23 November 2008

40 Venice Biennale of Architecture 2008

After I run a workshop at NABA, the next day we headed Venice for Venice Biennale: the 11th International Architecture Exhibition. This year the director is Aaron Betsky who gave a very interesting theme to the exhibition, "Out There: Architecture Beyond Building". Actually the exhibition ran during Sept 14 - Nov 23, already finished last weekend.

For those who are not familiar with the Biennale, the biennale exhibition (both art and architecture) could be divided roughly into 3 parts, upon the location. The first part is called Arsenale, the old buildings of rope factory of the Italian Navy are transformed into a super long exhibition space. The second part is called Giradini, or the garden, where pavilions of different countries are located. The last section is those exhibitions and national pavilions scattering around the city. Usually it would take at least 2-3 days to complete the show. But I have never spent more than 2 days (basically 2 afternoons) browsing through it, because after some hours, I would get overdosed of either art or architecture....:O

We began with the Arsenale where many big name architects were, altogether more than 50 architects put there works over there. This one was the first one at the entrance of the Arsenale: Hall of Fragments by David Rockwell with Jones/Kroloff. There were many screens showing different famous movies at the lower part of the exhibition, while on the big screen, computer generated moving images were projected to created perpectual changing space. Personally I am not into this kind of installion.. (too intangible for me), however this one was not bad actually.

This one was Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher's Lotus Design. I actually like this furniture more than the usual buildings of Zaha and the gang. :-)

Gehry's work was this seem-to-be a mock up of one of his buildings, but claded with clay. The texture of the cracks was really nice and gave a different look to Gehry's signature form.

This one is called Graphic Tapesteries of Thonik. Gigantic carpets were hung from very high roof of Arsenale building, the space was very strong and interesting.

This one, I don't understand much the content, but visually it was quite nice. The technique was also quite simple: plastic tubes and lighting from below. It was the work of Penezic & Rogina Architect, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf in the Digital Age?".

Another visually nice one was the exhbition of Guallart Architect, "Hyperhabitat". It looked very digital, like in a Sci-Fi movie. :-) Everthing was reduced into two dimensional surface... digital?

This one was one of those whose approach was more into digital generated form, the work of Matthew Ritchie & Arnda/Lasch, Evening Line. The space was cover by the pattern (seemed to be digially generated) both on the surfaces of the wall and the floor and the mass made out of crambled two-dimensional cut surface..

This one was a bit analog interaction, not bad actually..It was formation(RE)formation: Normad Garden by Barkow Leibinger Architects. All the alumium pipes could be moved into another hole on the floor. So you could rearrange the path if you want to get through the 'garden'.

This one was the one we were actually looking forward to seeing, after reading many reviews from everywhere before going there. The section of Uneternal City in the Arsenale housed 12 exhibition on urban design including this one of MAD architect. This movable China Town of 1 km high, has been very controversial... To me, it was almost a joke... To see it in the real life did not help to change my mind. In the country where trillions people have no proper home like China, maybe there are something else to do.. I don't know.

At the almost every end of Arsenale session, Chinese section was located in the very factory-like space.. with a smell of oil .. The exhition was very simple, some photographs of common rooms where people really live in China, placed on the simple tables with very common fluorescent lamps. It gave you the atmosphere of very tough physical environment of China.. which perhaps it actually is.

Just in the garden next to the room, there were two small Chinese pavilions, one was made out of simple concrete blocks, the other which is this one, was made out of paper boxes and paper tubes of drawing papers used in architecture office. It was not bad at all, but by the time (late October) when we arrived, the pavilion was already on the vague of collapsing... :O it was almost dangerous to get inside, however, we did so.

Actually there were many other exhibitions in the Arsenale.. too many.. after a few hours, we were already overdosed, and could not stand to hear the word "architecture" anymore - hahhahah. One thing I realized here was: when architects try to be too artistic (or playing artist), it hardly works. :O --- Viva Architecture! (still).

The next afternoon, after being a normal tourist in Venice on Sunday super good weather morning, we were back again at the second venue of the Biennale: the Giardini.

The most striking exhibition in the national pavilion this year for us was Japan. The exhibition was called Extreme Nature: Landscape of Ambiguos Space, by Junya Ishigami, a young & upcoming architect. Around the existing Japan Pavilion, there were many of these 'green houses', very slender steel structure and glass walls, with many plants inside... the idea of architecture & nature. The green houses actually look very similar to Junya Ishigami's latest work.. He also worked on this project with Hideki Oba , a botanist and Taro Igarashi was a commissioner. It was actually a very interesting approach to look at nature.. somehow you feel that the plants are threatened to be inside these boxes, at the same time you have this feeling that it was a kind of nature that it was framed & tamed - perhaps very Japanese approach. I just hope with my simple mind that the plants were carefully selected and they would stand such an environment of the super sleek green house.

Look at the effects of light and reflection.. It is along the line of Sejima and Nishizawa, but perhaps sweeter, with all the plants.

The details of everything was very faminine - the little cushions on the steps were cover with white lace..

The interior space was even more impressive.. . on the first glance, everything was completely white, floor, wall , ceiling...

Then you began to notice that there were pencil drawings on almost every square inch of the wall...hand drawings , of course..it gave you really a little chill on the spine..

The close up: all the drawings were the ideas of how architecture and nature co-exist...very cute and cartoonist.. we all love it!

The next favourite one was the pavilion of Belgium. The concept of the pavilion this year was to celebrate a hundred years of Belgian's participation to the Biennale (if I am not wrong). It was called 1907.... After the Party. The existing pavilion was covered by a scaffolding structure & metal panels..

This is the entrance space.. you have to get through the scaffolding structure.. quite nice.

This is the space in between the exisiting building and the new structure of the scaffolding.. it became a small garden (although some trees were dying)

Every single square inch of the ground was covered by the little paper confetti.. it must have been tons of them, it signified that it was "after the party of the anniversary" :-) it was quite fun walking through the floor like this.. people really enjoyed, I notice.

Another favourite one is the pavilion of Poland - it was awarded the best national pavilion this year - as far as I know. It was called Hotel Polonia - they put big beds in the middle of the space.. But the most interesting part of the pavilion was called : The After Life of Building, on the wall of the space. There were photographs of some super new and sleek buildings in Poland (which is very fast growing economy too), next to each sleek photograph, there was another photo of "the after life" of that particular building, make with super neat retouch techniques. The after life is somehow very pessimistic.. the future is not that bright.. Library turns into shopping mall, church turns into amusment park, office building turns into framehouse and etc..... Very impressive indeed.

Look closely at each building... :O

The hyper modern sleek city turn into a junk yard....

The other pavilion that is really 'beyond building' is the one of Czech Republic and Slovak Republic, called "Sideways". It was basciall a big space with 10s refridgerators.. On each fridge, some descriptions about the owners of the fridge with his/her context, forexample, a unversity student, age 20, single room dorm, and etc. Then you could open the fridge to see what kind of food kept inside.. it was very fun to look at how and where people live through their fridge. This made me think a lot of my fridge which is basically always almost empty :O

Isaeli Pavilion was not so impressive, however, a piece was nice.. I don't know exactly what it is - seems to be someting generated by sound.. byt the surface is very nice.

Greek Pavilion was also about soundscape of the city, where you could activate several kind of sounds in many hanging headphones.. however, I think, the visual effect of this fiber obtic tubes with light was very nice and perhaps too strong that you tend to forget about the sound..

Russian Pavilion was also crazy.. you could see hundreds of buildings by many fancy architects which are about to pop up in Russian landscape... Very impressive indeed.

In the main pavilion of Italy, which is so big that the exhibition that is not mainly Italian architects, there were two sections of the exhibition "the Master" (no explanation needed), and "Experimental Architecture". For the masters, it was more for the excitement of seeing some real drawings/paintings of Zaha Hadid and Madelon Vriesendorp (who made all the illustrations of Delirious New York of Rem Koolhaas). Another interesting one was the installation of Ai Wei Wei, a Chinese Artist in collaboration with Herzog & De Meuron (they were working together since the Bird's Nest stadium).

I was more into 'Experimental Architecture'. However, many of them conducted events during the first week of the show, and now only very static exhibition was there. One of the example of these was the exhibition ot Interaction Design Lab: they were doing great events during the first weeks, and the exhibition space was only an immitation of their office space which shows the working process.

The other one worth mention is this exhibition of Alejandro Aravena, a Chilean architect..(he won the prize of the young architect this year at the Biennale too). He works mainly with poor people in Chile. Here you don't see much because of the very abstract models, but you can see more from Dezeen.

There were almost a hundred exhibition more in Italian Pavilion.. but too many to mention.. really - again I was overdosed.

The pavilion which is always to most beautiful building (but impossible to put any exhibition because the building is too strong and good) is the Nordic Pavilion by Sverre Fehn, a old master of Norwegian Modern architecture...

To see the building, it was already enough.. no need to see the exhibition (in fact I never remembered any exhibition displayed here in the building although I have been to the Biennale both art & architecture for several times already).

The roof structure was also very nice.. the way the natural light gets through..

Another nice building is Venezuelian Pavilian by Carlo Scarpa, the Venice master...(atually this time we saw quite some of Scarpa's works too..)

Many other pavilions are also very nice and good design (you could write a book out of them) such as Finland's by Alvar Aalto, Australia's by Glen Murcutt and so on...

There were only three outside-the-main-venue exhibitions I saw. This first one was a small building next to Giardini by an group of Italian architects, A12. Unfortunately by the time I arrived it was already close. But the effect of the mirror cladded wall reflecting Venice's waterscape was very nice.

Hong Kong Pavilion got a good location, just right on the opposite building of the entrance of the Arsenale..there was this very small home with bicycle.. very cute and the tower of metal leaves... quite interesting. (next to it was Taiwan Pavilion, but I was too late to get it).

The very first and the very last pavilion we saw was the Scottish one.. Since it was right in front of the train station. :) very smart move.. It seemed to be very popular among kids (as well as homeless people at night). :D

The over experience of this Venice Biennale of Architecture was quite nice....One thing I learned is that if you do an exhibition among the other millions, don't try to do it too complex and over-content (most architects tend to say too much, because, certainly, they think a lot about their works otherwise there would not be at the Biennale). People don't have much time, and nerve to try to get into a very complex content.. (Maybe it is only myself) But to be very honest.. Going to Venice Biennale (either art or architecture) is always a very nice but super exhausting experience... However, if I have a chance, I would go again, again, again and again.. :-)


Walter Aprile said...

Eh, Racha, thank you for the summary. I was there but I was able to see only a rather small portion of the Biennale: too busy setting up our own bit - which I am really glad you liked.

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