Last year, for the centennial of the publication of Le Corbusier's design for the Maison Dom-Ino, Space Caviar traveled the length of the Italian peninsular in pursuit of ninety-nine reinforced concrete houses. Along the way they created ninety-nine short films. Their research, a survey of Italian domesticity and its relationship to the surrounding landscape over the past century, demonstrated that "few inventions have been as transformative of Italy as the concrete frame": simultaneously a symbol of wealth "generated by a building industry that rebuilt Italy from the rubble of the Second World War" and "the primary instrument of abusivismo," or the unregulated construction on the landscape. It is, as the team describe it, "the ultimate symbol of the architect’s extraordinary power — and enduring helplessness."
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.”
From August 12-15, architects, filmmakers and activists from Syria and the Arab World gathered in the Arsenale at the 2014 Venice Biennale for “excavating the sky,” a four-day event focusing on Syria and the production of its contemporary landscape from before WWI until today. The event took place in the context of the Monditalia exhibition and one of its key components was a “displaced pavilion” in Syria – a recently dug well providing water for a community of 15,000 people.
“As you know, Syria is currently undergoing a profound, and often violent, transformation, much of which is difficult to fully comprehend. It is my belief that architecture does play a role in this conflict, and that architects, with their disciplinary tools, must act more meaningfully and creatively in these struggles in/of space,” Khaled Malas, a Syrian architect and organizer of “excavating the sky,” told ArchDaily. “The 'displaced pavilion', in the form of a water-well, is an active embodiment of these struggles and our responsible participation as a discipline amongst those who have suffered years of neglect followed by war.”
To represent the "displaced pavilion" at Monditalia, a banner with a drawing of the well was hung in the Aresenale.
Read on after the break to learn more about the other key components of the event and the significance behind its name…
From August 23-24, Italian architecture firm Spacelab’s State of Exception curatorial project will be featured at the Monditalia section of the 2014 Venice Biennale. State of Exception will involve 12 intellectuals, designers and bloggers in a two-day round table discussion on the themes of the project: conservation and the state of exception, looking both within and outside Italy. The innovative event also seeks to generate involvement and discussion beyond the walls of the Arsenale, and will feature an open call for images representing the event's core themes via Instagram and Twitter.
As one of the countries with the most significant historic and natural heritage in the world, Italy implemented bodies and strict regulations for its preservation over a century ago. “But conservation for conservation spawned two paradoxes: on the one hand the unruly entropic drift for anything that is not covered by the rules of preservation. On the other hand, autistic immobility within the enclaves of conservation, which don’t allow the freshness and openness to the differences that have always marked the history of Italian architecture,” Spacelab writes in a project description. Through State of Exception, Spacelab seeks “to promote ‘ad absurdum’ arguments regarding Italy's problematic relationship with its context and its historical legacy,” bringing attention to these issues both inside and outside Italy.
For more details on State of Exception and to find out how you can contribute images, read on after the break...
Though the professional practice of architecture can be broadly defined, we often just focus on the design work in relation to the completed building, leaving behind other areas in which architects find more opportunities. In this infographic created by OMA in preparation for the Monditalia exhibition at the Venice Biennale, we see how the professional activities are distributed among these sub-areas such as planning, landscape design, interior design and feasibility studies--a relationship which can also allow us to extrapolate the outcomes and products that emerge from these countries.
Click the infographic to get a closer look and browse the projects we've published from the represented countries:
The component parts of Monditalia, the 41 projects that line the vast corridor of the Arsenale, provide contextualization for architecture operating within larger systems, be it politics, media, border control, religion, etc. When we spoke to Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli of AMO, Monditalia's head curator, he stressed that "the exhibition is a method, more than anything. This idea of the scanning through the country, selecting case studies, selecting another way to represent the case studies…it's a method that can be applied also elsewhere."
Monditalia mobilizes the other sectors of the Venice Biennale -- Cinema, Dance and Music -- in order to capture a "polyphonic" portrait of a European country with what Laparelli describes as "extreme conditions." Infographics produced in preparation for the exhibition demonstrate the statistical disparities between Italy and other nations. The scan of Italy begins from the south and continues to the north, allowing "different topics to collaps[e] or collid[e] onto each other, such as you would find when you travel through a real territory."
Monditalia's events have been programmed to take place between June and November in conjunction with a series of 21 Weekend Specials that allow further exploration of the issues/topics/case studies brought forth in the exhibition at large.
By the late 1960s, two dynamics were shaping a new urban reality in Italy: on the one hand, TV was heavily influencing Italian society, becoming an intrinsic part of daily life; on the other, the social tension resulting from student protests and accelerated immigration had begun to impact cities in a chaotic way. These dynamics paved the way for Milano Due, a new town on the outskirts of Milan, which promised a new, idyllic type of urbanism.
The complex, although traditional in appearance with its red pitched roofs, put into practice modern concepts: its 2,600 apartments, which had access to amenities for education and entertainment, were arranged around a giant artificial garden/lake and were connected via an elevated circulation system. Below ground, the complex housed the studios of the first private TV channel in Italy, a fact that would shape the lives of the inhabitants of Milano Due and eventually all of Italian society.
This interesting urban phenomena is analyzed by Andrés Jaque / Office for Political Innovation in “SALES ODDITY: Milano 2 and the Politics of Direct-to-Home TV Urbanism,” a project that was part of the Monditalia section at the Venice Biennale and was awarded the Silver Lion for the Best Research Project. According to the jury “The project presents critically a fundamental aspect of modern societies: how the power of media occupies other social spaces, both physically and politically. It is based on innovative research combining surveys and interviews with planners and residents and re-appropriation of the mass media language. While based on an Italian case, this issue is present in many international contexts dominated by contemporary technological and neo-liberal cultures.”
Dossier, trailer, and more photos of the project by Miguel de Guzmán, after the break:
SALES ODDITY. Milano 2 and the Politics of Direct-to-Home TV Urbanism
by Andrés Jaque / Office for Political Innovation
Last year I saw Beatriz Colomina present Radical Pedagogies, a research project that she led together with PhD students at Princeton University School of Architecture. Radical Pedagogies focuses on schools and programs from around the world that emerged postwar, strongly tied to social changes of the time. The material produced over three years of seminars, interviews and archive digging shows a compelling story of the ways that "architectural pedagogy" have impacted today's architecture education.
Invited to the Monditalia section of the Venice Biennale, Radical Pedagogies paints a global picture while focusing on some of the strong Italian influences of these new movements—such as Lina Bo Bardi in Brazil and Aldo Rossi in Argentina—in an interactive exhibit that includes augmented reality content by dpr-barcelona.
The exhibition was awarded a Special Mention, cited by the jury for "highlight[ing] the emergence of new poles of architectural thinking in the current world and mak[ing] these accessible as a living archive. The research project is part of an ongoing global project that shows that knowledge is produced and develops in a networked way beyond national borders and national identities."
We wanted to show our readers more about this project, but focusing on the physical armature of the exhibit, a dimension that is often ignored from a technical point of view. That's why we asked Chilean practice Amunátegui Valdés Architects to share the architectural details of the Radical Pedagogies: Action - Reaction - Interaction exhibit and construction. Read more after the break.
Towards a New Avant-Garde, Superscript’s three-part conversation series during the opening weekend of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition— La Biennale di Venezia, brought together 40 talented young architects, writers, critics, to debate issues of identity, collaboration, and economics. Over the course of three 90-minute conversations, several key themes emerged, including the need of architects to engage the public directly, the importance of evolving new forms of communication and criticism, and the value of capitalizing on opportunities to be proactive. Here’s a snapshot of what the participants had to say:
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.
Venice Biennale 2014: "Towards A New Avant-Garde" Explores the Emergence of a New Generation of Radical Italian Design
Writing about radical architects from the 1960s and 70s, the acerbic American critic Michael Sorkin wrote: “Some chose the resistance of advocacy planning and community defense, carrying on the identification with the oppressed. Many took to the woods, back to nature, to study communitarianism and to live a life of virtuous simplicity. Others wondered about the architectural equivalent of rock and roll.” Replace communitarianism with open source, or rock and roll with science fiction, and he could just as well be describing a group of young Italian architects working today. The practitioners of the 1970’s, especially in Italy, transformed their profession but ultimately failed to realize their utopias. What might this new generation achieve?
Towards a New Avant-Garde, an installation and series of discussions at the opening weekend of the Venice Architecture Biennale, will confront the work and approaches of past masters like Superstudio, Archizoom, and the Global Tools group with new, speculative, and politically-charged projects by groups like Itinerant Office, IRA-C, and Snark.
The Most Saturated European Markets: Where (And How Big) Are The Opportunities for Architects in Europe?
A few weeks ago Monditalia, one of the three main exhibits of the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale, tweeted a small infographic which showed the number of architects per country, unleashing an intense debate among architects around the world.
Today Monditalia revealed even more figures, provoking us to think not only about which markets are saturated, but also where opportunities and possibilities lie for our profession. Using data from the construction research center CRESME, the curators of Monditalia have graphed the potential in European markets for architects, in terms of thousands of euros per year.
The Monditalia team has treated us to a sneak preview of what one can expect to see in the Arsenale when the Venice Biennale launches early next month. The Monditalia exhibition forms one of the three main parts of this year's Rem Koolhaas-led Biennale. To keep you up-to-date on all the latest Biennale coverage, we're holding a #CountdownVenice2014 - so be sure to follow ArchDaily on Twitter!
Yesterday, Monditalia - one of the three exhibitions currently being prepared for this year's Venice Architecture Biennale - tweeted out a neat little graphic showing the number of architects, per inhabitant, in 36 countries around the world.
The graphic shows that Italy has a shockingly high percentage of architects in its population: for every 414 Italians, one is an architect. According to the graphic, Portugal, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Greece all have ratios of less than 1,000 to one. Of course, there are plenty of other architect-heavy places missing from the list; not even mentioned in the graphic is Chile, a country that - according to its latest census - has one architect per 667 inhabitants, nor Mexico which has about 724 inhabitants per architect. On the other end of the spectrum, China has only one architect for every 40,000 persons.