Venice Biennale 2014: Russia to Assemble Expo of Urban Ideas from Past Century

True to the country’s experimental past, Russia’s participation for the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale will expose the continued relevance of historical urban ideas by applying them as solutions for contemporary needs. Titled Fair Enough, the exhibition will be presented as an international trade show of ideas, a “marketplace of urban invention” that is both “made in Russia and open to the world.”

The full curatorial text, after the break...

Collage for “El Lissitzky” booth, 2014, Alina Kvirkvelia / Courtesy — Strelka institute for media, architecture and design

From the curators: Since 1914, Russia has established itself as the world’s largest and most radical urban laboratory. Decades of experimentation have produced architectural solutions for almost any demographic need or social ambition. These efforts are undertaken at great cost, and their usefulness is often undersold.

Rather than presenting a linear story of Russia’s modernization, Fair Enough applies architectural history to meet contemporary needs. The exhibition takes urban ideas from the past century - some celebrated, some obscure; some seemingly outdated, some supposed failures - and gives them new purpose. To maximize its utility, each exhibited project is stripped to its conceptual essence. To illustrate their continued relevance, the concepts are updated and applied to challenges now confronting architects around the world. For easiest exchange, Russia’s architectural innovations are expressed through the universal language of the international trade fair.

Russian Pavilion Facade / Courtesy - Strelka institute for media, architecture and design

Visitors enter the pavilion and are greeted by a receptionist who welcomes them and provides a badge and program. Once inside, visitors encounter a scene consistent with commercial fairs around the world - carefully defined booths of different sizes and levels of energy and ostentatiousness, all united through a single system of pre-fabricated wall panels and standardized signage.

The scene itself is a response to national pavilions’ curatorial theme: the exhibition addresses the issue of “absorbing modernity” by adopting the language of what is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of modernity - the international trade fair, a truly universal typology in which multimillion dollar medical equipment and artworks, imitation mobile phones, chemicals, canned foods, and curtain wall are all exchanged. As they relate to architecture, the international exhibition and commercial expo share much in common; in Russia they have essentially merged, with visions for urbanizing the country’s interior presented in a context of carpet samples and molding catalogs. In Russia’s pavilion, we present exhibition as expo: each booth showcases a different example of our modern architecture, illustrated through a combination of historical and new materials, and described to visitors by a representative who preaches the virtues of the concept, provides its history, and connects it to contemporary needs. The trade show runs throughout the first week of the biennale then gradually shuts down, leaving an abandoned post-fair environment filled with flyers, pamphlets and catalogs that visitors can explore at their leisure, accompanied by the exhibition’s audioguide app.

Fair Enough is an expo of ideas. Each exhibit marks a milestone in modernization and clears a path for new efforts. Together, they form a marketplace of urban invention - made in Russia, open to the world.

Diagram for “Prefab corp.” booth, 2014 / Courtesy — Strelka institute for media, architecture and design

  • Curator: Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design (Anton Kalgaev, Brendan McGetrick, Daria Paramonova)
  • Project Team: Varvara Melnikova, Strelka Institute CEO; Maria Kosareva, Head of Graphic Design; Natalia Boyko, Producer; Philipp Grigoryan, Performance Director
  • Support: The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation
  • Commissioner: Semyon Mikhailovsky
  • General Partner: Gazprombank
  • Partner: State Corporation Rostec

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Cite: Karissa Rosenfield. "Venice Biennale 2014: Russia to Assemble Expo of Urban Ideas from Past Century " 30 May 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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