The 13th Venice Biennale, which closes its doors on November 27th, sparked an interesting debate during its opening given the highly political focus of some of the exhibitions, which for some diverged from architecture itself and entered on a discussion on its own. In this context we find Vogadors: Architectural Rowers, the Catalan and Balearic Islands Pavilion curated by Jordi Badia and Félix Arranz, an exhibit that focused on the built project which uses the common ground theme to define the new generation of Catalonian architects: David Sebastian and Gerard Puig, SMS arquitectos, Arquitecturia, Jaime Ferrer, Meritxell Inaraja, Blancafort Reus Arquitectura, Núria Salvadó and David Tapias, Francisco Cifuentes and Bosch.Capdeferro Arquitectures (more details about the projects).
In the exhibit, nine projects from this generation are displayed in high detail, including extensive drawings, textures, constructive systems, videos of the buildings in use, and other forms of representation that put the visitors closer to the origins of the project, the relation with the site and the inhabitants, the research and most specially, the tradition. And tradition is what closes the exhibit, presenting the works of the masters of Catalonian architecture such as Enric Miralles, as their influence is the common ground that the new generation shares. Looking back to understand the present and the future, as a rower who advances looking backwards reflected on Jorge Oteiza’s quote “He who forges ahead creating something new does so like an oarsman, moving forward but back-paddling, looking behind him, towards the past, towards what exists, so as to be able to reinvent its underpinnings.” The exhibit, taking place at the Isola San Pietro between the Arsenale and the Giardini, extends its reach and presence thanks to a joint venture with Spanish publishing house Gustavo Gili, with the digital editions of the Vogadors catalog available at the iBook Store or at the GG website. More fromt he curators after the break:
Vogadors is a clear commitment to the future presenting a selection of nine works from some of the most outstanding young Catalan and Balearic architects, all of them with a shared sensibility. These works likewise illustrate a different way of going about the things in response to society’s growing demand for what is necessary for a community life yet is at odds with more spectacular and showy architecture.
The exhibition documents a sober architecture that uses very simple materials but is extraordinarily sophisticated both technically and intellectually, and includes a strong social and ethical component enabling skill full construction with mindful openness to the environment, people, and life without abandoning the most abstract and visual of emotional values.
In grouping these architectural works together, some of the similarities in their approaches, processes, and results naturally emerge, revealed by their nuances, contrasts and similarities. Some features of this shared nature are: 1.- Place and meaning: Respect for the site’s material (geography, heritage, urban setting) and immaterial (place, environment, retrospection) elements. Local values are affirmed and aspire to become global. 2.- Ethics and proximity: Social commitment to proximity and respect for people. 3.- Permeable materiality: Use of materials from the pre-existing structure and to build anew as fundamental tools for the direct expression of architecture. 4.- Research and reporting: An ability to experiment and innovate focused on the relationship between the material and people without intermediaries. 5.- Essence and tradition: Voluntary restraint in formal approaches and considerable economy of resources.
These five points characterize construction better than any formal language or aesthetic: They represent a coherent and sophisticated approach showing a particular way of making architecture that strives to meet the aspirations of contemporary sensibility and awareness. This is sensibility in response to a constantly changing world that calls on architecture to display a coherent attitude towards its environmental and economic resources in order to effect an authentic renewal of European architecture as we know it today.
A significant number of European studies are involved in this research, and this selection aims only to emphasize the contributions made by Catalonian and the Baleric Islands to this international debate. Féliz Arranz & Jordi Badia.