"Pictographs - Statements of Contemporary Architects" Edited by Valerio Oligiati

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".

Non-Design: Architecture's (Counter-Intuitive) Future

Quinta Monroy development after occupation. © Cristobal Palma
Quinta Monroy development after occupation. © Cristobal Palma

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...

Álvaro Siza Pavilion Will Remain at Venice Bienniale Until 2016

“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.

Venice Takeaway: Ideas to Change British Architecture

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. Should Amsterdam-style floating homes be built in London’s Docklands? Could the UK learn from Brazil’s successful identikit school-building program? Could Belfast be redeveloped by following a Berlin model? These are just some of the fascinating questions that will be addressed in a series of lectures, debates and events hosted by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in collaboration with the British Council and the Architectural Association. Mark your calendars for the following special events, which will run from February 26 through April 27, 2013.

AD Interviews: San Rocco at the 13th Venice Biennale

During the 13th Venice Biennale we had the chance to interview the team behind San Rocco: Matteo Ghidoni, Giovanni Piovene and Pier Paolo Tamburelli.

Venice Biennale 2012: Wunderkammer / Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects

At the gardens of the Arsenale designed by Piet Oudolf, a small pavilion, the Casa Scaffali, encloses a fantastic world of smells, textures and artifacts, a Wunderkammer (wonder-room) curated by NY-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.

Venice Biennale 2012: Dialogue Architecture / Juan Herreros

During the 13th Venice Biennale we had the chance to interview Spanish architect Juan Herreros, founder of Herreros Arquitectos (full interview in a following post).

AD Interviews: Jordi Badia / BAAS

We had the chance to interview Catalonian architect Jordi Badia at the Vogadors: Architectural Rowers exhibit at the 13th Venice Biennale.

Venice Biennale 2012: Vogadors, Architectural Rowers / Catalan and Balearic Islands Pavilion

The 13th Venice Biennale, which closes its doors on November 27th, sparked an interesting debate during its opening given the highly political focus of some of the exhibitions, which for some diverged from architecture itself and entered on a discussion on its own. In this context we find Vogadors: Architectural Rowers, the Catalan and Balearic Islands Pavilion curated by Jordi Badia and Félix Arranz, an exhibit that focused on the built project which uses the common ground theme to define the new generation of Catalonian architects: David Sebastian and Gerard Puig, SMS arquitectos, Arquitecturia, Jaime Ferrer, Meritxell Inaraja, Blancafort Reus Arquitectura, Núria Salvadó and David Tapias, Francisco Cifuentes and Bosch.Capdeferro Arquitectures (more details about the projects).

Live Chat with David Chipperfield

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. 

Venice Biennale 2012: Re-Set / The Netherlands

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.

Meetings on Architecture Event at the Venice Biennale

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.

Venice Biennale 2012: Panavision / Uruguay Pavilion

© Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

Panavision, the Uruguay exhibit for the 13th Venice Biennale, features the works of the new generation of Uruguayan architects, using their Pavilions as a common ground, a place rather than an exhibit, where the focuses, approaches, tools, worries, emphasis and strategies of these practices converge. More details from the curators after the break:

Venice Biennale 2012: Yucún or Inhabitat the desert / Peru

For the Venice Biennale, a group of 20 Peruvian architects (with no state support) presented a reflection on one of the most interesting territorial projects in South America. After 80 years in construction, a 20km tunnel connecting the Amazon to the dry region of the Pacific Andes has been completed, a tremendous infrastructure project that will turn this region into a new fertile land. The “Olmos Transandino Project” will be ready in early 2013, and will attract more than 250,000 people with agriculture jobs (you can see more at Build it Bigger). However, despite this incumbent massive migration, there is no urban planning project on the country’s agenda, leaving one big question still to be answered: what should this territory, with its new urban quality, be like? That’s what a group of 20 architects from different backgrounds and ages set out to present at the “Yucun or Inhabitat the Desert” exhibit at the Biennale.

Venice Biennale 2012: Torre David, Gran Horizonte / Urban Think Tank + Justin McGuirk + Iwan Baan

© Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

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.

This temporary restaurant creates a vibrant, Venezuelan social space in the hushed, high-art context of the Corderie. It is a piece of Caracas -a piece of the economic south- but also common ground. Food acts as a social leveller: sharing a near is the most convivial way to exchange ideas. The project draws on Urban-Think Tank’s extensive research into the Torre Confinanzas, known as the Torre de David, which is also presented here. This unfinished forty-five-story skyscraper, built as a banking headquarters in Caracas in the 1990s, has been squatted and is now a “vertical slum” and a vibrant community, containing improvised shops and restaurants. Here, the Torre de David stands as a symbol of neoliberal failure and of the poor’s self-empowerment. With its magnificent deficiencies, it represents an opportunity to reconsider how we create and foster urban communities. The fictional replica restaurant presented here is symbolic of self-determination and acts as a meeting place for visitors, where they can eat, drink, and generally taste South America. It is built out of appropriately humble materials, with a working kitchen and an authentic Venezuelan menu.

As part of this mise en scène, there is a series of photographs taken by Iwan Baan at the Torre de David. As in all Latin American street-food stalls and cheap restaurants, there are TVs in the corners of the room. These will show a series of short films about the tower created by Urban-Think Tank. These include footage of a community meeting where residents discuss their occupation as belonging to a tradition of the commons that predates the Conquistadors. The restaurant, entitled Gran Horizonte, is named after an actual restaurant in Caracas. This “grand horizon” is also a reference to the global south, which is always looking towards a political equator, beyond which lies the economic north.

Research Project Team: Michael Contento, Susana García, Kaspar Helfrich, Rafael Machado, Ilana Millner, Jose Antonio Nuñes, Mathieu Quilici, Daniel Schwartz, Frederic Schwarz, Lindsey Sherman, Alexandra Zervudachi. Collaborators: Iwan Baan, Lars Müller Publishers. With the additional support of: ETH Zürich D-ARCH, Schindler Aufzüge AF Group, Menuiserie Roth SA, Pictet & Cie, Driade, kt.COLOR AG die Fabmanufaktur. Special thanks to: Residents of La Torre David, Jimeno Fonseca (ITA, ETH), Yona Friedman, Paul Friedli (Schindler Aufzüge AG), Antonio Garces, Marva Griffin, Andres Lepik, Sacha Menz (Dean at ETH D-ARCH), Vivian Pedroni, Arno Schlueter (ITA, ETH), Christian Schmid, Kilian Schuster (Schindler Aufzüge AG), Katrin Trautwein and Klaus Nadler.

Venice Biennale 2012: Vitorio Magnano Lampugnani

The master plan presented by Vittorio Magnano Lampugnani at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition is for a private company, even though it operates at city scale. Designed for the Swiss pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Novartis, it demanded a balanced response to the needs of industry, commerce, and human interaction, as well as the rationalization of a site that had advanced, unplanned, for a century. The plan also required finding a common ground between the approaches of many architecture practices from around the world: individual buildings are to be designed and constructed by architects such as Peter Märkli, Diener & Diener, SANAA, and David Chipperfield. Lampugnani’s vision is represented here in the form of a large-scale model, allowing visitors to appreciate its scale, complexity, and careful poise.

Venice Biennale 2012: ModellStudiengang

The artists in this installation share, with Thomas Demand, a very particular attitude towards models, which stems from their engagement with architecture. Models, according to Demand, are ways of understanding the environment without the distraction of a multitude of diverging stimulations. They are pieces of cultural technology.

Venice Biennale 2012: Gateway / Norman Foster

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. On the other hand, we find“Gateway.” Located at the beginning of the Arsenale, it is one of the first spaces the public encounters at the Biennale. In this installation, viewers are presented with an intense dose of images and words, representing different types of buildings and spaces, criss-crossed with the names of the architects, designers and planners that have influenced our built environment over the years.