As Rem Koolhaas completes the introductory press circuit for the 2014 Venice Biennale, we're learning more about one of the most anticipated Biennales in recent memory. Here's what we've gleaned from Oliver Wainwright's revealing story in today's Guardian:
1. Koolhaas has been asked to direct the Venice Biennale before, but hasn't accepted until now. "I have been asked to direct it a number of times before, but I held out for two conditions: that I have a year and a half to plan it, and that I can sever all connections with contemporary architecture – which is not in particularly good health."
2. Think that an exhibition on the fundamental elements of architecture might be bland? Koolhaas understands…but he thinks he'll be able to change your mind. "A few years ago, I would never have thought of proposing such a bland idea for an exhibition," says Koolhaas, as he clicks through slides of floors, walls and doors, windows, stairs and toilets. "But when we started researching the histories of these elements, it was like looking for the first time through a microscope and discovering completely unknown species. I hope others will feel the same excitement when they visit."
3. For the first time, the content of the Arsenale will be multi-disciplinary (and not just nominally so). "I thought that architecture alone should not fill these vast spaces…so we are creating different enclaves where theatrical and intellectual activities can take place over the six months."
4. Will there be a characteristic Koolhaasian polemic or political charge attached to this Biennale? You bet. Research into the history of the balcony, for example, wouldn't be complete without examining how they've been used by dictators. ("Without the balcony, these momentous global events would not have happened.") And about the proliferation of smart media in architecture, Koolhaas says, "It is a very alarming situation. Very soon your house will betray you."
5. Koolhaas/OMA didn't forget about the lighter side of things. "Architecture is always written about as a serious discipline... we aim to lift the pressure of this constant seriousness. I think there is life in architecture."