Venice Biennale 2012: Elbphilharmonie / Herzog & de Meuron

© Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

Herzog & de Meuron’s exhibition at the Biennale is focused on the architecture of a symbolic project, with a complex history: The Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall on top of a former industry in Hamburg, which also includes a 250 room five-star hotel, and 47 apartments. The project, in a very advanced stateremains halted since last year due to legal issues with the contractor. In the exhibition, the history of the project is documented with three-dimensional representations of the complex building services; camera shots panning through the construction site; and large-scale models, whose spatial and physical presence represent what the architects wished and still wish to foreground: architecture.

“Working with the 99%” wins Future Cities Prize in Venice

Aerial photo of the PRODAC neighborhood. - Courtesy of ateliermob
Aerial photo of the PRODAC neighborhood. - Courtesy of ateliermob

At the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale, three competing projects have been announced winners of the Future Cities: Planning for the 90 per cent compeition: ateliermob (Portugal), Municipal Housing Secretariat of São Paulo (Brazil), and Interazioni Urbane (Italy). The projects were narrowed down from the exhibition’s ten participants, which were selected from more than 100 international submissions. Portugese practice ateliermob has shared with us their winning entry, “Working with the 99%”, a case study on the progress and community work of Lisbon’s self-built PRODAC neighborhood. The jury, comprised of Anna Detheridge, Joseph Grima, Richard Ingersoll, Fulvio Irace, and Mary Jane Jacob, stated: “Ateliermob, “Working with the 99%” a participatory project in Lisbon Portugal based on a different approach which redefines the architect’s role. Ateliermob have envisaged for themselves a central function stemming from the attempt to answer a basic question: how can architects attempt to solve the many problems they see around them working for clients that do not have the money to pay for their services. The answer they found is to place themselves at the center of a process in which the architect becomes mediator, fundraiser, creating an essential link between the public administration, the financial system and the community enabling the local residents without property or rights to achieve social status and dignity.” Continue after the break for the architects’ project description. 

Village Health Works 40-acre Master Plan / Louise Braverman Architect

Traces of Centuries and Future Steps; Courtesy of Louise Braverman Architect
Traces of Centuries and Future Steps; Courtesy of Louise Braverman Architect

The village of Kigutu in Burundi, Africa is on its way to rebuilding a rural, off-the-grid medical site designed by Louise Braverman, Architect in collaboration with Village Health Works.  The 40-acre master site plan is a feature of sustainable design that includes several new buildings, all of which embody East African cultural elements.  To feature the progress of the five-year plan, Louise Braverman will also be presenting “Kigutu in Formation” at the 2012 Venice Biennale as part of Traces of Centuries and Future Steps event at Palazzo Bembo between August 29th and November 25th. Join us after the break for more on Village Health Works Master Plan and the upcoming exhibit.

Venice Biennale 2012: The Piranesi Variations / Peter Eisenman

Field of Dreams / Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture © Nico Saieh
Field of Dreams / Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture © Nico Saieh

Inspired by the 13th International Architecture Exhibition‘s theme Common Ground, Peter Eisenman has formed a team to revisit, examine and reimagine Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s 1762 folio collection of etchings, Campo Marzio dell’antica Roma. Derived from years of fieldwork spent measuring the remains of ancient Roman buildings, these six etchings depict Piranesi’s fantastical vision of what ancient Rome might have looked like and represent a landmark in the shift from a traditionalist, antiquarian view of history to the scientific, archaeological view. Eisenman’s team consists of Eisenman Architects, students from Yale University, Jeffrey Kipnis with his colleagues and students of the Ohio State University, and Belgian architecture practice, Dogma. Each group has contributed a response to Piranesi’s work through models and drawings that stimulate discourse on contemporary architecture. In particular, they explore architecture’s relationship to the ground and the political, social, and philosophical consequences that develop from that relationship.

The Project of Campo Marzio / Yale University School of Architecture © Nico Saieh
The Project of Campo Marzio / Yale University School of Architecture © Nico Saieh

Described as “precise, specific, yet impossible”, Piranesi’s images have been a source of speculation, inspiration, research and contention for architects, urban designers and scholars since their publication 250 years ago. Continue after the break to learn more.

Video: 13th Venice Biennale / Venice Takeaway, the British

Venice Biennale 2012: Arum / Zaha Hadid

© Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

With their early work inspired by Russian Suprematism, Zaha Hadid Architects’ pays homage to the historical lineages of collective research that has led to the major works of today’s contemporary architecture at the 2012 Venice Biennale with the installation ‘Arum’. The pleated metal structure is derived from the work of German architect Frei Otto, who paved the way for material-structural form-finding processes. This installation is a response to David Chipperfield’s belief that the theme of ‘Common Ground’ is meant to “reassert the existence of an architectural culture, made up not just of singular talents but a rich continuity of diverse ideas united in a common history.”

© Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

Beautifully crafted, the installation at the Corderie of the Arsenale also includes models and explorations of ZHA, related to the work of Frei Otto, Felix Candela, Heinz Isler. In this aspect the firm has able to expose visitors to the inspiration and research from modern architects that can be found on ZHA’s contemporary works. We saw Patrik Schumacher before the Biennale’s preview on top of every detail, leading to an impecable result. Videos, photos and more from the architects after the break:

Venice Biennale 2012: Spontaneous Interventions / USA Pavilion

© Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

The jury of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale has awarded the United States pavilion a “Special Mention” for it’s innovative installation, titled Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good. Curated and commissioned by Cathy Lang Ho, along with David Van Der Leer and Ned Cramer, the exhibition presents 124 socially-minded urban interventions that have brought immediate improvements to the public realm. Brooklyn-based practice Freecell collaborated closely with the Sausalito-based design studio M-A-D, led by Erik Adigard and Patricia McShane, to design a kinetic system of color-coded banners, weights and pulleys, that showcase each urban intervention. Learn more after the break.

Venice Biennale 2012: Originaire / China Pavilion

From the curator Fang Zhenning: “Originaire” is a word created to combine the meanings of “original” and “initial”. In the Chinese language, the character for “source” is specifically in the context of the water source. As such, we invoke the idea of “originaire” to seek the origin of memory and a mental image of the original world.

Koolhaas to be the Biennale's next Director?

Hot on the heels of the Jencks Award, yet another accolade is rumored to be coming Rem Koolhaas‘ way. The claims are flying about the twitterverse: OMA’s Koolhaas will be the next Director of the Venice Biennale. Dezeen first reported the story after reading a tweet by the Biennale’s current Assistant Director to David Chipperfield, Kieran Long (Long’s also the architecture critic for London’s Evening Standard as well as the former Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Review/The Architect’s Journal). You can read the tweet for yourself below:

Venice Biennale 2012: Architecture. Possible here? Home-for-all / Japan Pavilion

The Japan Pavilion for the Venice Biennale (designed by Takamasa Yoshizaka in 1956) presented the exhibit “Architecture. Possible here? Home-for-all”, curated by Toyo Ito, with the participation of architectural photographer Naoya Hatakeyama, and architects Kumiko Inui, Sou Fujimoto and Akihisa Hirata. The exhibition, which was awarded with the Gold Lion at the Biennale, takes us through the process where these three emerging architects collaborated with Toyo Ito to design the “Home-for-all”, a project for the inhabitants of Rikuzentakata who lost their homes during the tsunami in 2011. In the walls we find Hatakeyama’s photos from before and after the tsunami, along with a visual registry of the architects visiting the location. Around the pavilion, several study models reveal the process to design this unique type of house.

Venice Biennale 2012: CANCHA - Chilean Soilscapes / Chile Pavilion

Cancha is a pre-hispanic Quechuan word that indicates a void that enables connections with our ground as well as among people. In urban terms, it is similar to the Spanish Plaza Mayor – the word is used in South America to designate an open space where the harvest is measured and distributed. Cancha is also the field for the ancient game of Palín, traditional of the Chilean Mapuches. Then, Cancha is the word used to comprehend the Chilean Ground, a common ground, which is not urban but territorial.

Venice Biennale 2012: The Magnet and the Bomb / ELEMENTAL

© Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

An installation highly commented by the visitors of the Vernissage of the Biennale. The Magnet and the Bomb presents two projects from the Chile based practice Elemental, lead by Alejandro Aravena. These projects are urban interventions that were required for specific social issues, that have required a common ground between several stakeholders. A ticking clock bomb counts down at the entrance of the exhibit, that will last the 100 days fo the Biennale, around the same time that both these projects took. The projects are presented over big walls of unfinished wood, with projections over them. Each project timeline appear on a wall, carved in the case of Constitución (view the PRES Constitución project), and as a series of cards inserted into slots for Calama (view the Calama Plus project).

© Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

Chile is facing a big challenge, as the income has tripled in less than a decade, yet inequalities have remained intact. This is creating popular discontent that is accumulating pressure like a social time bomb. Equally, in order to maintain growth and remain competitive at a global level, the country must attract and retain knowledge creators. Presented here are the projects where architects were required to respond to these profound dilemmas.

Venice Biennale 2012: Light Houses, On the Nordic Common Ground / Nordic Pavilion

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Nordic Pavilion designed by Pritzker laureate Sverr Fehn in 1962, “Light Houses: On the Nordic Common Ground” invites 32 architects from Finland, Sweden and Norway born in that year to present a model of a conceptual house that reflects their philosophy. The models not only offer a visual proposal, but some also include smells, sounds or tactile experiences.

Kazuyo Sejima appointed as Rolex’s first architecture mentor

Kazuyo Sejima, Mentor © Takashi Okamoto
Kazuyo Sejima, Mentor © Takashi Okamoto

News from the 2012 Venice Biennale: Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima has been appointed as the first architecture mentor for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Initiative – a unique program that pairs major artists with young talents. Recognized as “one of the most important creative disciplines”, architecture has added as the seventh category in the Rolex’s global philanthropy program, which already includes literature, music, visual arts, dance, film and theatre. Kazuyo Sejima is expected to announce her protégé in the Fall. She and the young architect will collaborate for a year on the international project Home For All, which she established with other leading Japanese architects – Toyo Ito, Riken Yamamoto, Hiroshi Naito and Kengo Kuma – in response to the 2011 housing crisis caused by Japan’s devastating tsunami. The idea will be to design community meeting spaces for people who are living in emergency accommodation. Continue after the break to learn more.

Venice Biennale 2012: i-city / Russia Pavilion

© Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

The first national pavilion that we visited was the Russia pavilion, curated by Sergei Tchoban. The exhibit, designed by SPEECH Techoban / Kuznetsov (Sergei Tchoban, Sergey Kuznetsov, Marina Kuznetskaya, Agniya Sterligova), showcases the Strolkovo Innovation Center, a new development that aims to concentrate intellectual capital around five clusters (IT, Biomed, Energy, Space, Nuclear Tech), with projects by David Chipperfield, SANAA, OMA, Herzog & de Meuron, Stefano Boeri, SPEECH, Valode & Pistre architectes and Mohsen Mostafavi among others (more details about the project itself in a future article). An interesting project, presented in detail with tons of information, yet invisible inside the space of the pavilion. A series of QR Codes wrap the inside of the Russia pavilion spaces,  and all you can sense at first is light and space. At the entrance you are provided with a tablet, and you walk around the pavilion scanning these codes to obtain the information about Strolkovo.

© Patricia Parinejad
© Patricia Parinejad

On the lower level, a dark interior is perforated with peep holes that show images of former Soviet Scientific Towns, a legacy from the past that serves as background of the Strolkovo project. What we liked about this pavilion is the fact that technology is used as a medium, and what prevails is light and space, a particular atmosphere that wraps you in information, in an intangible way. This pavilion was awarded with a Special Mention at the Biennale, “the ‘i-city’ takes a dialectic approach to Russia’s past, present and future and in the process turns us all into digital spies. The jury was drawn into this magical mystery tour and beguiled by its visual presentation.” We had the chance to interview Sergei Tchoban and Sergey Kuznetsov, we will post the video later on.More photos by architectural photographer Patricia Parinejad (who will be featured in our next AD Photographers series) and Nico Saieh after the break:

Venice Biennale 2012: Venezuela Pavilion

Venezuela’s participation at the 13th Venice Biennale is presented through a series of reflections about the urban situation – the city of the 21st century. La ciudad socializante vs la ciudad alienante is aimed for the general audience, not just the architects, presenting a series of graphic-chromatic notes and sketches by Domenico Silvestro, who was very kind and showed us the pavilion. You can see him on the photos below.