Ah yes, I remember Venice…the sweltering August heat. The endless throng of badly-dressed tourists. And let’s not forget the vastly inflated prices! You would think that with so many people in town year-round, the Venice Architecture Biennale would be packed as well. It wasn’t! In fact, I practically had the entire place to myself when I was there last month. To be honest, it didn’t really surprise me. I checked out the Biennale website before I decided to go there. After all, I had never been there before and wanted to find out if it would be my thing. Frankly, it was a total snoozefest. Well, that’s probably a bit strong – but it didn’t really entice me to visit the Biennale and can imagine many potential visitors were similarly inclined. The billboards that were practically on every street in Venice weren’t particularly attractive as well. They all featured the same photo of a lady in a dress standing on a ladder in the desert. Yes, I know there’s an entire story behind that picture – but I’m sure that all those gazillions tourists in Venice saw it just like that and couldn’t understand what it all meant. Only when I checked out all the #biennalearchitettura2016 pictures on Instagram I got an idea of what to expect. I ooh’ed and aah’ed over all the gorgeous things on display and THAT was when I decided to spend a day at the Venice Architecture Biennale – and it was effin’ amazing!
This is part one of a two-part blogpost about the Venice Architecture Biennale – you can find part two right here.
Okay here we go…the Venice Architecture Biennale in all its glory!
Things started off with a blast – although considering the subject matter that might not be the most appropriate introduction to the one of the first rooms I visited at the Biennal. Forensic Architecture is a London-based agency that provides evidence for international prosecution teams. Case in point: this fascinating investigation into a 2012 American drone strike on a building in Pakistan. Take a few minutes to watch this video and then take a look at the picture I took of the copy of the room that was on display. I have always been fascinated by drones – I even wrote about something called the Drone Survival Guide once – but it took this exhibition for me to fully realize the human consequences of drone warfare.
Another investigation by Forensic Architecture focused on an Israeli attack on Gaza. I don’t want to get too political on Interiorator, but when I look at the portraits of the casualties I guess all I can think is – Boy George was right!
Then it was on to Durban’s Warwick Junction Market, where the Asiye Etafuleni NGO supports local traders with the urban development of what was once one of South Africa’s most dangerous places. Now I have to admit that normally I’m not someone who reads every single sheet of paper at an exhibition like this one (and let’s face it – sometimes it’s way too much) but this particular success story definitely tickled my fancy.
Hot pink walls, bright yellow accents – right up my proverbial alley! And again, lots of stuff to read at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ Continuous Seach and Research for the Social Use of Hi-Tech before I fully understood the meaning behind all those beautiful scale models.
The beauty in the picture below is a late-Sixties model of ZipUp House, Rogers’ first speculative exploration of what a modern house could be like, free of the constraints of traditional methods of construction.
Phew, time for some R&R at the Biennale coffeeshop and bar! Give me a room decorated with razzle dazzle prints and polka dots that leaves me foaming at the mouth and I’m a happy man!
Have you ever been to Detroit? I spent two days in the Motor City when my husband and I were on our honeymoon. I wanted to see the parking garage at the Michigan Theater (couldn’t find it), the teen mothers who had become urban farmers (too scared to drive there to be honest) and the Artists Village (no one could tell us where it was because there was no friggin’ tourist info). We ended up drinking a beer on a downtown terrace that had six feet tall bars to protect us from…what? It was definitely an interesting experience but I felt sort of guilty visiting such a sad, sad place. That being said, Detroit has lots of potential and deserves so much more than bits current terrible image – which was exactly the theme of the Architectural Imagination exhibition at the US Pavilion of the Biennale. There were two proposals I particularly liked. First, there was Pita & Bloom’s proposal for Detroit’s Mexicantown, called Zócalo. I loved their focus on color, a design factor that often gets overlooked.
Definitely the best illustrated proposal came from MOS. I have no idea where the Dequindre Cut is in Detroit, but I’m sure it’s going to look a whole lot better once if this urban renewal plan is executed!
On to the stunning Nordic pavilion (well, it’s stunning if you’re into sparse concrete architecture)! I didn’t care much for the wooden pyramid if I can be brutally honest, but those vintage sofa’s sure looked pretty.
The Serbian pavilion was transformed into a hull of a ship with some very handy sockets for people to charge their phones. As you can see I had the entire place to myself – pretty cool, huh? The design symbolizes young architects’ difficult crusade to find employment. I didn’t really get it but there you go.
The Egyptian pavilion was a pleasant surprise with a series of black and white photo’s that show how architecture can change the urban environment. My inner visual merchandiser totally loved how these photo’s were printed on plexiglass and then hung on both sides of white sheets. Very cool!
As I sit here and write this blogpost, exactly one week has passed since my visit to the Venice Architecture Biennale. The Selfie Automaton exhibition at the Romanian pavilion was definitely one of my favorite concepts. Beautiful execution and a great matching website. BTW, did you know that this exhibition was inspired by Jacques de Vaucanson’s Digesting Duck? Riveting stuff!
Refugees are a big theme right now – which shouldn’t come as a surprise. ! Germany opened its gates in 2016 and gave over one million refugees a new home. Yes, our Teutonic neigbors want to show the world how open they are – and that is exactly why the beautiful German pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale was temporarily disfigured – gasp! – to give it a few extra openings.
Enough for today – I’ll share even more photo’s of the Venice Architecture Biennale with you next week! For now, I am about to board a flight to Guangzhou, China to go to the Timothy Oulton at Home Show.