For the 13th Venice Biennale, Norman Foster was invited to create two exhibitions. On the one hand, there’s Central Pavilion, “Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank HQ”, specifically commissioned by David Chipperfield, which presents how a public space, created by physically lifting a tower to make a space at its base, has been used by people over time. On the other hand, we find“Gateway.” Located at the beginning of the Arsenale, it is one of the first spaces the public encounters at the Biennale. In this installation, viewers are presented with an intense dose of images and words, representing different types of buildings and spaces, criss-crossed with the names of the architects, designers and planners that have influenced our built environment over the years.
Common Ground, the theme of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition, has been interpreted by Norman Foster in two ways. First, it refers to the body of knowledge passed on through generations of architects, critics, designers, landscape architects, and planners. Second, in its most literal sense, common ground is the communal gathering space that brings us all together socially. These are the places that we are most likely to take for granted – the parks, squares, streets, or shared spaces in public structures. This installation presents and evokes both of these interpretations.
Situated at the head of the Arsenale, Gateway is one of the first spaces encountered by visitors, who pass from the light-filled entrance into the black box of the main space. The floor, and the crowd that gathers and passes across it, are washed by hundreds of words, glowing white in the dark and constantly in motion. The words are the names of individuals who, from antiquity to the present, have influenced the design of our cities and buildings. Finnish-based artist Charles Sandison has created a site-specific work for this event.
Enormous, constantly changing images, ranging from the historical spaces of the Western world to the new cities and favelas of Asia and South America, are projected onto the high wall above the heads of the visitors. The pictures also show spaces that resonate with social change -order and disorder- from the Arab Spring to the London riots. Woven into these sequences are interior spaces of museums, stadia, termini, and other public buildings.
In the spirit of common ground, the images have been solicited from a global network of architects, planners, photographers, critics, writers, and artists. These stills have been combined to make film sequences by the Ivorypress Team lead by Elena Ochoa Foster, with Antonio Sanz as production designer and in collaboration with Carlos Carcas as photomontage editor.