Young Architects Taking Action at the Venice Biennale

  • 16 Jun 2014
  • by
  • Architecture News
Manuel Shvartzberg and Yolande Daniels reading the manifesto of The Architecture Lobby at the protest. Image © The Architecture Lobby

Among the Venice Biennale‘s two-pronged approach of hype and glamour on one hand, and artistry and theory on the other, it’s easy to forget that the event is one of the biggest gatherings of architects around – and as such represents a great opportunity to put the more prosaic concerns of the profession out in the open.

The New York-based Architecture Lobby took full advantage of the opportunity however, holding a protest outside the Giardini on June 7th, the Biennale’s opening weekend. Through their protest, they aim to draw attention to declining working conditions in the profession, including low pay, long hours and insecure unemployment – particularly for young architects, who are the most precarious of all.

We reached out to Architecture Lobby member Tyler Survant to find out more about the Architecture Lobby’s presence in Venice, and the problems facing the profession. Read on after the break for the interview. 

Manuel Shvartzberg and Yolande Daniels reading the manifesto of The Architecture Lobby at the protest. Image © The Architecture Lobby

What are the aims of the Architecture Lobby, at Venice and in general?

We aim to influence the public perception of architecture as well as restructure the architectural industry from within, advocating for the value of architectural labor, both at the level of employee benefits and compensation as well as at the level of architectural fees. In addition to the protest, The Architecture Lobby also produced a book for the Biennale that was given as a gift to the US Pavilion and is currently on display there. The book borrows from Italian labor protests the character of San Precario, fictional patron saint of precarious workers. Lobby members and their colleagues submitted images and rewrote the San Precario prayer to address architectural precarity [an online version of this book is viewable here]. The Venice protest and San Precario book aim to cut through the self-congratulatory hype of the Biennale event, to remind architects of our precarity as laborers in a capitalist workforce. 

What forces have necessitated this action by the Architecture Lobby?

A disciplinary culture that promotes overproduction and underpayment, an imbalance between our labor value and our compensation. We architects must recognize they we are part of a global labor force that has fought for and deserves fair pay, legal benefits, regulated hours, and termination policies. If we do not self-identify as such, we will remain immune to the global, labor-based, social reform movements. 

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What is the Architecture Lobby’s relationship to the US Pavilion (if any)?

The Architecture Lobby is not officially tied to the US Pavilion, which is why the protest was staged at the gates to the Giardini rather than inside. However, there are several people involved in the US Pavilion who are also involved in the Lobby, and the Pavilion’s focus on architectural production and office structure shares common ground with our interest in architectural labor.

How have your actions been received by those in Venice – both people involved in the Biennale and visitors?

We staged the protest on Saturday, June 7th, and by that time much of the media had left Venice. But the news of the action spread around the city. Many young people came up to members of the Lobby and said that they appreciated the action and acknowledged that the issues we cited are not just a problem in the US but also abroad. The protest seems to have resonated with people.

Cite: Stott, Rory. "Young Architects Taking Action at the Venice Biennale" 16 Jun 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 Nov 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=516866>
  • Lila

    Someone should set up across from them with pink horns reciting ” no one owes you anything! Life is what you make of it!” Quit your complaining and pay your dues. There’s thousands of people unemployed right at this very moment that would kill to yet an internship at an architecture office to just have the opportunity for advancement.

    • Jon

      I think the point is being missed here. They are not complaining about their individual jobs, rather they’re trying to bring light to fundamental problems in this profession. The fact that “thousands of people” would kill for severely underpaid (or entirely unpaid) internships speaks volumes about the inadequacy of the architecture profession to place proper value to our products (and therefore the labor that produces them). Dismissing a protest or discussion of the topic as a “complaining” is precisely what will maintain the status quo. Labor issues in this profession are legitimate and systemic, and they will not change if they are ignored.

    • http://www.studio-sul.com Luis de Souza

      For some people architecture is a profession, not a trust fund hobby.

  • David

    Lila, your comment comes of as inept and selfish. Its not a question of owing, rather its the topic of community and the most important term and that is HUMAN BEING. If you understand that one is born as a free human being,then they should not be subjugated by other humans, who came before and have decided that they would in slave others on the pretext of compressed and false economic laws. If there is a depression, then everyone shall suffer, but that is not the case. CEOS take in large profits, while the rest take pay cuts and work longer hours, which means they never really progress in life, but work to live, where as progression is based on living to enjoy work, which enables justice and fair progression. Your life span is 100 on average, why would you want to be spend 40-50 years slaving away for someone and HOPE, you may get a chance to live when your old and decrepit. And I have worked at the biggest firm, and its not all that great, they know there are idiots like your selves who would do anything to work there, hence they get away with low pay, long hours. If the poor decided not be poor no more, then the rich would very afraid. KNOW your rights and stand up or be in chains forever, with your future kids.

  • The Architecture Lobby

    Yes, Lila, it is precisely for these precarious interns you describe that the Lobby advocates. The culture of “paying your dues,” however, is not one that we defend. It too easily leads to economic exploitation.

  • Slap

    Koolhaas, as one of the most influential architects on the planet, a f*ing forefather of the profession as we know it today if I might say, and the curator of this years Biennale, should have been cousin Archie slapped on the opening ceremony for never addressing these issues, cuz they point out there’s something FUNDAMENTALly wrong with the profession, don’t they? If Koolhaas leads the way, others will follow, thats what a f*ing might he is.