For the 2012 Venice Biennale, Swiss architect Valerio Oligiati curated a collection of images selected from well-known architects. The concept of the collection - "Pictographs - Statement of Contemporary Architects" - were inspirational images that have guided the work of these architects. These images portray a wide range of subjects that represent the basis of the architects' work from inspiring images to diagrammatic interpretations of concepts to details and materials. The collection will be assembled into a book that will contain a total of 44 "musees imaginaires".
Global architecture underwent a seismic shift in the 20th Century. Governments, keen to mitigate the impoverishing effects of rapid urbanization and two world wars embarked on ambitious social housing programs, pairing with modernists who promised that design could be the solution to social inequality and poverty. Today, the problems inherent in these mid-century tower blocks are well documented and well known, and these modernist solutions to poverty are often seen as ill-conceived failures.
If the 20th century was all about designing to solve social problems, then the 21st century has been about the exact opposite – not designing to solve social problems. These days, it is much more common to see architects praising the social order and even aesthetic of illegal slums, which in many cases provide their residents with a stronger community and higher quality of life than did many formal social housing projects of the past. The task of architects (both today's and tomorrow's) is to develop this construction logic: to use design and, rather counter-intuitively, non-design to lift these urban residents out of their impoverished conditions.
More on the social potential of non-design after the break...
“Recognized by all for its efficiency,” the pavilion that Álvaro Siza designed for last year’s Venice Bienniale of Architecture will remain on display and be utilized as “additional space” by the new curators in 2014 and 2016.
Following the conclusion of David Chipperfield’s 2012 Venice Biennale, the British Pavilion has brought its investigations back to the UK to expand upon ten exceptional research projects that illustrate how architecture has shaped the culture and economy of countries around the world.
During the 13th Venice Biennale we had the chance to interview the team behind San Rocco: Matteo Ghidoni, Giovanni Piovene and Pier Paolo Tamburelli.
We had the chance to interview Catalonian architect Jordi Badia at the Vogadors: Architectural Rowers exhibit at the 13th Venice Biennale.
David Chipperfield, the curator of the Architecture Exhibition at this year's Venice Biennale, Common Ground (which wraps up this weekend), will be chatting live this Friday to offer his final two cents on the Exhibition's legacy.
The Dutch Pavilion, built in 1954 by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, is used by curator Ole Bouman (Director of the NAI) and designer Petra Blaisse (Insise Outside) to question how existing buildings can be reanimated, and how our profession can inject a new boost of imagination to give new value to ever growing number of vacant structures sitting dormant around the world.
One of the final events at the Biennale Architettura is the Meetings on Architecture that will take place on November 24 at Teatro alle Tese, Arsenale. In the context of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition Common Ground, the aim is to explore together with the curator David Chipperfield, architects, scholars and critics the themes of the exhibition Common Ground and are addressed to the public of the Biennale Architettura made up, as well as professionals, by passionates, students and visitors of all ages, backgrounds and origins. Organized by la Biennale di Venezia chaired by Paolo Baratta, the ‘Grande meeting di chiusura’ event on this day will be an afternoon of round table discussions reviewing the intentions of the Exhibition and the reactions to Common Ground. For more information, please visit here.
Last year, thanks to a photo essay by architecture photographer Iwan Baan featured in the New York Magazine, the world became aware of a dramatic urban context in Caracas, Venezuela, the result of a lack of available housing: The Torre David (David Tower). The tower, built as the headquarters of the Confinanzas Group during the economic boom of the 90s, was left unfinished after the company went bankrupt in 1994, placing the building in a murky legal void where its ownership was put into question. Since 2000, the tower has suffered looting and decay; the public take-over culminated with the occupation of the tower by more than 2,500 people in 2007.
For over a year, Urban-Think Tank studied how the tower’s mixed-use occupation worked, with improvised apartments, shops, and even a gym on the terrace. The community operates under the strict rules imposed by the informal tenants, who have been accused by many Venezuelans of being nothing more than criminals.
Invited by curator Justin McGuirk, Urban-Think Tank recreated ‘Gran Horizonte’, a restaurant in the Torre de David, at the Arsenale of the Venice Biennale. The restaurant serves the same traditional food as the original, while photos by Iwan Baan reveals tenants’ day-to-day lives, immersing visitors into the tower.
The installation explores how the informal settlement works in ways the building’s architect never would have conceived, and posits that the informal dynamics found in emerging countries could serve as a vital source of innovation and experimentation for urban problems in our hyper-urbanized world.
The project has been highly controversial among the Venezuelan architecture community, as shown by the letters and articles in local newspapers reproduced at the installation, and on the Internet. Most of these letters’ authors claim that the project supports the illegal occupation and depicts a distorted image of Venezuela’s reality. But, on the other hand, the Venezuela Pavilion at the Biennale showed only cheerful paintings and images of propaganda, avoiding its purpose: to critically observe and stir debate. The controversy between the two visions only further highlights the current polarity in Venezuelan society, particularly on this issue of urbanization.
More from the architects after the break:
For the 13th Venice Biennale, Norman Foster was invited to create two exhibitions. On the one hand, there’s Central Pavilion, “Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank HQ”, specifically commissioned by David Chipperfield, which presents how a public space, created by physically lifting a tower to make a space at its base, has been used by people over time.
This exhibition, curated by London-based Sergison Bates Architects, explores the common spaces between the public city and the private room. It considers six recent social housing projects in six cities: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Geneva, Paris, Trondheim and Winterthur. The work, by six different practices, reveals an interconnected culture of thought and practice, a common ground of influence and affinities that extends back to past practitioners and typological precedent.
How to think about today’s architecture, captured in the pragmatic flows of changing society? Can architecture once more be captivating, romantic, humanistic, visionary, and everyday at the same time? It appears that today’s architecture is becoming increasingly complex and ambiguous, and thus increasingly manipulative. It is lost in the cloud of the everyday. But how can architecture be seen again in its elementary correlations, geometry, form, use? To be derived from the specific, idiosyncratic, everyday, and face the timeless, resistant level. How to find the vertical of the everyday? The everyday that makes sense only if it is reflected in the sublime.
Curated by Alexander Ponomarev and Olilga Milentiy, the Ukraine Pavilion presents mobile museums projects under the concept of “Mirage Architecture”. The exhibition focuses on a conceptual design for a Museum of Contemporary Arts in the Antarctic.
Vessel is a site-specific response to the theme of Common Ground – a wooden structure, composed of a stacked planks, that works in conversation with the layered brick construction of the Arsenale. Irish architects O’Donnell + Tuomey have created a contemplative space, hollowed out of solid matter, that is at once a light funnel, a lantern chamber, and a passage.
C+S Architects‘ contribution, Facecity, for the 2012 Venice Biennale, gives form to the idea of the curator, Fulvio Irace, of continuity in architecture. The exhibition reconsiders the architecture of Milan in the 50s and 60s, where architects, belonging to different generations and with different positions, built the identity of the city without giving up their personal poetics.
The central topic of this thought is the facade, commented by Alberto Savinio in Ascolto il tuo cuore città, 1945: ” …On the facade of buildings is not only written their date of birth, but also written the moods, the manners, the most secret thoughts of their time…, together with the flat window, theorized by Gio Ponti as the way to shape modernity.”
Continue after the break for more.
Grounds for Detroit – In this collaborative project, a distinct urban space – the mid-block of residential neighborhood – has been imported to Venice from Detroit. The installation is a recreation – and re-imagining – of a project undertaken in a abandoned single-family house in Detroit 2010.
Álvaro Siza. Viagem sem Programa, on display at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia through the duration of the Venice Biennale, narrates the most personal aspects of Álvaro Siza’s work in architecture and his concept of life. In response to Siza being announced as the recipient of the 2012 Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, curators Greta Ruffino and Raul Betti, along with organizer MedicinaMentis Cultural Association, began to work closely with the Portuguese master to put together this one-of-a-kind retrospective.
The exhibition features an exclusive collection of 53 works, personally selected by the architect himself, that were developed from travel notes and sketches, along with a 38-minute video interview.
Continue after the break for more images of Álvaro Siza. Viagem sem Programa and check out our previous coverage for more information.