Writing from Venice, getting endlessly lost in the city and feeling quite inspired by this year’s architecture biennale. Let me know if there are things you want me to see and document, or people you want to hear from. Some first thoughts below ...
Writing from Venice, getting endlessly lost in the city and feeling quite inspired by this year’s architecture biennale. Let me know if there are things you want me to see and document, or people you want to hear from. Some first thoughts below, next post will be less talking and more images, just getting the hang of this ... !
I had anticipated Aaron Betsky’s curated theme of Beyond Buildings in 2008 to speak to my own interests in landscape and the larger built environment, but the works cumulatively felt flat, cold, analytical ... sometimes aggressive. But Kuzuyo Sejima’s 2010 theme, People meet in Architecture, seems so simple and human by comparison. Sejima selected projects that embrace the social aspect and human-scale of architecture, and so as a whole the exhibition feels joyful and responsive, considering ways we inhabit spaces and how they facilitate our interactions. And there seems to be less reliance on representation this year in favor of spatial interventions we can experience ... I remember last time having a splitting headache from reading all the small text, and so far this year I’ve just felt energized, even on no sleep.
We were joking last night, as we headed to some parties, that “People meet in Architecture” is also the perfect network pickup -- “Are you in Architecture? Then we should meet.” But that’s obviously quite deliberate on the part of Sejima, to also reflect on the nature of the biennale itself as a meeting space for people and ideas.
Anyway, I’m still taking it in, have barely seen a quarter of it yet, but wanted to share first some first impressions, and hopefully with these notes connections can start to be made ... will post a lot more later today, and hopefully will get friends to post as well.
Bahrain’s Reclaim dislocates three traditional fishing huts from their isolated piers on the coast into the crowded spaces of the biennale, to comment on the impact of sprawl development on Bahrain’s coastline and their desire to reconnect with the sea, in a very immediate and physical gesture, though really they have the most impact when shown in connection to the photographs of the sheds in their native coastline ... will dig up those photos soon.
China’s Here for a Chinese Appointment, seems to be a vague arrangement for a future meeting with a collection of invited artists. The space and its passageways give an endless sense of anticipation, and the “meeting in architecture” sort of seems to happen without you realizing it, and then you’re pushed back out into the sunlight feeling a bit dizzy and in awe. That photo series (last image) is an artist who enlisted migrant worker bricklayers in Beijing to construct and deconstruct 4 brick walls in a gallery space ...
Some things are sort of hard (for me at least) to capture in stills, so I'll post some videos of Olafur Ellisen's work (Rain), Janet Cardiff (Sound), and Transsolar & Tetsuo Kondo Architects' Cloudscapes (Fog) as soon as Paul wakes up (LA time) and shows me how, but here are a couple images in the meanwhile:
For me, the one project in 2008 that let some light in was the garden that my former office, Gustafson Porter, designed at the end of the Arsenale, carved out of a forgotten plot of land overgrown with thick brambles. Hidden away, left off the official maps, the garden-as-allegory was split into two parts, nourishment: edible kitchen garden, and enlightenment: an ethereal landform of turf (with a floating fabric cloud overhead if you were lucky to have been there for the opening). I was curious to see the state of this project two years later, after rumors of flooding, to see if it had fallen into disrepair or returned to its original wilderness state, and as it sits right next to the press office, I made a beeline there on arrival.
Sejima brought in the planting designer Piet Oudolf to replace the front kitchen with one of his signature naturalistic planting designs of wildflowers and ornamental grasses. Of Late, Oudolf has been landscape architecture’s Secret Weapon, deployed in projects like Field Operation’s The High Line to bring layers of complexity, texture, color and form through living materials. Oudolf is doing his thing in the Venice gardens and the planting is of course beautiful, a gentle return to the former wild state of the gardens, while maintaining the paths carved out by the last designer. It seems a little easy, to just plant the existing beds, and I would have loved to have seen him tackle one of the amazing interior spaces of the arsenale, or move into the back garden of "enlightenment," transforming the now slightly ragged landform into something else ...
Anyway, will write next about Muf's British Pavilion, Nordic Pavilion (and an old archinect friend), Aranda/Lasch, Wim Wenders, Toyo Ito, Atelier Bow-wow, OMA ... looking forward to going to the ReBiennale tonight, a rogue project by the French collective EXYST, the arrival of the floating Croatian pavilion, and more ...