Venice Biennale 2012: Five North American Architects / Kenneth Frampton

Venice Biennale 2012: Five North American Architects / Kenneth Frampton
© Nico Saieh

Almost two years ago, on November 13th 2010, I had the chance to attend to a very special seminar to celebrate the 80th birthday of Kenneth Frampton at Columbia’s GSAPP. During that intense day, five north american practices presented their work followed by an interesting debate: Rick Joy Architects, Stanley Saitowitz / Natoma Architects, Patkau Architects, Steven Holl, and Shim Sutcliffe Architects.

For the 13th Venice Biennale, Kenneth Frampton was invited to have his exhibit at the Arsenale, where the works of these five practices was presented on a series of videos, on a simple installation designed by Steven Holl.

While we don’t have the videos shown during the Biennale, we present you the full video of the seminar (almost 6 hours), made available online by the GSAPP.

More information about the “Five North American Architects as a Common Ground” videos shown at the Biennale:

The 2010 celebration reads like most educational events that stretch over a day: coffee, welcome by the dean, introduction, presentations, discussion, reception. The first and last obviously don’t apply, but the book omits Dean Mark Wigley’s welcome and the discussion after the presentation; it includes Frampton’s intro and the architects’ presentation, structured in the book in the same order as the event. This last aspect basically makes the book a record of the event. Yet in this regard the omission of the discussion is most unfortunate. I did not attend the event, so I can’t say for sure that it was a fruitful discussion, but it would have been the only place for off-the-cuff remarks. Instead we are treated to prepared statements and glossy photos of admittedly remarkable architecture.

This exhibition features the work of five North American architects whose work is united by tectonic values and a preoccupation with material, craft, space, and light. The practices – Rick Joy Architects, Stanley Saitowitz / Natoma Architects, Patkau Architects, Steven Holl, and Shim Sutcliffe Architects – also exhibit and attention to the topographic character of the site and share a propensity for typological invention. Such concerns represent a “common ground” of their architectural approach, a ground that has evolved over time.

© Nico Saieh

This group of architects first came together at the instigation of Kennet Frampton for a day-long seminar at Columbia University, New York, in late 2010. Their work is jointly exhibited at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition in three separate yet interrelated pentagonal enclosures. Each pentagon shows the architects’ work on flat screens, in the form of video loops. The five screens in each pentagon are devoted to images exemplifying the following three aspects of their work: typological invention in relation to the topographic context; the impact of craft on material expression; and the animation of spatial form through the impact of light.

Each category is conceive as a comparative, chronological “cross section” through the development of each of the five practices. The hypothesis is that each of the paired attributes amount to a dyadic interplay in which the topography is modified through the impingement of type and vice versa; material is expressed through craft and space is activated through light. The intention is to enable the visitor to compare the way in which these practices – three from the USA and two from Canada – have evolved in terms of each of these architectural attributes. On each flat screen, six images of the selected projects are displayed in chronological order showing the name and place of the world and the date of its realisation.

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Cite: David Basulto. "Venice Biennale 2012: Five North American Architects / Kenneth Frampton" 04 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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