As one of the runners for the design and curatorial aspects of a pavilion during the past Venice Biennale, I was very intrigued on how each country will address the theme proposed by Betsky, as “Architecture Beyond Building” is such a powerful call, specially in times when architecture is being able to address problems beyond its traditional scope, after being apart for quite some time.
But sadly, most of the exhibitions were the total opposite. After seeing the pavilions, but most important, what was being exhibited at the pavilions, I think that the answers went on the opposite direction. On the -pessimistic- words of Amanda Baillieu “The Venice Biennale has become reflection of the state architecture is in”… a biennale by architects and for architects, with 0 relation to our society.
But among this panorama, there were a few exhibitions that were up to “architecture beyond building”. One of them was Into the Open: Positioning Practice, the US exhibition curated by William Menking, Aaron Levy, and Andrew Sturm. They selected 16 practices which are working very close to communities, creating new work in response to contemporary social conditions, expanding the conception of architectural practice. People who are answering the question we always ask on our interviews (“What is -or should be- the role of the architect in contemporary society?”) from a unique perspective.
And after this, the curators successfully raise the question: need the end product be a building? More importantly, they ask: need the end be a product?
This questions try to be answered on a video produced by SMAC, highlighting the work of Teddy Cruz, Laura Kurgen, and Rural Studio:
Cruz’s project, Radicalizing the Local: 60 Linear Miles of Transborder Urban Conflict maps the collision between wealth and poverty, the formal and informal city and many other disparities apparent along the 60 miles north and south of the Mexican border at Tijuana and San Diego. Kurgan organizes city data on poverty, infrastructure, criminal activity and prison displacement to ask: what if more resources were spent on investment in housing and infrastructure rather than sending people to prison? Rural Studio’s Animal Shelter is a project carried out by students earning their degrees by assisting the structural development of Hale County, Alabama.
Currently, the New School for Design is hosting the exhibition Into the Open: Positioning Practice until May 1st. You can see more info about that on our previous feature.