Venice Biennale 2012: New Forms in Wood / Finland, Alvar Aalto Pavilion

To celebrate the reopening of the newly restored Alvar Aalto Pavilion, they are highlighting the work of young Finnish architects who have made use of wood in their recent works. ALA Architects have created an undulating overhang made of massive oak to welcome the visitor to Kilden, their Performing Arts Center in Kristiansand, Norway. Avanto Architects project their public sauna to be constructed out of wood in order to create an easy-going undulating building that is more part of the future coastal park than a conventional building.

Venice Biennale 2012: Unmediated Democracy Demands Unmediated Space / Croatia Pavilion

Space is a basic resource. Architecture has the capacity to essentially affect the overall management of space. As a result, it is incumbent upon it to be aware of the elementary politics inherent in every architectural activity.

Venice Biennale 2012: Team Chicago City Works

With Alexander Eisenschmidt as curator, five chicago-based practices presented together “Team Chicago: City Works”. In our age of extreme urbanization, says Eisenschmidt, “architects have been placed in the critical predicament that calls for a new attitude towards the city that highlights its potentials, engages  with its problems, and understands itself as a catalyst”. Team Chicago believes that Chicago has been particularly receptive to this new attitude. In the exhibition, the five practices pursued the concept through the presentation of projects -both real and imagined. Eisenschmidt itself presents Phantom Chicago Panorama, “where the city is recreated through unbuilt visionary projects across the twentieth century -from Adolf Loos’s Tribune Tower to Griffin’s Plan for a Better Chicago to Greg Lynn’s Stranded Sears Tower. See more pictures of Team Chicago: City Works exhibition after the break.

Venice Biennale 2012: Aircraft Carrier / Israeli Pavilion

The Israeli pavilion at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale, titled Aircraft Carrier, deals with the dramatic changes in Israeli architecture since 1973, and the American influences that made them possible. Curators Erez Ella, Milana Gitzin-Adiram and Dan Handel defined four major architectural phenomena that demonstrate these changes – Signals, Emporiums, Allies and Flotillas – and invited five leading Israeli and international artists and architecture photographers to reflect on them. Participants include Portuguese photographer Fernando Guerra (Check out an interview with Guerra here!), along with Assaf Evron, Florian Holzherr, Nira Pereg and Jan Tichy. Continue after the break for more.

Venice Biennale 2012: Märkli Architekt

The term “common ground” claims something shared: relationships between people and things. This installation intends to awaken an appropriate sense within the soul of the visitor.

Venice Biennale 2012: Le quattro stagioni. L´architecttura del Made in Italy da Adriano Olivetti alla Green Economy / Italy Pavilion

The theme of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition, Common Ground, seems particularly apposite in describing the sense of rapport and relationship that is one of Italy’s primary characteristics in the development of cultural research and inquiry. This relationship has always been attained through reference to and an exchange between not only the purview of the contemporary, but also the past and our always compellingly tangible history.

Venice Biennale 2012: hands have no tears to flow / Austria Pavilion

The Austrian Pavilion for the 2012 Venice Biennale is a collaboration of Wolfgang Tschapeller, Rens Veltman and Martin Perktold, a team that consists of interdisciplinary fields of study, thought and action from architecture and art.  The contribution, entitled “Hands have no tears to flow. Reports from / without Architecture”  invites visitors to comprehend architecture as a social and cultural phenomenon and to experience it from different perspectives and views.  It explores this year’s theme, Common Ground, with a discourse on the sociopolitical function of architecture.  The exhibit will be on view at the Biennale until November 25th.

Venice Biennale 2012: Voices / Malaysia Pavilion

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. - Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1921) The limits of our minds are reflected by the limiting capacity of our language. All the world we know is shaped by our external circumstances, which can be expressed through thoughts and outward expressions – our voices. The voice is typically regarded as a vocal manifestation; but it can also be visual and literal.

Venice Biennale 2012: Formations: New Practices in Australian Architecture / Australia Pavilion

The current fascination with the ‘reconstruction’ of the architect comes as a direct response to the turbulent forces reshaping global contemporary culture. This unsettling of the professional stability of architecture for most of the past century has forced many architects to question the motivations and assumptions upon which the profession and its practice have been constructed.

Venice Biennale 2012: Futura Bold? Post-City: Considering the Luxembourg case

The Luxembourg Pavilion for the 2012 Venice Biennale, entitled Futura Bold? Post-City: Considering the Luxembourg case, is a speculative exploration of the future issues that cities of the 21st century will be facing. Using Luxembourg as a case study, Post-City seeks an attitude toward the forces of the urban environment instead of concluding with an urban proposal.  Post-City poses pertinent questions that arise from Luxembourg’s urban conditions today.  Posed as a platform for discussion, the pavilion will be on view at the Ca’ del Duca as part of the 2012 Venice Biennale until November 25th. Join us after the break for more on this project.

Venice Biennale 2012: Made in Athens / Greece

Contemporary Athens is a city of strong contradictions: It is a city whose particular identity was shaped during post-World-War-II reconstruction. A city which has at its disposal an exceptionally talented cadre of young architects, international in orientation, well educated and with a wealth of professional experience. It is, however, the city that was most stricken by the current economic crisis. Currently the Athenian urban space is decomposing and there are increasingly frequent and greater disruptions of the social web. The younger generation of architects benefited from the positive aspects of globalization and today has come face-to-face with the harsh aspect of the global financial crisis, a plummeting standard of living and the need to redefine the priorities of architectural design. These contradictions are shaping a particular dynamic in the city. Conditions are being created in Athens to expand the links between architecture and the city, both during the economic downturn, but also after it has passed; furthermore conditions are being created to bring to the forefront new ways of viewing the role of architecture, removed from the standards of well-being of the previous decade. The Greek participation presents this idiosyncratic Athenian urbanism within two themes.

Venice Biennale 2012: Venice Takeaway / Great Britain Pavilion

The British Pavilion presents the work of ten architectural teams who travelled the world in search of imaginative responses to universal issues. Venice Takeaway charts their course in Argentina, Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Thailand, and the USA, and demonstrates the creative potential of sharing ideas across borders. The exhibition presents the work of more than twenty-six practicing architects, curators, academics, filmmakers, and writers who were selected by a scientific committee following an open call for ideas.

Was the Biennale Very Political? Or Not Political Enough?

The Torre de David Café by Urban Think Tank + Justin McGuirk + Iwan Baan. According to Kimmelman, the Biennale's "coup de théâtre." According to Quirk, a flawed and yet important exhibit. Photo © Nico Saieh.
The Torre de David Café by Urban Think Tank + Justin McGuirk + Iwan Baan. According to Kimmelman, the Biennale's "coup de théâtre." According to Quirk, a flawed and yet important exhibit. Photo © Nico Saieh.

Yesterday, Michael Kimmelman, the architecture critic for The New York Timesunleashed his anticipated take on this year’s Biennale. Usually, we find ourselves almost perfectly aligned with Kimmelman’s socially-oriented perspective (in fact, we lauded his approach in “The Architect Critic is Dead“); this time, however, we found ourselves almost entirely at his opposite. In our Editorial, “The Most Political Biennale Yet,” we contend that “Common Ground” represented a stepping stone in the Biennale’s evolution: it revealed an unprecedented engagement with reality and reflected, for the first time in any substantial way, architecture’s movement away from “starchitecture” and towards urbanist solutions. Was it perfect? No. But it was engaged. However, Kimmelman’s take suggests that all that progress simply wasn’t enough. In fact, the exhibits we cite as evidence of the Biennale’s progress, Kimmelman cites as exceptions in a festival still overly obsessed with architecture’s big names. What do you think? Was this Biennale very political, or not political enough? Was Kimmelman too harsh? Were we too forgiving? Or are we both off-base? Read on for a few select quotes from our Op-Eds, and give us your opinion in the comments below.

Venice Biennale 2012: Grands & Ensembles / France

The subject of the grands ensembles (housing complexes) selected for the French Pavilion is a good example of the ambivalence of an architect’s role, which is often decried; once, the urban environment of towers and large housing complexes was even blamed for social unrest in the “schemes”, also known as “estates” or “projects”. On the contrary, the challenge raised by this exhibition aims to show that contemporary architects have things to say about the “suburban crisis,” by working on “transformation” rather than just “repairs”.

Venice Biennale 2012: The Banality of Good: New Towns, Architects, Money, Politics / Crimson Architectural Historians

© Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

Presenting six cities built between the World War II and the present day, the installation sets their extraordinary diversity against the spatial, demographic, and economic formulas that lay behind their development. Displayed through a mix of bold typography, architectural elements, models, and painted canvases, this installation evokes the mix of complexity and control common to modern cities.

AD Interviews: Sergei Tchoban & Sergey Kuznetsov (SPEECH) i-city at the Venice Biennale

During the opening of the 13th Venice Biennale, we had the chance to talk with Sergei Tchoban and Sergey Kuznetsov, partners at  SPEECH and curators of i-City, the Russian pavilion, awarded with a Special Mention at the Biennale.

AD Interviews: The Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale / Toyo Ito, Akihisa Hirata, Sou Fujimoto

During the opening of the Venice Biennale, we had the chance to sit down and talk with the curator and participants of the Japan Pavilion, awarded with the Gold Lion.

In the following videos you can see Toyo Ito, curator of “Architecture. Possible Here? Home-for-all”, along with collaborators Akihisa Hirata and Sou Fujimoto, discussing what Architecture means to them, the role of architects in our society, and how they approached the Biennale’s theme “Common Ground” on this particular exhibition, which reunites Japanese architects and an architectural photographer collaborating on the design of houses for those affected by the 2011 tsunami.

We thank the Japan Foundation for this interview.

Akihisa Hirata and Sou Fujimoto videos after the break: