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Venice in Three Parts - Part 2

There were three distinct types of displays at this year's La Biennale di Venezia: immersive experiences, artistic expressions, and marketing efforts. Guess which are most satisfying?

By Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA
October 3, 2018


Part 1: As a first-timer to La Biennale di Venezia, I was awed, delighted, and enchanted at the spectacle of architecture in so many expressions.

 

Corderie

 

The dauntingly long hall of the Corderie houses exhibits by architects who Biennale directors Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara invited to interpret FREESPACE. There were three distinct types of displays: immersive experiences, artistic expressions, and marketing efforts. Guess which are most satisfying?

 

Actual Cold Comfort

 

Dorte Mandrup (Copenhagen) freezes out all others with “Conditions Icefiord Centre, Ilulissat, Greenland,” though I didn’t think so at first look. A cramped room displays a small model of the project, some info, and a photo of existing conditions. To my utter delight, the next room was an immersive environment that stirred emotion and wonder. The white room with curved walls features a 12-foot-long model of the structure, sans roof and floor, on a raked plinth meant to be ascended. During a six-minute cycle, the light changes from blinding white to deep mystical blue, the wind blows easy and hard, and fog in varying densities rises from the back. This tableau held many visitors rapt – and not just because it was the only point of actual coolness in the 80-degree (F) humidity of Venice. “Wow!” said a toddler who stared in awe. After bringing his parents back several times, the boy resisted leaving and cried as if his parents were dragging him out of Disneyland.

 

A Disappointment

 

There were too many exhibits that simply appeared as 3-D websites, forcing the portfolio into the theme through accompanying archi-speak. Diller Scofidio + Renfro (New York City) phoned it in by displaying an oft-published project with a model and video (Post-Occupancy: the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center”). Given such a platform and opportunity, architects who blasély presented their work were disappointing, if not downright disrespectful.

 

Quick Takes

 

   “A School in the Making” by Case Design (Mumbai): Based on a design for a girls’ school, the models and mock-ups of brick structures are sublime in their everyday-ness.

   “The Dream of Space Produces Form” by Paredes Pedrosa Arquitectos (Madrid): This highly seductive display draws the viewer in through solid/void plays of structurein both the work and exhibition vehicle. Though not overtly stated, it’s plain to get the architects’ paraphrase of countryman Goya’s “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.”

   “Recasting” by Alison Brooks Architects (London): Centered around ideas of housing, the exhibit completely engages people with pieces that are both simple and intriguing. One can’t help but participate. Overheard after two exhibit-goers were taking photos: “Are you ready to experience the architecture?” “Let’s go!” And they stepped inside.

   “Oxymoron” by Sauerbruch Hutton (Berlin): This glowing structure is a space (the wood pavilion) within a space (the Corderie), then lined with images of spaces in the process of urban renewal. Benches enable further pondering. This is a great way to exhibit the work of public spaces while creating one.

   “Virtual Nature” by Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects (Tokyo): A meditative, Zen enclosure of flowing fabric with cushions to experience ethereal music and imagesJapanese clichés? So what! Peace and beauty stir the soul wherever it’s found. [short video]

   “Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Kalamazoo, USA” by Studio Gang (Chicago): The essence of the project is exhibited through curving walls made of the same wood masonry technique as the building in situ, stressing the materiality of architecture, which is always delightfully present in Studio Gang’s work.

   “Field” by Aires Mateus (Lisbon): This UFO-like container on stilts just dares you to look inside. The reward when you do is a collection of precious landscapes and miniature gardens lit with both drama and subtlety.

 

 

ARSENALE

 

Paper Route

 

The Indonesian Pavilion asks: What if architecture has no form and shape? Then answers in a luminous display of blank paper – symbolic in its potential – draped through the space designed by Adwitya Dimas Satria and Ardy Hartono Kurniawan. “Sunyata: The Poetics of Emptiness” posits that architecture “will be freed” once it embraces the void. Observers experience this through cut-outs in the vast swaths of paper in this stirring exhibit.

 

Cloud Cover

 

“Cloud Pergola: The Architecture of Hospitality” at the Croatian Pavilion offers a traditional element of structure, but in a porous – and enchanting – way. In the center of the installation by Alisa Andrašek with Bruno Juričiċ sits the pergola created using “computational models, robot fabrication, and big data.” Strands and knots of synthetic something form the structure, which lures visitors in to be enveloped by changing light and shadow. Experiencing this outdoors would have been wonderful.

 

 

Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA, is West Coast correspondent for ArchNewsNow.com. She is principal of Taylor & Company, a public relations firm championing the profession of architecture, and was 2014-2016 Public Director on the AIA National Board.

 

Also by Taylor:

 

Frank Gehry's Urban Renewal

Throughout "Frank Gehry" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the repeated and insistent message is that his work "distinguished him as an urbanist," as if trying so hard to convince us that it's true. The curator doth protest too much.

 

Delight & Design: "Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio"

Wonder and joy pervade the exhibition and enchant its viewers. Skip - don't walk - to experience it.

 

Drawing an Elegant Conclusion: Menil Drawing Institute by Johnston Marklee

Houston: In the somewhat arbitrary hierarchy of fine art media, where painting is king, drawing is often considered less valuable. The new MDI elevates the medium by providing a distinguished, respectful home.

 

Monterey Design Conference: 1 Mile of Beach. 3 Days. 20 Speakers. 50 Hours. 100s of Conversations. 1,000s of Ideas

The Julia Morgan-designed Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, CA, will be abuzz at the biennial event September 27-29, 2013.

 

The Blob That Could Eat Los Angeles

The history of our ill-fated Los Angeles County Museum of Art is told in "The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA": I'm a fan of Zumthor, but this building could be cool almost anywhere else.

 

Overdrive: L.A.'s Future is Present in its Past

Simultaneously hopeful and wistful, The Getty Museum's exhibition is about the evolution of a modern city seen through its architecture, confirming the truly layered nature of Los Angeles.



(click on pictures to enlarge)

Andrea Avezz¨; courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

“Conditions Icefiord Centre, Ilulissat, Greenland” by Dorte Mandrup

Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA

“Conditions Icefiord Centre, Ilulissat, Greenland” by Dorte Mandrup

Andrea Avezz¨; courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

“Post-Occupancy: the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center” by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Francesco Galli; courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

“A School in the Making” by Case Design

Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA

“The Dream of Space Produces Form” by Paredes Pedrosa Arquitectos

Andrea Avezz¨; courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

“Recasting” by Alison Brooks Architects

Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA

“Recasting” by Alison Brooks Architects

Andrea Avezz¨; courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

“Oxymoron” by Sauerbruch Hutton

Andrea Avezz¨; courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

“Virtual Nature” by Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects

Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA

“Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Kalamazoo, USA” by Studio Gang

Francesco Galli; courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

“Field” by Aires Mateus

Francesco Galli; courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

“Field” by Aires Mateus

Francesco Galli; courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

“Sunyata: The Poetics of Emptiness” at the Indonesian Pavilion

Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA

“Sunyata: The Poetics of Emptiness” at the Indonesian Pavilion

Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA

“Cloud Pergola: The Architecture of Hospitality” at the Croatian Pavilion

Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA

“Cloud Pergola: The Architecture of Hospitality” at the Croatian Pavilion

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