OMA finds us in Cronocaos, as the boundaries between preservation and demolition collapse, Caruso St. John pays homage to a private home in Chongqing that stood against all odds, and Bahrain takes home the prize in their moving call to preserve their coastline from development.
The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) pushes forward a powerful manifesto in their two-part installation, Preservation, drawing parallels between "the ambition of the global taskforce of ‘preservation’ to rescue larger and larger territories of the planet, and the – corresponding? – global rage to eliminate the evidence of the postwar period of architecture as a social project." Lacking a set of coherent strategies or policies and generally not engaged by architects and designers, preservation is an under-examined topic, but increasingly more relevant, OMA claims, as we enter this age of "Cronocaos," in which the boundaries of preservation and demolition collapse.
This project was in part sparked by one of OMA's new projects, announced at the biennale, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, which will transform a historic customs house owned by the Benetton family into a department store. OMA examines their own past work in the context of preservation, dividing their installation into two parts, the first a set of artifacts, doorknobs and desks, and in the second, a set of manifestos describing the impact of contemporary attitudes towards preservation on cities, as the linear evolution of time collapses.
"The march of preservation necessitates the development of a theory of its opposite: not what to keep, but what to give up, what to erase and abandon. A system of phased demolition, for instance, would drop the unconvincing pretence of permanence for contemporary architecture, built under different economic and material assumptions. It would reveal tabula rasa beneath the thinning crust of our civilization – ready for liberation just as we (in the West) had given up on the idea."
Caruso St. John and artist Thomas Demand make a full-scale mock-up of their project "Nagelhaus," two small buildings that will be tucked under a viaduct in Zurich. Although these buildings find a way to fit into the existing infrastructure, they affectionately pay homage to "the stubborn nail," a small private home in Chongqing, a house that stood against all odds, refusing to move as demolition happened all around.
Render courtesy of Caruso St. John. Below: the "Stubborn Nail" house ...
Bahrain's entry to the biennale left such an impression on me that it was the first thing I wrote about. Their installation, Reclaim, ended up taking home the top prize - the Golden Lion - for their moving call to preserve -- or rather, take back -- their coastline from development. A few more images, these ones by Camille Zakharia, a Bahraini based photographer documentating of the varied coastal areas of the Kingdom.