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.

“We are not going to hang Objets d’Art, exhibit works or stage events. We are responding to the vacant architecture itself. One single mobile object occupies the space for three months and emphasizes the building’s unique qualities. This object will flow through the interior, re-configure its organization and create new rooms along the way. Through relatively simple interventions the experience of light, sound and space will be manipulated so that new perspectives emerge.”

- Petra Blaisse

© Nico Saieh

Text fromt the curator after the break:

New wings for architecture

Re-set, the exhibition in the Netherlands Pavilion, shows the ability of architecture to start over. A flexible, tactile intervention, designed by Inside Outside / Petra Blaisse, reveals the hidden potential a vacant building has to offer.

Giving architecture a chance; for some this starts with a substantial budget, or with the availability of a virginal construction site. For others it begins with a given situation or existing design.

© Nico Saieh

Petra Blaisse belongs to the second category. Her field of operations is enormous. Her work ranges from a piece of fabric to an entire landscape. Her subject is truly a matter of Inside and Outside, as her office is named. She never shies away from context, ready to embed. She never shies away from true intervention either, read to to re-embed.

Her work is informed by a highly sensitive perception, rather than the imposition of form. Hers is an architecture of perceived potential.

© Nico Saieh

For a long time architecture’s capacity to excavate potential was seen as marginal to the field. Architects who specialise in reuse were seen as renovators, or as interior decorators. They were paid to make small changes or add finishing touches – the embellishment.

© Nico Saieh

Now this skill to realize potential is rapidly moving towards the center of the profession. People are starting to realise that value can be created where it seems to vanish. Architects can stop decay and we can begin to appreciate the reanimation of the desolate through the power of revelation.

© Nico Saieh

Unavoidably, desolation is the predicament of much of architecture today. So much of the built environment is waiting for a new boost in imagination. This vacuum was aptly displayed two years ago, when the NAI commissioned Rietveld Landscape to show the abyss of a Vacant NL in the Netherlands Pavilion.

Now, in 2012, the pavilion itself has been vacant for forty-one years since its construction. All these years it has been asking for imagination within it, just as so many other building lying bare are asking for the same.

This time we are not creating something in the Rietveld Pavilion, but doing something with it. We are celebrating the power of the existing architecture by invoking new qualities and opening it up for new uses. We are merging the imagination of half a century ago with that of 2012 and creating hope for architecture.

© Nico Saieh

Architecture needs new wings to fly. And that is exactly what Inside Outside provides. It breathes new life into old foundations.

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Cite: David Basulto. "Venice Biennale 2012: Re-Set / The Netherlands" 19 Nov 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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