The Berlage Archive: Jean-Louis Cohen (2006)

06:00 - 8 June, 2015

“No single major piece of architecture in the twentieth century can be taken out of its political context and its relationship with power.” So argues theorist and historian Jean-Louis Cohen in this lecture delivered at the Berlage Institute in October, 2006, titled “The politics of memory: Monuments to legitimacy.” Focusing specifically on landscapes of war and reconstruction in twentieth century Europe and their intimate relationship with structures of power, Cohen approaches the tenet that “all design is political” by examining the place of buildings in the deeply politicized landscapes of collective memory.

The relationship between architecture and power is complex and reciprocal. Regimes and revolutionaries alike employ architecture as a mechanism for expressing and executing their respective desires of stability and subversion. Accordingly, public architecture and public space bear the imprint of the political ideations that yield them and assume an operative function in the service of ideology. Architecture, in its role as a repository of collective memory and through its ability to shape public space and mold public discourse, is likewise capable of affecting the operation and exertion of power. Relics of history—residual architecture—play into our cultural fetishizations of nostalgia and encourage the translocation of ideologies between past and present.

Interview with Jean-Louis Cohen, Curator of the French Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale

00:00 - 3 July, 2014

On the morning that France accepted a Special Mention for its exhibition "Modernity: Promise or Menace?" at the Venice Biennale, Curator Jean-Louis Cohen spoke to us about the questions raised within, on, and around the walls of the French Pavilion. Standing in front of a model of the farcical Villa Arpel from Jacques Tati's famous film "Mon Oncle," Cohen explained that France didn't just absorb modernity (as Rem Koolhaas proposed) but that France inspired modernity, providing different expectations, promises and, as the title suggests, menaces. 

Inside France's "Modernity, Promise or Menace?" - Special Mention Winner at the Venice Biennale 2014

01:00 - 11 June, 2014
Inside France's "Modernity, Promise or Menace?" - Special Mention Winner at the Venice Biennale 2014 , © Luc Boegly / Pavillon français pour l'Institut français et le Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication
© Luc Boegly / Pavillon français pour l'Institut français et le Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication

This year's French Pavilion stood out as one of the best pavilions in the Giardini, communicating a clear, engaging thesis and receiving a Special Mention from the jury.

Curator Jean-Louis Cohen poses four questions throughout four galleries, demonstrating the contradictions that fill the story of modernity and architecture in France. The ambivalent responses of architecture to the original promise of modernity is shown through the juxtaposition of a continuous cinematographic montage (playing simultaneously throughout all four galleries) and large-scale objects. 

Watch an excerpt from Teri Wehn Damisch's film and read the curator's statement after the break. For a virtual tour of the space designed by Paris-based firm Projectiles, follow this link. And make sure to keep an eye out for our video interview with curator Jean-Louis Cohen (coming soon). 

Grands ensembles: healing heterotopias or places of seclusion?. Image © Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh Jean Prouvé: constructive imagination or utopia?. Image © Nico Saieh © Luc Boegly / Pavillon français pour l'Institut français et le Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication +28

Venice Biennale 2014: "European-ness Porosity" Symposium

00:00 - 2 June, 2014

Venice Biennale 2014: French Pavilion to Debate Modernism's Successes and Failures

00:00 - 5 April, 2014
Venice Biennale 2014: French Pavilion to Debate Modernism's Successes and Failures, Though his Unite d'Habitation remains popular, many other mass housing projects inspired by Le Corbusier were less successful. Image © Vincent Desjardins
Though his Unite d'Habitation remains popular, many other mass housing projects inspired by Le Corbusier were less successful. Image © Vincent Desjardins

With Le Corbusier casting a long shadow over the last century of France's architectural history, it is not surprising that, faced with Rem Koolhaas's theme of 'absorbing modernity' at the 2014 Venice Biennale, the country might have a unique reaction.

Jean-Louis Cohen's initial proposal for the French Pavilion, titled "Modernity: Promise or Menace?" reflects this history: “since 1914 France has not so much 'absorbed' modernity as it has shaped it with significant contributions made by French architects and engineers in order to meet the requirements of different segments of society. As is the case in many countries, modernity has had to come face to face with social reform and by doing so it has made great dreams such as quality housing and community services for all partially come to fruition. But this encounter has come about in a original way, also generating considerable anxiety.”

Read on after the break for more about the themes explored by the French Pavilion

Venice Biennale 2014: Full List of National Participants Revealed

01:00 - 10 March, 2014
Venice Biennale 2014: Full List of National Participants Revealed

A few hours ago in Venice, Rem Koolhaas presented his curatorial vision for "Fundamentals" in a live-streamed opening press conference. As we reported last year, "Fundamentals" will focus on architecture rather than architects and history rather than contemporaneity. Koolhaas will not just curate an exhibition of his own, but will be coordinating the "collective effort of all national pavilions."

This year's exhibition features the participation of 65 countries--including 11 first-time participants (Azerbaijan, Côte d'Ivoire, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand and Turkey). See the complete list of national participants--which includes collaborations with Jacques Tati, Hans Ulrich Obrist, FAT, Iñaki Ábalos and others--after the break.

Click here to see all of ArchDaily's previous coverage of the 2014 Venice Biennale. And stay tuned... we'll be bringing you on-the-ground reports from Venice when the Biennale launches in the first week of June!