David Basulto

Graduate Architect. Co Founder and Executive Editor of ArchDaily.com. Architecture geek.

Venice Biennale 2012: The Magnet and the Bomb / ELEMENTAL

© Nico Saieh

An installation highly commented by the visitors of the Vernissage of the Biennale. The Magnet and the Bomb presents two projects from the Chile based practice Elemental, lead by Alejandro Aravena. These projects are urban interventions that were required for specific social issues, that have required a common ground between several stakeholders. A ticking clock bomb counts down at the entrance of the exhibit, that will last the 100 days fo the Biennale, around the same time that both these projects took.

The projects are presented over big walls of unfinished wood, with projections over them. Each project timeline appear on a wall, carved in the case of Constitución (view the PRES Constitución project), and as a series of cards inserted into slots for Calama (view the Calama Plus project).

© Nico Saieh

Chile is facing a big challenge, as the income has tripled in less than a decade, yet inequalities have remained intact. This is creating popular discontent that is accumulating pressure like a social time bomb. Equally, in order to maintain growth and remain competitive at a global level, the country must attract and retain knowledge creators. Presented here are the projects where architects were required to respond to these profound dilemmas.

Venice Biennale 2012: Light Houses, On the Nordic Common Ground / Nordic Pavilion

© Nico Saieh

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Nordic Pavilion designed by Pritzker laureate Sverr Fehn in 1962, “Light Houses: On the Nordic Common Ground” invites 32 architects from Finland, Sweden and Norway born in that year to present a model of a conceptual house that reflects their philosophy. The models not only offer a visual proposal, but some also include smells, sounds or tactile experiences.

© Nico Saieh

Contemporary Nordic architectural culture offers both exemplary approaches and significant constructed works addressing these challenging circumstances. The classic hallmarks of Nordic architecture – simplified form, frugal use of materials and sensitive treatment of daylight and the natural setting – embody the basic principles of responsible, sustainable architecture.

Venice Biennale 2012: i-city / Russia Pavilion

© Nico Saieh

The first national pavilion that we visited was the pavilion, curated by Sergei Tchoban. The exhibit, designed by SPEECH Techoban / Kuznetsov (Sergei Tchoban, Sergey Kuznetsov, Marina Kuznetskaya, Agniya Sterligova), showcases the Strolkovo Innovation Center, a new development that aims to concentrate intellectual capital around five clusters (IT, Biomed, Energy, Space, Nuclear Tech), with projects by David Chipperfield, SANAA, OMA, Herzog & de Meuron, Stefano Boeri, SPEECH, Valode & Pistre architectes and Mohsen Mostafavi among others (more details about the project itself in a future article).

An interesting project, presented in detail with tons of information, yet invisible inside the space of the pavilion. A series of QR Codes wrap the inside of the Russia pavilion spaces,  and all you can sense at first is light and space. At the entrance you are provided with a tablet, and you walk around the pavilion scanning these codes to obtain the information about Strolkovo.

© Patricia Parinejad

On the lower level, a dark interior is perforated with peep holes that show images of former Soviet Scientific Towns, a legacy from the past that serves as background of the Strolkovo project.

What we liked about this pavilion is the fact that technology is used as a medium, and what prevails is light and space, a particular atmosphere that wraps you in information, in an intangible way.

This pavilion was awarded with a Special Mention at the Biennale, “the ‘i-city’ takes a dialectic approach to Russia’s past, present and future and in the process turns us all into digital spies. The jury was drawn into this magical mystery tour and beguiled by its visual presentation.”

We had the chance to interview Sergei Tchoban and Sergey Kuznetsov, we will post the video later on.More photos by architectural photographer Patricia Parinejad (who will be featured in our next AD Photographers series) and Nico Saieh after the break:

Venice Biennale 2012: Awards ceremony, big winners: Alvaro Siza, Japan and Urban Think Tank

Toyo Ito, curator of the Japan Pavilion, winner of the Golden Lion for the National Pavilions

A few minutes ago we attended to the awards ceremony at the Biennale, after which it opened officially to the public (until Nov 25th).

David Chipperfield, director of the 13th Biennale, and Paolo Baratta, president of the Biennale, presented the awards for Lifetime Achievement, National Participations and International Participations.

The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement was already announced, and it went to Portuguese architect . Alvaro couldn’t attend the ceremony due to a broken arm, so Ines Lobo, curator of the Portuguese pavilion, accepted the award on his behalf.

Urban Think Tank and Justin McGuirk, Golden Lion for International Exhibition

For the National pavilions, the jury decided to give three mentions: Poland, and USA. The Golden Lion was awarded to the Japan Pavilion, with the exhibit “Architecture, possible here? Home-for-All” curated by Toyo Ito, with the participation of Kumiko Inui, Sou Fujimoto, Akihisa Hirata and Naoya Hatakeyama. Toyo Ito dedicated the award to the victims of the tsunami.

As for the International Exhibitions, the special mention went to Cino Zucchi, the Silver Lion to Grafton Architects, and the Golden Lion to “Torre David / Gran Horizonte”, the installation by Urban-Think Tank, Justin McGuirk and Iwan Baan.

More photos after the break.

Venice Biennale 2012: Venezuela Pavilion

© Nico Saieh

’s participation at the 13th Venice Biennale is presented through a series of reflections about the urban situation – the city of the 21st century.

La ciudad socializante vs la ciudad alienante is aimed for the general audience, not just the architects, presenting a series of graphic-chromatic notes and sketches by Domenico Silvestro, who was very kind and showed us the pavilion. You can see him on the photos below.

Venice Biennale 2012: Radix / Aires Mateus

© Nico Saieh

In the exteriors of the Arsenale we found Radix, the installation designed by Portuguese office Aires Mateus (Francisco and Manuel ), an elegant contemporary response to the architectural setting of the Biennale.

© Nico Saieh

The installation recognises the nearby docks of the Arsenale designed by Jacopo Sansovino between 1568 and 1573, which is flanked by arched walkways that inspire this structure. Radix is an arch supported on three points with the fourth corner hanging over the water,  turning the otherwise massive steel structure into a lightweight balanced volume.

More pictures after the break.

Venice Biennale 2012: Pasticcio / Caruso St. John

© Nico Saieh

Pasticcio, the exhibition curated by Caruso St John, invites a group of seven contemporary European architects from different countries and generations, whose practice in engaged with the language and the history of architecture, both recent and ancient. Their work tries to establish continuities with an architecture before modernism.

The group is formed by BIQ stadsontwerp bvBovenbouw ArchitectuurHermann CzechHild und KKnapkiewicz Fickert, and Märkli Architekt.

Themes include a consideration of proportion, ornament, typology, and interest in making interiors, in colour and in working with existing buildings, but the works are linked in spirit rather than in form or programme. The intention is to show how potent and diverse a contemporary architecture grounded in continuity and a common culture can be.

Venice Biennale 2012: Alvaro Siza

© Nico Saieh

, winner of the 13th Venice Biennale Lifetime Achievement, created this structure in the gardens of the Arsenale, right next to another structure by Eduardo Soto de Moura that we will feature on a separate article. This follows the longtime collaboration of the two Portuguese masters.

Alvaro Siza’s structure establishes a relationship with a different aspect of Venice – that of the dense urban environment. Three faceted walls generate  two intimate spaces in the middle of the garden designed for the 12th Biennale in 2012 by Piet Oudolf, a tribute to the compact urban tissue of Venice, which frames particular views of the exteriors of the Arsenale.

More photos after the break:

Venice Biennale 2012: Dialogue in Details / Toshiko Mori

© Nico Saieh

Curated by Toshiko Mori. All architecture must inevitably contend with history and gravity. These two forces are both fundamental and universal; to confront them is accordingly not only to take the crucial step in any attempt to reinvent the contemporary language of architect but to connect to a vast lineage of historical precedents, creating a platform for developing the discipline’s future as well as reflecting on its past. In Toshiko Mori’s case a series of dialogues with five American masters transpired from projects that required her to work next to, in addition to, or in reference to their creations.

© Nico Saieh

Through these projects they discovered that close studies at the level of the detail create moments of complex interchange, both literal and historical, disciplinary and existential. The details presented here are wall sections, the interface between interior and exterior. This minimal one has always been contested: the twentieth century strove for a transparent boundary that could expose interior through psychoanalysis, while the twenty-first century attempts to erase that boundary through virtual space. And so these five pairs of “totems” express common technical and tectonic concerns even as they mark the historical transition of architecture from the pas, through the present, into the future.

The exhibit consists of 10 detailed sections of major architects such as: Frank Lloyd wright, Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Marcel Breuer, and Paul Rudolph.

More photos after the break.

Venice Biennale 2012: Possible Greenland / Denmark Pavilion

© Nico Saieh

The Danish Pavilion for the 2012 Venice Biennale will feature a collaboration between Greenlandic and Danish Architects called “Possible Greenland”. The exhibition will address the current development of the Arctic Region as Greenland undergoes a shift towards political independence and business development in the midst of dramatic climate changes. “Possible Greenland” attempts to look optimistically at the climate changes that are causing ice melts throughout Greenland. The shifting planes result in the exposure of vast mineral resources that can kickstart new industries and allow new urban cultures to emerge.

© Nico Saieh

It is interesting to see how global warming is making Greeland a new center, as water around can now be navigable. But we have been warned. While 38 billions worth of oil can be exploted in the area, a disaster can cost way higher (the Deepwater Horizon spill costed 60 billion). The exhibitions approaches every angle to think about the possible future of Greenland. Visitors are exposed to all this facts in a series of diagrams, projects and videos, including a traditional Greenland house with smoked fishes which give the exhibit a particular atmosphere.

More details about this exhibition can be found in our previous article. More photos after the break:

Venice Biennale 2012: Walk in Architecture / Republic of Korea Pavilion

© Nico Saieh

The pavilion aspires to shed new light onto the status of Korean Architecture allowing the outside world to acquire a deeper and more in-depth understanding of what is currently relevant in the field of architecture in the country. “Walk in Architecture” expresses an idea and at the same time its paradox; it treats architecture as a place or a subject, like “Walk in Venice” or “Walk in a forest”. Walk is a collective action which combines associations: when you walk you think, you meditate, you observe, you dream, you wonder.

The exhibit is is supported by thin wooden supports, holding drawings, diagrams and video displays. Great examples from a country where pedestrians are taking more space than cars. This takes place at the Korean Pavilion at the Giardini, designed by Seok Chul Kim and Franco Mancuso in 1995.

ArchDaily at the Venice Biennale 2012

The Corderie at the Arsenale © La Biennale di Venezia
The Corderie at the Arsenale © La Biennale di Venezia

Dear readers,

I’m writing this post from Venezia, Italy, where ArchDaily has been for the past few days and will stay the whole week covering one of the most important architecture events: The 13th Biennale di Venezia.

This year the Architecture Biennale is directed by British architect David Chipperfield, who under the title Common Ground looks  at the meanings of the spaces made by buildings: the political, social, and public realms of which architecture is a part.

The title ‘Common Ground’ also has a strong connotation of the ground between buildings, the spaces of the city. I want projects in the Biennale to look seriously at the meanings of the spaces made by buildings: the political, social, and public realms of which architecture is a part. I do not want to lose the subject of architecture in a morass of sociological, psychological or artistic speculation, but to try to develop the understanding of the distinct contribution that architecture can make in defining the common ground of the city.

The list of participants in this version of the Biennale include world renowned architects like Peter Zumthor, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, OMA, , , Eduardo Soto de Moura, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, and Norman Foster, among others on a  list of 200 offices.

CANCHA – Chilean Soilscapes, the Chile exhibit at the Arsenale. Co curated by Pilar Pinchart and Bernardo Valdes

During these days we’ve had the opportunity to visit and photograph several of the national pavilions and individual exhibits, and interview their curators. This coverage will start to be featured at ArchDaily in our dedicated page starting today. You can also follow us in real time in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@archdaily), where we have already uploaded part of our coverage.

Please forward any comments, requests for meetings or  information related to the Biennale to editor@archdaily.com or using our contact form.

More photos after the break.

Venice Biennale 2012: Sneak peek

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The 13th Venice Architecture Biennale is about to start, opening to the public on August 29th. ArchDaily is already in Venice preparing our intensive coverage during the press preview starting Sunday. On this video by the Biennale you can see a small part of the team’s efforts preparing this fascinating event.

More photos of the upcoming exhibits at the Giardini below:

The World’s Most Epic Material Library

Keeping the material library organized is a difficult task for many architects, let alone keeping it up-to-date with the latest, most innovative materials. Well, today we stumbled on this video, by The Economist, that highlights Andrew Dent, vice-president of Material ConneXion, and his thoughts on the evolution of material science. has created the world’s largest resource for advanced, innovative and sustainable materials and processes. Their online archive and material libraries, based in seven cities world-wide, feature over 6,500 of the world’s most cutting-edge materials that are all commercially available for use.

Andrew Dent believes Material ConneXion will help bridge the gap between science and design as we move from the “synthetic century” into a “biological century”, where intelligent, nature-inspired materials consume less resources and less energy.

Tehran Stock Exchange Competition, 1st Prize: Alejandro Aravena Architects & VAV Studio

Exterior South © Alejandro Aravena Architects

During the last few years the world has witnessed dramatic changes. Our world is no longer rural, economic models are struggling, and the centres of innovation and political power have shifted.

It is this context that explains why the recently held competition for the new Stock Exchange is relevant beyond the building. The Physical Development Research Center organized a competition between 29 top architecture firms, later narrowed down to eight after a RFQ process, who each worked with a local Iranian firm. In a country experiencing a very unique economic moment, the brief of the competition aimed to challenge the typology of the stock exchange in general, as well as factors that could alter this type to address cultural factors specific to its location. Thus, the firms were asked to look at how this program has developed throughout history while also undertaking a thorough analysis of the specifities of this project.

The jury was composed by local architects Mehdi Alizadeh, Farhad Ahmadi, Bahram Shirdel, Hossein Sheikh–Zeineddin and Nader Tehrani (MIT Head of Architecture, principal at NADAAA) as spokesperson.

Alejandro Aravena (founder of Alejandro Aravena Architects, Executive Director of ELEMENTAL) together with local office VAV Studio were selected as the winners for their artful, considered, and minimal, project; of the various proposals, it was the only project which took into consideration functions and forces, geometry and geography, and an organization that distributed its program in a field condition, evenly spreading its function to best capture, light, views, cross ventilation, as well as shade. In turn, it produces a timeless (yet fast-paced) character of the stock exchange as an institution, a building that extends broader traditions while mirroring the current state of its country.

Aravena’s entry stood out from the rest as it was conceptually distinct, aligned with the brief of the competition. Other highlights of this entry are its geometry, structural base, sensitivity to climate, and relation to its mountainous landscape, which are explained further in the architect’s description below:

A monolithic figure at a first glance, the building achieves a particular transparency thanks to the hollow blocks used on its skin, turning into a lamp that is transparent to the public.

The decision of the jury, while unanimous, is only a recommendation to the client, so we will keep you informed as the project moves forward.

Read the complete architect’s description, with renders and drawings, after the break:

Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect

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: A Kind of Architect” (2008) filmed by Markus Heidingsfelder and Min Tesch, and produced by Arthouse Films, : A Kind of Architect offers a “thought-provoking portrait of the architect”.

Rooted in theory, Koolhaas, a creative genius, has produced work that completely takes the field of architecture to the next level. At his best, Koolhaas’ projects are so conceptually compelling that his approach, aesthetic and building performance are unmatched. By constantly questioning the norm, Koolhaas can critically analize the existing to create a theoretical model that can be manifested into the physical realm. Although architecture came later in his life, Koolhaas has an innate ability to utilize every componenet of architecture, from circulation to structure, to strengthen his vision.

The documentary, featuring interviews from other architects and friends about Koolhaas, provides a look into his process and his influence on the field.

You can watch the full documentary on the above embed.

Olympic Park and Village in Google Earth and Maps

Olympic Park and Village, Stratford, London, United Kingdom (click for larger size)

Google has updated its maps with hi res images of the Olympic Park and Village in Stratford (London, UK). The images were taken this past May, and let us see the whole picture of the master plan for London 2012. A big target of the investment for the games is to  reconvert this former industrial zone in East London.

Question: What would Archigram have done for the 2012 London Olympics?

Instant City

Share your creative responses in the comment section below: