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Absorbing Modernity: The Latest Architecture and News

MoMA's Pedro Gadanho on "Bringing Architectural Modernity Home"

00:00 - 26 November, 2014
MoMA's Pedro Gadanho on "Bringing Architectural Modernity Home", "The celebrity of architects such as Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura has certainly contributed to Portuguese architecture’s increasing presence in the local press." Image: Portuguese pavilion for Expo 98 – 1998 / Álvaro Siza. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG
"The celebrity of architects such as Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura has certainly contributed to Portuguese architecture’s increasing presence in the local press." Image: Portuguese pavilion for Expo 98 – 1998 / Álvaro Siza. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

This article by Pedro Gadanho was originally published in Homeland: News From Portugal, the project created for Portugal's national representation at the 2014 Venice Biennale.

Nobody doubts that, in large measures, 20th century modernity has been brought to one’s living room by the media. Sure, toasters and mass-produced carpets have offered a sense of domestic modernity fostered by ever-more accessible technologies. But newspapers, the radio, and TV sets have delivered the sense that one was immersed in the long revolution happening outside. Drawing from popular media, Martha Rosler’s “House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home” series (1967-1972) gave this idea a poignant visual expression. If newspapers carried home modernity’s many conflicts and tensions, life-style magazines completed the picture with alluring visions of how to make yourself and your environment become “modern.”

TCA Think Tank Creates "Parasite Pavilion" With Five-Day Workshop in Venice

01:00 - 23 November, 2014
© Marco Cappelletti
© Marco Cappelletti

Casting complex shadows and engulfing visitors in a series of maze-like spaces, the Parasite Pavilion was constructed as part of the Synergy & Symbiosis event at the 2014 Venice Biennale, which showcased the best of the UABB Shenzhen and Hong Kong Biennale from 2005 to 2014. Based on the Bug Dome pavilion, a similar experiment from Hong Kong 2009, constructed by Weak! Architects as an icon of "illegal architecture," this new pavilion is the product of an intensive five day workshop, with the cooperation of architects and students from Europe, Australia, and China. Read on after the break to learn more about the Pavilion and Workshop.

© Marco Cappelletti © Marco Cappelletti © Marco Cappelletti © Marco Cappelletti + 22

Reflections on the 2014 Venice Biennale

01:00 - 18 November, 2014
Reflections on the 2014 Venice Biennale, Fundamentals (Central Pavilion): Ceiling. Image © David Levene
Fundamentals (Central Pavilion): Ceiling. Image © David Levene

Fundamentals, the title of the 2014 Venice Biennale, will close its doors in a matter of days (on the 23rd November). From the moment Rem Koolhaas revealed the title for this year’s Biennale in January 2013, asking national curators to respond directly to the theme of ‘Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014’, there was an inkling that this Biennale would be in some way special. Having rejected offers to direct the Biennale in the past, the fact that Koolhaas chose to act not only as curator but also thematic co-ordinator of the complete international effort, was significant. This announcement led Peter Eisenman (one of Koolhaas' earliest tutors and advocates) to state in one interview that “[Rem is] stating his end: the end of [his] career, the end of [his] hegemony, the end of [his] mythology, the end of everything, the end of architecture.”

Hacking the Biennale: "Project Source Code" Uses Augmented Reality to Stage a Rebel Exhibition

00:00 - 23 September, 2014
Hacking the Biennale: "Project Source Code" Uses Augmented Reality to Stage a Rebel Exhibition, Embryological House, 1997, Greg Lynn Form. Image Courtesy of Ozel Office
Embryological House, 1997, Greg Lynn Form. Image Courtesy of Ozel Office

This year at the Venice Biennale, not all of the exhibitions are visible. Ozel Office of Los Angeles have "hacked" the Venice Biennale with the help of some major architecture firms: Asymptote Architecture, Greg Lynn Form, Neil M. Denari Architects, Murmur, and Oosterhuis Lenard. Together, these firms have created a rogue digital addition to the Biennale only accessible through a virtual portal revealing a world of levitating models, movable objects, and much more, activated by physical components of the Koolhaas-curated central pavilion.

Find out how you can hack the Biennale after the break.

The VW Beetle Shell, 1967, and The Utah Teapot, 1975, Ivan Sutherland and Martin Newell. Image Courtesy of Ozel Office Corrugated Duct House, Neil M. Denari Architects. Image Courtesy of Ozel Office Virtual Trading Floor, Asymptote Architecture. Image Courtesy of Ozel Office Spreebogen Master Plan, 1993, Roberge, Rudy, Hoffman, Koebel. Image Courtesy of Ozel Office + 7

Beyond Starchitects: An Architectural Revolution at the 2014 Venice Biennale

00:00 - 7 September, 2014
Beyond Starchitects: An Architectural Revolution at the 2014 Venice Biennale , Bahrain's analysis of Modernism in the Arabic nations is arguably contrary to the theme of 'Absorbing Modernity'. Image © Nico Saieh
Bahrain's analysis of Modernism in the Arabic nations is arguably contrary to the theme of 'Absorbing Modernity'. Image © Nico Saieh

"The Biennale reveals that modernism was never a style. It was a cultural, political, and social practice," says Sarah Williams Goldhagen in her recent article for New Republic, The Great Architect Rebellion of 2014. This year, the Venice Biennale dissects the notion of modernism by providing a hefty cross-section of architectural history in the central pavilion. However contrary to Koolhaas' prescriptive brief, the 65 national pavilions show modernism was not just a movement, but a socially-driven, culturally attuned reaction to the "exigencies of life in a rapidly changing and developing world." Unexpected moments define the 2014 Venice Biennale: from Niemeyer's desire to launch Brazil into the first world through architectural creation, to South Korea's unveiling of a deep modernist tradition with influence across the nation. This Biennale proved to be truly rebellious - read Goldhagen's article from New Republic here to find out why.

AD Interviews: Leong Leong, designers of US Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale

01:00 - 5 August, 2014

We sat down with Leong Leong Architecture, designers of the US Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale to discuss their concept for OfficeUS. Commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture, Leong Leong was tasked with designing a temporary and multi-functional space for architectural practice and exhibition. The minimal, airy US Pavilion features over 1000 projects designed by American architects abroad, set amongst a functional office space.

Infrastructure, Data and Progress: Ireland's Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale

00:00 - 3 August, 2014
Infrastructure, Data and Progress: Ireland's Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale, © Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

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.

AD Interviews: Diébédo Francis Kéré / Kéré Architecture

01:00 - 31 July, 2014

Award-winning African architect Diébédo Francis Kéré is renowned for his cross-cultural approach to architecture. Although his office, Kéré Architecture, is based in Berlin, many of his projects are carried out in his native West African country Burkina Faso, where he is known for incorporating local materials and talent into his designs.

AD Interviews: Pedro Alonso, Curator of the Chilean Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale

01:00 - 28 July, 2014

We had the chance to sit down with Pedro Alonso, one of the curators of the Chilean pavilion “Monolith Controversies,” at the 2014 Venice Biennale, to learn more about the concept and inspiration behind the Silver Lion-winning pavilion. “We were interested in demonstrating that architects didn’t absorb modernity, but rather, they supplied it. The ones who absorbed it were the workers and the people,” Alonso told us, outside of a replica of a Chilean apartment – the entrance to the Pavilion. “The absorption of modernity has to do with the pieces we are exhibiting. For example, this apartment, the apartment of Mrs. Silvia Gutiérrez in Viña del Mar, which is an exact replica – object by object- of the 518 things that make up her living room.”

Interview with Jean-Louis Cohen, Curator of the French Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale

01:00 - 3 July, 2014

On the morning that France accepted a Special Mention for its exhibition "Modernity: Promise or Menace?" at the Venice Biennale, Curator Jean-Louis Cohen spoke to us about the questions raised within, on, and around the walls of the French Pavilion. Standing in front of a model of the farcical Villa Arpel from Jacques Tati's famous film "Mon Oncle," Cohen explained that France didn't just absorb modernity (as Rem Koolhaas proposed) but that France inspired modernity, providing different expectations, promises and, as the title suggests, menaces.

What Can Be Learnt From The Smithsons' "New Brutalism" In 2014?

00:00 - 22 June, 2014
What Can Be Learnt From The Smithsons' "New Brutalism" In 2014?, Alison and Peter Smithson (year unknown)
Alison and Peter Smithson (year unknown)

Sheffield born Alison Gill, later to be known as Alison Smithson, was one half of one of the most influential Brutalist architectural partnerships in history. On the day that she would be celebrating her 86th birthday we take a look at how the impact of her and Peter Smithson's architecture still resonates well into the 21st century, most notably in the British Pavilion at this year's Venice Biennale. With London's Robin Hood Gardens, one of their most well known and large scale social housing projects, facing imminent demolition how might their style, hailed by Reyner Banham in 1955 as the "new brutalism", hold the key for future housing projects?

Robin Hood Gardens, London. Image Courtesy of John Levett - http://www.flickr.com/photos/joseph_beuys_hat/ Robin Hood Gardens, London. Image Courtesy of Amanda Vincent-Rous - http://www.flickr.com/photos/51746218@N03/ Drawing at the 2014 Venice Biennale, Alison & Peter Smithson (1963). Image © James Taylor-Foster Robin Hood Gardens, Alison and Peter Smithson + 8

The "Urban Interior" of Jimenez Lai's Biennale Pavilion for Taiwan

01:00 - 15 June, 2014

UPDATE: We've added our interview with Jimenez Lai.

Jimenez Lai
, leader of Bureau Spectacular and curator of Taiwan's Pavilion for the 2014 Venice Biennale, claims that "domesticity is possibly one of the origins of architecture" and that "the standardization of the domestic program was...a very modern development." Thus, Lai built nine single-program houses within the Palazzo della Prigioni, each dedicated to one specific domestic act--such as sleeping, eating, etc. The result is a vibrant, colorful response to Rem Koolhaas' unifying theme: "Absorbing Modernity."

Township of Domestic Parts: Made in Taiwan, delves into the part-to-whole relationship and political implications of our domestic lives. But Lai also believes that, from this relationship, we can learn something about the way that cities function. See more images from the exhibition and read on for the curator's statement.

House of Social Dining. Township of Domestic Parts: Made in Taiwan. Image © Nico Saieh Township of Domestic Parts: Made in Taiwan. Image © Nico Saieh House of Alchemy. Township of Domestic Parts: Made in Taiwan. Image © Nico Saieh House of Social Dining. Township of Domestic Parts: Made in Taiwan. Image © Nico Saieh + 13

Chile's "Monolith Controversies" - Winner of the Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale

01:00 - 13 June, 2014
Chile's "Monolith Controversies" - Winner of the Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale, Monolith Controversies. Venice Biennale 2014. Image © Nico Saieh
Monolith Controversies. Venice Biennale 2014. Image © Nico Saieh

Between 1931 and 1981, the Soviet Union exported a prefab concrete panel system for housing - whose development and exportation embodied the ideals of the modern movement - to countries around the world, creating more than 170 million apartments. In 1972, during the socialist government of Salvador Allende, the USSR donated a panel factory to Chile. The Chile KPD (an acronym derived from the Russian words for “large concrete panel”) produced a total of 153 buildings during its operation, before being shut down and forgotten during the military dictatorship.

The full story of the concrete panels produced in Chile had been buried in history, but research conducted by curators Pedro Alonso and Hugo Palmarola for the Chile Pavilion has resurfaced the political, ideological and aesthetic implications of the panel. Monolith Controversies not only shows the technical aspects of a fundamental element of a prefab building system, but also demonstrates how it was connected to an ideology. Upon entering the Chile pavilion, visitors find themselves in the recreation of an interior of one of the apartments. Next they enter the main space, in which one concrete panel found by the curators stands as the representation of how modernity was absorbed in Chile.

In the Absorbing Modernity section of the Biennale, Koolhaas asked curators from all over the world to bring to light the ways modernism developed in their countries. The work done by the Chilean curators in the Monolith Controversies exhibition is one of the best examples of this call, recognized by the jury with the Silver Lion. Read on for the curator’s statement.

Monolith Controversies. Venice Biennale 2014. Image © Nico Saieh Monolith Controversies. Venice Biennale 2014. Image © Nico Saieh Monolith Controversies. Venice Biennale 2014. Image © Nico Saieh Monolith Controversies. Venice Biennale 2014. Image © Nico Saieh + 17

Inside Korea's “Crow's Eye View” – Golden Lion Winner at the Venice Biennale 2014

01:00 - 12 June, 2014
Inside Korea's “Crow's Eye View” – Golden Lion Winner at the Venice Biennale 2014, Crow's Eye View: The Korean Peninsula. Image © Nico Saieh
Crow's Eye View: The Korean Peninsula. Image © Nico Saieh

Today, the Korean Peninsula provides a striking example of a post-war polarization: two opposite political and economical systems, constantly presented in contrast/conflict by the global media, that still maintain an intricate, complicated relationship. Architecture’s role in this polarization was instrumental. North Korea sought to represent the aspirations of a new communist nation within a context devastated after the war -- a tabula-rasa from which adaptations of modernism could appear. In South Korea, fast economic growth bred a form of modernization that represented the ideals of a globalized world.

These distinct absorptions of modernity, and the relation between the two neighboring nations, are represented in Korea’s Pavilion in an exhibition called Crow’s Eye View, winner of the Gold Lion at the Venice Biennale 2014. The dense exhibition, commissioned and curated by Minsuk Cho together with Hyungmin Pai and Changmo Ahn, used every corner of the pavilion to represent this subject. The curators invited a multidisciplinary group of architects, urbanists, poets, writers, artists, photographers, film-makers, curators and collectors to demonstrate (to best of their availability, since official cooperation with North Korean institutions proved impossible) the architectural intersections and divisions between North and South Korea.

Recognized by the judges as “research in action,” Crow’s Eye View provided an invaluable addition to a discourse which has been predominantly carried by Western-centric narratives. And it is precisely this that, according to rumors, made it Koolhaas’ favorite pavilion.

Crow's Eye View: The Korean Peninsula. Image © Nico Saieh Crow's Eye View: The Korean Peninsula. Image © Nico Saieh Crow's Eye View: The Korean Peninsula. Image © Nico Saieh Crow's Eye View: The Korean Peninsula. Image © Nico Saieh + 20

A Biennale of Knowledge: Rem Koolhaas on The Importance of the Archive

00:00 - 12 June, 2014

Curated by Rem Koolhaas, this year’s Biennale set high expectations in the architecture world, a fact reflected in the massive attendance during the preview. As Koolhaas stated at the awards ceremony, he took on the hard task of reinventing the Biennale, recognizing its influence in how architecture is exhibited around the world.

Under the title “Fundamentals,” Rem rallied this year’s curators to assemble a vast amount of knowledge, bringing to light research that had been hidden, forgotten, scattered, and/or previously unexamined, and making it available to the larger architectural community. This was achieved not only in the form and content of the Biennale, but also in the numerous publications produced by the curators (a practice which closely follows OMA/AMO traditions).

Yet this is actually a double-edged sword; in many pavilions, the density and depth of the content made it hard to understand at first glance. Architecture festivals and exhibitions tend to lean on experiential one-liners, but since “Fundamentals” was so focused on conveying ideas about architecture’s relationship to modernity over the past 100 years, it was a significant challenge to the curators. Many pavilions produced impressive publications, so that all the rich knowledge they unearthed may continue to influence architectural thought long after the Biennale ends in November.

Inside France's "Modernity, Promise or Menace?" - Special Mention Winner at the Venice Biennale 2014

01:00 - 11 June, 2014
Inside France's "Modernity, Promise or Menace?" - Special Mention Winner at the Venice Biennale 2014 , © Luc Boegly / Pavillon français pour l'Institut français et le Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication
© Luc Boegly / Pavillon français pour l'Institut français et le Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication

This year's French Pavilion stood out as one of the best pavilions in the Giardini, communicating a clear, engaging thesis and receiving a Special Mention from the jury.

Curator Jean-Louis Cohen poses four questions throughout four galleries, demonstrating the contradictions that fill the story of modernity and architecture in France. The ambivalent responses of architecture to the original promise of modernity is shown through the juxtaposition of a continuous cinematographic montage (playing simultaneously throughout all four galleries) and large-scale objects.

Watch an excerpt from Teri Wehn Damisch's film and read the curator's statement after the break. For a virtual tour of the space designed by Paris-based firm Projectiles, follow this link. And make sure to keep an eye out for our video interview with curator Jean-Louis Cohen (coming soon).

Grands ensembles: healing heterotopias or places of seclusion?. Image © Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh Jean Prouvé: constructive imagination or utopia?. Image © Nico Saieh © Luc Boegly / Pavillon français pour l'Institut français et le Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication + 28

Iñaki Ábalos' Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale: "Interior"

00:00 - 5 June, 2014
Iñaki Ábalos' Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale: "Interior", © Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

By focusing on the architecture of interiors, Inaki Ábalos, the curator of this year's Spanish Pavilion, highlights the spaces within 12 Spanish buildings. These projects, mostly completed within the past three years, serve as specifically important instances of refurbishment and regeneration of Spain's built heritage. The exhibition is a study not only of the architecture itself, but of the cultural material that gave rise to the specific forms. Through large-scale photographs and sections of each of the presented spaces, Interior seeks "the place where life unfolds, the central theme of architecture." Read on to find the rest of the curator's statement.

© Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh + 20

Your Virtual Tour of the National Pavilions at the Venice Biennale 2014

01:00 - 5 June, 2014
Your Virtual Tour of the National Pavilions at the Venice Biennale 2014, Bahrain Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia
Bahrain Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia

Your virtual tour of the Venice Biennale has arrived! Check out each of the national pavilions currently on display for ' chosen theme - Absorbing Modernity, 1914-2014.

Spain Pavilion. Image © Nico Saieh Portugal Pavilion. Image © Nico Saieh Chile Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia Kuwait Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia Poland Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia Republic of Korea Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia Great Britain Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia Croatia Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia + 48