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    The Lives and Afterlives of Buildings… the Biennale and my thesis...

    Courtney Healey Sep 30 '08 0

    In the past 25days, or since my last blog post, I hung out with friends in Rotterdam, visited and researched the Westergasfabriek development in Amsterdam, read a few books for my thesis… good ones include On Altering Architecture, Gentrification, Architecture as Experience, OASE Journal #73 Gentrification, OASE Journal #69 Positions, OPEN Journal #7 (No)Memory, figured out the system at the Staatsbibliothek here in Berlin, a great place to work, wrote a few things to send to my professor… traveled to Venice for A. the Biennale, B. to rendezvous with my aunt before she embarked on a cruise to Greece, and C. to do some case study research on the Arsenale. I came back to Berlin just in time for my parents visit, missed the SALA GALA at UBC, and now it is today…

    image doges palace and san marco cathedral mash-up, foto_CH

    Some highlights from the Biennale... well those that pertain to my research anyway…

    The Irish Pavilion’s, “The Lives of Spaces”, occupies Palazzo Giustinian Lolin, a palace on the Grand Canal next to the Accademia Bridge.

    image Dara McGrath's Reconstructing the Maze, foto_CH

    image Taka's Mnemonic Tectonics, foto_CH

    image dePaor architects's Delay, foto_CH

    image dePaor architects's Delay, foto_CH

    The exhibition explores, mostly through film and still photography, the effect of lived experience on space. Exhibitors explore the local incoherence of the colloquial in their depiction of spaces and buildings experiencing major turning points in habitation and at different stages of maturity. According to the exhibition curators, they were interested in conveying the sense of a “thick present,” or “the now, but also where we’ve come from and how that somehow indicates where we’re going. I like the ordinary, or another way of putting it is the ‘extraordinary ordinary’… rather than the fabricated or hypothetical reality.”

    I believe the exhibition successfully fulfills its objectives of being “immersive, poetic and honest… not didactic and not generative of debate.” Indicative of a “plurality, a multiplicity to any space,… the phases of life of any given space.”

    My only reservations lie in the pervasive super slickness of the exhibition furniture, somehow it seems at odds with the content and the rhetoric. I’m not sure why the exhibition should stand out so starkly and perform such a juxtaposition to the layered and ornate palace interior, it seems like a missed opportunity to engage with and become embedded in the life of the exhibition space, rather than create a version of “neutral” white-cube modernism.

    image Javier Buron and Kevin Walsh's exhibition armatures, foto_CH

    I also liked the irreverent photomontages in the Polish Pavilion’s “The Afterlife of Buildings”, and its position of doubt on the permanence of architecture. Unfortunately, my camera died in this pavilion… The spirit of the photographs sort of reminded me of Joseph Gandy’s drawings of Sir John Soane’s designs as ruins.

    image Gandy's drawing of Soane's Bank of England Building


    image Rockwell Group with Jones/Kroloff media installation, foto_CH

    Otherwise, at Aaron Betsky’s Out There: Architecture Beyond Building exhibition at Arsenale, I couldn’t help sensing the pressure that the Renaissance structure was putting on all of the (no offence) rapidly prototyped/fiberglassed/cyberspaced/lofted and folded/splined and nurbed/lasercut/vacuumformed/parametric nonsense that was going on inside.

    image i think these are Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas's green boxes, foto_CH

    image Barkow Leibinger's laser cut tubes, foto_CH

    imageUNStudio's changing room, foto_CH

    image UNStudio's changing room, foto_CH

    Somehow, Frank Gehry’s "ungapatchket" installation, aka a 1:25 model for a hotel project in Moscow, ended up being one of the most harmonious, the cracked clay skin and scaffolding like structure seemed to at least open a conversation with its host building. Others went to great lengths to bend, twist and stretch around, or cut themselves out of the strong rhythm and scale of the massive brick columns. Honestly, in the end, I couldn’t help laughing at how the exhibition couldn’t even get “beyond” the building it was in!

    image Gehry's ungapatchket, foto_CH

    image Gehry's clay, foto_CH

     

     
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