The Irish pavilion's response to the theme of the 2014 Venice Biennale captures the tumultuous history of the Ireland's past hundred years through ten infrastructural projects which highlight the country's progress. Ireland's relationship to the theme of "Absorbing Modernity" was colored by their independence from the United Kingdom in the early 1920s, with modernism and infrastructure seen as the way to leave this past behind. The pavilion examines the outcomes of this approach, with Ireland treated as "a launch-pad and testing ground" for everything from concrete infrastructure to data centers. Read the curators' take on their pavilion after the break.
From the Official Catalog of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition: If modernism is a cultural response to the technological transformation of the world by new systems of infrastructure and markets, how this process is absorbed nationally usually presupposes an attachment to previous conditions and a desire to reconcile the two. In an Irish context, due to the processes of decolonization and political independence, this relationship is problematized and has complex readings.
Lacking any significant industrial complex, the construction of new infrastructures in Ireland was seen throughout the twentieth century as part of the building of a new nation, just as adoption of international modernism in architecture was perceived as a way to escape the colonial past. Accordingly, infrastructure became the concrete identity of a desire to reconcile cultural and technological aims and architecture an essential element in the making of this construct.
The nature of technology and infrastructure is inherently cosmopolitan. Beginning with the Shannon hydroelectric facility at Ardnacrusha (1929) by the German firm of Siemens-Schuckert in the first decade of independence, Ireland became a point of varying types of intersection between imported international expertise and local need. At the other end of the temporal spectrum, by the year 2000 Ireland had become one of the most globalized countries in the world, site of the European headquarters of multinationals such as Google and Microsoft. Climatically and economically expedient to the storing and harvesting of data, Ireland has subsequently become a repository of digital information farmed in large, single-story sheds absorbed into anonymous suburbs. In 2013, it became the preferred site for Intel to design and develop its new microprocessor chip: the Galileo. The story of the decades in between, of shifts made manifest in architecture and infrastructure from the policies of economic protectionism to five-year plans, to the embracing of the EEC is one of the influx of technologies and cultural references into a small country on the edges of Europe: Ireland as both a launch-pad and testing ground for a series of aspects of designed modernity.
Infra-Éireann presents ten infrastructural episodes through a series of media and across a range of scales. Oscillating between detailed examination of designed objects and the strategic scales of the international networks and systems through which the State operates, it places iconic architectural moments within a technological and cultural flow that includes generic, mass-produced, everyday objects, buildings and landscapes.