Venice Biennale 2012: Shifting Grounds (Beyond National Architecture) / Ireland Pavilion

© Nico Saieh

The Irish Pavilion, designed by heneghan peng architects with the support of Arup, and curated by John McLaughlin, charts a position for Irish architecture in a global culture where the modes of production of architecture are radically altered. has developed a national culture of architecture derived from local place as a material construct. They now have to evolve our understanding in the light of the globalized nature of economic processes and architectural production which is largely dependent on internationally networked flows of products and data. They have just begun to represent this situation to themselves and others. How should a global architecture be grounded culturally and philosophically? How does it position itself outside of shared national reference points?

© Nico Saieh

From John McLaughlin:

heneghan peng architects were selected as participants because they work across different continents on a range of diverse projects. Our dialogue led us to discussing the universal languages of projective geometry and number shared by architects and related professionals. In their work the specific embodiment of these geometries is carefully calibrated by the choice of materials and their detailed design. The stone facade of the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre in Antrim takes precise measure of the properties of the volcanic basalt seams from which it is hewn. The extraction of the stone is the subject of wall drawings which record the cutting of basalt to create the façade of the Causeway Centre.

© Nico Saieh

We also identified water as the element which is shared across the different sites. Venice is a perfect place to take measure of this element which suggests links to another site – the Nile Valley. An ancient Egyptian rod for measuring the water level of the Nile inspired the design of a responsive oscillating bench which invites visitors to balance their respective weights. The bench constitutes a shifting ground located in the unstable field of Venice. It is about measurement and calibration of the weight of the body in relation to other bodies; in relation to the site of the installation; and in relation to water. It is located in the Artiglierie section of the Arsenale. Its level is calibrated against the mark of the acqua alta in the adjacent brickwork of the building which marks a horizontal datum in a floating world.

Cite: Jordana, Sebastian. "Venice Biennale 2012: Shifting Grounds (Beyond National Architecture) / Ireland Pavilion" 05 Sep 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 18 Sep 2014. <>


Share your thoughts