizing the space we live in. In order to mend this fracture, la Biennale can make its contribution primarily by posing these as its themes. While not denying that there is a problem in the relationship between architecture and ecology, architecture and technology, and architecture and town planning, the crux is to mend the fracture between architecture and civil society.” 

David Chipperfield clarifies that he chose this theme “to encourage my colleagues to react against the prevalent professional and cultural tendencies of our time that place such emphasis on individual and isolated actions. I encouraged them instead to demonstrate the importance of influence and of the continuity of cultural endeavor, to illustrate common and shared ideas that form the basis of an architectural culture“.

Arsenale: Bernard Tschumi Architects.  The iconic posters that Bernard Tschumi made in 1976-1977 were manifestoes for understanding architecture in its eventful vitality.  They used the tactics of advertising to emphasize the difference between architecture as described by architectural theory within the academy, and its disjunctive, sensuous life in reality.  Tschumi has re-conceptualized the series for the Biennale, tackling the theme Common Ground head on and raising questions that the work in the show must answer.

 Sarah and Deyan Sudjic


Arsenale: Thomas Struth – Unconscious Places.  Thomas Struth’s pictures occupy four locations in the Arsenale, a recurring exhibition that brings the common ground of the city to attention.  From the informality of an alleyway in New York to Shanghai to the ersatz skylines of the new cities of Asia, Struth’s photographs offer a sometimes silent, objective view of urban life.  But almost always present is the evidence of inhabitation: a market stall, an advertising hoarding, and sometimes a person, bringing specificity to the typological investigation and showing how his compositions are also depictions of the diversity of urban life.

 photograph and copyright by manfredi bellati
Arsenale: Norman Foster Carlos Carcas Charles Sandison – Gateway.  The two broad interpretations of common ground examined in the Biennale are those of the history of architecture, and of the public spaces of the city.   Foster, with the artist Charles Sandison and the film director Carlos Carcas, tackles both in projection and sound.   The result is a collage: a depiction of architectural culture verging on the encyclopedic, presented in a way that invites us to make connections between diverse sources. 

The names of great architects spread across the floor, as images of cities and buildings are projected on the walls:  the historic, canonical spaces of the western world; the new cities of Asia and South America; places of upheaval and social change and the huge interiors of today – stadia, museums, termini – the architecture creates.

Lord Foster

Arsenale: O’Donnell - Tuomey – Vessel.  For Irish architects Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey, architectural practice is inseparable from the architecture, art and literature of others.  A stacked timber ‘Vessel’ provides a place of contemplation and a means of directing views towards tables with contributions from poets, artists, and other architects. This rich field of affinities provides a background to the vessel, which is itself a material response to the ubiquitous brick walls of the Arsenale. 

The common ground here described is one that articulates the relationship between architecture’s physical and intellectual contexts.

Arsenale:   FAT - Museum of Copying.  To Fat, the rhetoric of architectural influence and affinity might be reduced to an apparently banal concept: copying.  Instead FAT’s installation reveals copying to be a rich terrain.   The centerpiece of their exhibition is a large-scale cast of Palladio’s Villa Rotonda, a building from the Veneto that could claim to be the most copied building in architectural history, spawning homages and rip-offs across the glove. 

FAT’s Museum of Copying also recognizes that copying threatens the mythology of recent architectural production, based on ideas of an author’s originality and individual genius.  FAT and their collaborators are relaxed about copying: the sources are out there to plunder, and architecture has always done so in the most direct ways.


Arsenale: Cino Zucchi - Copycat, Empathy and Envy as Form Makers – Special Mention.  A Special Mention goes to Cino Zucchi for an installation, which ‘aims to evoke a complex network of relationships that shape our physical environment’. The jury believes that this serves as an exemplary reminder of the all-embracing theme of the Common Ground exhibition.

Copycat aims to highlight how forms propagate like a contagion combining imitation and innovation, resulting in a sequence of variations of a common theme.  Each of the metal wardrobes gathered around a central ‘square’ contains a collection of objects united by the principle of the “almost similar”: entomological boxes, bread-rolling pins from Rajasthan, models of submarines, photographs, souvenir buildings.  Similarity, rather than “originality”, makes the dialogue between individuals possible, giving shape to the urban landscapes constituting the beloved background of our existence.

Arsenale: Herzog and De Meuron – Elbphilharmonie.  Buildings sometimes become battlegrounds as much as common grounds, and Herzog and De Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany, is one.  

This concert hall project became a crucible of political, budgetary and ideological debate in Hamburg, and the project is presented here in the form of large-scale models, against the background of the many column inches the project generated in German newspapers from its inception to today.  For Herzog and De Meuron, what is brought to light here are the invisible forces that form the context of every architectural project.

 photograph and copyright manfredi bellati

Arsenale: Zaha Hadid Architect Patrick Schumacher – Arum.   The spectacular form of Zaha Hadid’s installation appears not as a self-sufficient artwork, but against the background of the practice’s influences ZHA considers its work as on a line of continuity with the great masters of thin shell and tensile structures like Felix Candela and Heinz Isler.     This new piece entitled Arum, is shown against a background of artefacts from these pioneers.  This lineage is also extended forwards, in the work of a young researcher of stone compression shells, Philip Block, in addition to Hadid’s current students at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

Zaha Hadid Architects - Arum – 2012 – Paper Study Model.

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