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The Worst Thing About the 2016 Venice Biennale Was the Response of its Sanctimonious Critics

09:30 - 16 June, 2016
The Worst Thing About the 2016 Venice Biennale Was the Response of its Sanctimonious Critics, "Reporting from the Front" Arsenale Exhibition. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
"Reporting from the Front" Arsenale Exhibition. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

To many, it might seem that the goals of Alejandro Aravena's 2016 Venice Biennale—as he describes it, "to understand what design tools are needed to subvert the forces that privilege the individual gain over the collective benefit"—are beyond reproach. In spite of these aims, a number of commentators nevertheless have emerged, perhaps led most vocally by Patrik Schumacher, criticizing the biennale. In this article, originally published on The Architecture Foundation's website as "Holier than thou," Phineas Harper responds to those criticisms.

The most surprising turn of the 2016 Venice Biennale was not the exhibition itself, but the reaction of its critics. Within hours of kick-off, the internet was filling up with derogatory mutterings of the show being '"worthy," "moralizing," "holier than thou’," "earnest," "’virtue-signaling" and "right on" (which apparently is an insult). The architectural Twitterati, it seemed, were unimpressed.

But what exactly were they hating on? The biennale principally exhibited practices which saw some form of suffering in the world and, through their work, in way or another, were trying to lessen it. How did such a compassionate brief generate such a miserly push-back?

NLÉ's Makoko Floating School at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu Gabinete de Arquitectura’s “Breaking the Siege” – Winner of the Golden Lion. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu UNFINISHED, curated by Iñaqui Carnicero & Carlos Quintáns, the winner of the Golden Lion for a national contribution (Spanish Pavilion). Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu In Therapy, curated by David Basulto and James Taylor Foster (Nordic Pavilion). Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu +16

The Architecture Foundation Masterclass

20:55 - 13 May, 2016
The Architecture Foundation Masterclass

The Architecture Foundation is inviting applications to join a masterclass, which will be staged in the James Stirling-designed Florey Building at The Queen’s College, Oxford. Six studios will consider the typology of the university, through the development of a speculative design over the course of four days (Thursday September 8th-Sunday September 11th). The studio leaders will present lectures over the course of the masterclass while the Drawing Matter Foundation will stage an exhibition drawn from its holdings of 1960’s architectural drawings. On the evening of September 12th, the studios will present their projects at a public event at London’s Barbican Arts Centre.

Rainham: The East London Village that Became an Urban Planning Exemplar

06:00 - 25 August, 2015

For the past century or so, the key to turning around the fortunes of a community was thought to be simple: large scale, infrastructural overhaul was capable of rethinking a place from the ground up, fixing any problems. The deficiencies with this sort of thinking are now well known, and in recent years small, surgical interventions which preserve the existing qualities of a town have gained traction. But how do you create large-scale change with such small-scale proposals?

The town of Rainham, at the far Eastern reaches of London, might hold an answer. Having preserved its village-like atmosphere despite being part of London's industrial hinterlands, since the turn of the millennium Rainham has been the subject of a series of small developments that have made a big overall change. Projects by Alison Brooks Architects, Maccreanor Lavington, Peter Beard LANDROOM, Studio Weave, Civic, and East have improved key spaces within Rainham while connecting it to the Thames and the nearby marshes - all by being respectful of the town's existing qualities and responsive to each others' interventions.

Doughnut: The Outer London Festival

06:00 - 17 August, 2015
Doughnut: The Outer London Festival, A day long exploration of London's rapidly transforming periphery at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich
A day long exploration of London's rapidly transforming periphery at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich

This one day event, on September 5th, will bring together writers, historians, architects and economists to discuss the development of London's peripheral boroughs. Doughnut will be the first event of its kind – an adventurous celebration of all things Outer London and a critical reflection on the rapid transformation that the city's periphery is currently experiencing.

How Walter Segal's 1970s DIY Community Could Help Solve Today's Housing Crisis

09:30 - 14 August, 2015

In recent years, DIY approaches to building houses have become increasingly popular, as increasing cost and decreasing availability have caused some prospective house-buyers to embrace simple methods of fabrication and the sweat of their own brow, as discussed in this recent article. However, this trend has much earlier precedents: in 1979, self-build pioneer Walter Segal had already embraced these progressive concepts in a development known as "Walter's Way," an enclave of self-built social housing in southeast London. According to Dave Dayes, a Walter's Way resident and an original builder on the project, Segal believed that "anybody can build a house. All you need to do is cut a straight line and drill a straight hole." The houses were built entirely of standard wood units assembled onsite in Lewisham.

In this video, London based non-profit The Architecture Foundation steps into the utopia of Walter's Way, a micro-neighborhood founded on principals of communal living for people of all backgrounds. The film has been released in connection with Doughnut: The Outer London Festival taking place September 5th, which will bring together writers, historians, architects and economists for "an adventurous celebration of all things Outer London and a critical reflection on the rapid transformation that the city's periphery is currently experiencing." The Architecture Foundation aims to introduce central Londoners (and the world) to the radically functional housing concepts in practice at Walter's way.

AOR Unveils Floating Platform for the London Wildlife Trust

01:00 - 16 February, 2014
Courtesy of The Finnish Institute in London / Architecture Foundation
Courtesy of The Finnish Institute in London / Architecture Foundation

The Finnish Institute in London and The Architecture Foundation have unveiled Viewpoint, a floating platform on Regent's Canal in the centre of Camley Street Natural Park, London. Designed by Erkko Aarti, Arto Ollila and Mikki Ristola of Finnish practice AOR, the platform will be operated by the London Wildlife TrustThe permanent structure is intended to bring visitors to London's most central nature reserve, connecting them with the wildlife of the park and the Regent’s Canal. In addition, it will also provide the park with an additional workshop space and learning facility, becoming "an architectural focal point of King’s Cross."

Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature

00:00 - 15 January, 2014
Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature, The Sahara Forest Project. Courtesy The Sahara Forest Project Foundation
The Sahara Forest Project. Courtesy The Sahara Forest Project Foundation

In February 2014, The Architecture Foundation will present Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature, the first ever solo show of Exploration, a thought-leading architecture and design practice working in the field of biomimicry.

The Architecture Foundation Presents: Three Conversations on "Culture + Commerce"

00:00 - 12 August, 2013
The Architecture Foundation Presents: Three Conversations on "Culture + Commerce", © Max Creasy
© Max Creasy

Having wrapped up their three part series And the Winner is...?, The Architecture Foundation has launched another trio of evening discussions, this time around the ever-encroaching commercial values which are increasingly threatening cultural venues in London. The series, entitled Culture + Commerce, will explore how culture can fight against commercial homogeneity in the face of reduced public funding.

'Futures in the Making' Exhibition

00:00 - 3 August, 2013
'Futures in the Making' Exhibition, © Chang-Yeob Lee The Synth[e]tech[e]cology Tower. Courtesy Chang-Yeob Lee
© Chang-Yeob Lee The Synth[e]tech[e]cology Tower. Courtesy Chang-Yeob Lee

Opening October 4, The Architecture Foundation in London is delighted to present 'Futures in the Making,' a group exhibition showcasing prospective architectural futures explored in the work of recent architecture graduates. From spectacular pollution capturing facades to innovative agrarian settlements, projects will include a global range of case studies that test new ideas for architecture and infrastructure by a rising generation of architectural talent. The exhibition will be on display until November 13. For more information, please visit here.

"If you Build It, Will They Come?" - The Architecture Foundation Discusses Cultural Centers' Impact on Cities

01:00 - 21 April, 2013

Open Call 2013: AF Project Space

01:00 - 14 April, 2013
Open Call 2013: AF Project Space, We Made That in residence – image © Max Creasy
We Made That in residence – image © Max Creasy

The Architecture Foundation recently launched their annual international Open Call for innovative independent exhibitions and installations for its central London Project Space. Intended as an incubator for independent positions and architectural experimentation, projects selected through the Open Call will punctuate the AF’s ongoing curated program. This program, competitively selected through a jury process, will give space to individuals or organizations to activate the AF Project Space as a testing ground for modes of exhibition and 1:1 scale spatial experimentation, an open studio, a public residency or other diverse formats. The foundation's recent initiative, 'We Made That', was a project selected through the 2012 Open Call. The deadline for submissions is May 10. For more information, please visit here.

And the Winner Is... Competitive Advantages?

01:00 - 6 March, 2013
And the Winner Is... Competitive Advantages?, Kengo Kuma's competition winning design for the V&A at Dundee. Courtesy V&A.
Kengo Kuma's competition winning design for the V&A at Dundee. Courtesy V&A.

Architectural Competitions may be regarded as an opportunity or a burden.  There are numerous architectural practices that gained significant attention for their submissions and winnings in highly publicized competitions, but the reality is that architectural competitions are expensive and do not guarantee reward.  And yet, they are an opportunity to engage in a critical dialogue about the projects at hand, and may be approached with more creative and imaginative risk than when working directly with a client, which is probably why they are so popular and numerous.  They are also an opportunity to bring the public into conversations about architecture in the public forum .  These are just some of the considerations that The Architecture Foundation hopes to tackle in its new series, "And the Winner is...?".

The Architecture Foundation and We Made That Launch "The Open Office"

00:00 - 26 February, 2013
The Architecture Foundation and We Made That Launch "The Open Office", Courtesy of We Made That
Courtesy of We Made That

The Architecture Foundation has recently launched a month-long initiative named The Open Office. The scheme, which is described as “part 'Citizens Urban Advice Bureau', and part functioning practice” is the brainchild of London-based practice We Made That  and will take place in the offices of The Architecture Foundation in Southwark, London until 22nd March. Operating on a walk-in basis, and displaying all work openly, The Open Office aims to engage and educate local communities on issues of architecture, urbanism and planning.

Read more about The Open Office scheme after the break.

Duggan Morris to Design the New Floating Cinema

12:59 - 27 September, 2012
Duggan Morris Architects, Winning design for the Floating Cinema Competition, A Strange Cargo of Extra-Ordinary Objects, 2012
Duggan Morris Architects, Winning design for the Floating Cinema Competition, A Strange Cargo of Extra-Ordinary Objects, 2012

UP Projects and The Architecture Foundation has announced Duggan Morris Architects as winner of the Open Architecture Challenge to design the next phase of the acclaimed Floating Cinema project. This project has been commissioned by the Legacy List with corporate partner Bloomberg as part of the Bloomberg East series of artist-led programs to animate the waterways in East London working in partnership with the Canal and River Trust.

Continue after the break to learn more.

A Bureau Spectacular spectacular, one week from today!

13:00 - 17 June, 2012
Cartoonish Metropolis - Courtesy Jimenez Lai
Cartoonish Metropolis - Courtesy Jimenez Lai

One week from today, Chicago-based architecture practice Bureau Spectacular will transforms The Architecture Foundation’s Project Space into an inhabitable installation and a graphic sequence of imaginary worlds, through the studio’s trademark mixture of built structure and cartoon. Founded by emerging architect Jimenez Lai in 2008, Bureau Spectacular is a studio of architectural affairs, who describe their strategy as one of making “absurd stories about fake realities that invite enticing possibilities”. Fascinated by the interplay between storytelling and building, absurdity and speculation, Bureau Spectacular weave architectural design and theory into comic strips that pop from the page into the real world as installations and small buildings.

Jimenez Lai: “This installation – Three Little Worlds – is a cartoonish blow up of a fragment inside the Cartoonish Metropolis. It is a comic book someone can walk into, a window into another reality.”

Continue after the break to learn more.