To kick off our coverage of the Venice Biennale, we're bringing you photos of OfficeUS -- the United States' contribution to the national exhibitions organized under the theme of "Absorbing Modernity." The pavilion houses both a repository of information about the history of architectural firms in the US (with a focus on the US's role in exporting architecture) and serves as the base of operations for a new architectural firm that was created solely for this year's biennale. The research, collected into booklets, lines the walls of the space. While visitors mill around the pavilion, the members of OfficeUS work at specially designed tables. The output and deliverables of the office will be determined as the Biennale progresses. We also got the chance to speak to the organizers, so stayed tuned for video interviews with the curators and designers of the US Pavilion (coming soon!). For now, however, read on to the see the curator's statement on the exhibit.
From the Official Catalog of 14th International Architecture Exhibition. The last century of US architecture is a story of its export. Today, five out of the ten largest global architectural firms are based in the United States, making the US the world's biggest exporter of architecture. The forms, technologies, production processes, methods and products of US architectural offices have traveled the globe over the past hundred years, from the import US architectural ingenuity in Europe in the 1920s, to the architectural campaign of the Marshall Plan in the 1950s, to the oil-fueled projects in the Middle East in the 1970s, to the contemporary global proliferation of super-tall buildings. OfficeUS reframes the history of US architecture though the lens of export while placing the future of the office at the center of the story. OfficeUS's first headquarters, the US Pavilion at the Giardini in Venice, consists of two interrelated constructs: The Office and The Repository. The repository presents projects designed by US offices working abroad from 1914 to 2014 in a chronological archive. Individually and collectively, these projects tell multiple, imbricated stories of US firms, typologies, and technologies, as well as a broader narrative of US modernization and its global reach. The onsite office engages these projects, revisiting their premises and conclusions over the course of the exhibition. It functions as a laboratory, staffed by a diverse group of resident design partners collaborating with outpost offices and rotating cast of expert critic-consultants. Together, the elements of OfficeUS create a historical record of the US contribution to global architectural thought, pessimism, and optimism. If indeed our present is the inevitable outcome of the stores OfficeUS examine, it is through these stories that we can see the history of US architectural modernity anew and project is alternative futures.