Venice Biennale 2012: Architecture as New Geography / Grafton Architects, Silver Lion Award

Venice Biennale 2012: Architecture as New Geography / Grafton Architects, Silver Lion Award
© Nico Saieh

Inspired by Pritzker Prize laureate Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s call “to get architecture out of the making and thinking of isolated objects and to show it as an inexorable transformation of nature”, Dublin practice Grafton Architects presents Architecture as New Geography at the 2012 Venice Biennale. The exhibition explores the work of the Brazilian architect in the context of Grafton’s first South American project for a university in Lima, Peru.

The International Jury has awarded Grafton the Silver Lion for their “impressive” presentation’s ability to connect to the ideas of Paulo Mendes da Rocha and demonstrate the “considerable potential of this architectural practice in reimagining the urban landscape”. While the Golden Lion for ‘Best National Participation’ went to Japan for an engaging exhibition, curated by Toyo Ito, that develops solutions for a Community building on a post Tsunami site,

After winning an international competition for the UTEC – Universidad de Ingenieria & Tecnologia – campus, Grafton immediately looked to Paulo Mendes da Rocha (PMdR) in search of cues on how to build for Peru’s unique climate and culture. They engaged in a dialogue with the Brazilian architect and explored his work through models, focusing on his seminal Serra Dourada Stadium (1973) in a design research exploration based on the idea of the University as an “arena of learning”.

Serra Dourada Stadium, Goiania, Brazil (1973) / Paulo Mendes da Rocha - Courtesy of the Paulo Mendes da Rocha Archive

The exhibition, Architecture as New Geography, connects Grafton’s university campus and Mendes da Rocha’s Dourada Stadium as two “figures” forming a sense of Common Ground, demonstrating how “openness to influence is a starting point and a prerequisite for good architecture”. They explored themes of architecture as “built geography”, “abstracted landscape”, “landscape and infrastructure” and “the horizon and the human being”.

View towards the Pacific from the new campus building for UTEC - the Universidad de Ingenieria & Tecnologia in Lima, Peru - Courtesy of Grafton Architects

Exploratory models included in the exhibition are of the Mendes de Rocha’s Serra Dourada Football Stadium and Jockey Club both in Goiania, his project for Montevideo Bay in Uruguay and his Capela de S. Pedro in Campos do Jordao, Brazil, along with Grafton Architects’ design for the UTEC University and the new building for the School of Economic at UT1C in Toulouse, France. Additionally, the exhibition includes comparative images and drawings of the cultural landscapes of Skellig Michael and Machu Picchu.

© Alice Clancy

Grafton Architects’ praised Paulo Mendes da Rocha for his generosity, stating: “He gave us, strangers whom he had never met, complete freedom to represent his work in whatever way we chose. We found that through the deeper investigation of his work that we were renewed and inspired yet again, and we feel that our own work will be truely enriched by this experience.”

Montevideo Plan / Paulo Mendes da Rocha - Courtesy of Mendes da Rocha

Architecture as New Geography was realized with the additional support of: Universidad de Ingeniería & Tecnología – UTEC, Lima, Peru, and Culture Ireland. Models of the projects were made in Irish and French limestone by sculptor Eileen MacDonagh, and by Grafton Architects with the support of UCD.

© Alice Clancy

Architects: Grafton Architects, Paulo Mendes da Rocha
Yvonne Farrell, Shelley McNamara, Ger Carty, Philippe O’Sullivan, Simona Castelli, Kieran O’Brien, Matt McCullagh, James Rossa O’Hare, Donal O’Herlihy, Joanne Lyons, David J. Healy, Ivan O’Connell, Edwin Jebb
Sculptor: Eileen MacDonagh
Client: UTEC Lima
Additional support: Eduardo Hochschild, Juan Ichaustegui Vargas (UTEC, Lima), Mario Rivera Orams, Culture Ireland
Thanks to: Annette Spiro, Marta Moreira/MMBB, Frederick Cooper, Hugh Campbell (UCD School of Architecture), Klaus Bode (BDSP) Dermot Foley Landscape Architects

Silver Lion Acceptance © Giorgio Zucchiatti, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia

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Cite: Karissa Rosenfield. "Venice Biennale 2012: Architecture as New Geography / Grafton Architects, Silver Lion Award" 04 Sep 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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