Discovering and exhibiting spectacular talents from the world of architecture, the Venice Biennale steps into its 16th edition with riveting displays.
Architecture is one of the most inventive professions. The outreach of this artform/science has grown substantially over the years. More events and exhibitions are being introduced globally that are creating an interaction on a massive scale between architects and society.
One of the most popular and quite possibly the mother of all events is the Venice Biennale which walks us through a surreal landscape of architectural marvels.
Also known as La Biennale Di Venezia, the Biennale was incepted in 1895 as an arts organization held in Venice, Italy, and slowly graduated to being referred to as the Art Biennale in 2009 so as to be able to distinguish its expansion into various art forms which included dance, cinema, music and theatre in addition to architecture. This biennially held architecture exhibition is taking place from 26th May to 25th November 2018 with previews already held on the 25th & 26th May 2018.
Since it’s first ever theme introduced in 1972, the Biennale has always followed a newly introduced theme at each consequent edition.
The curators of The Biennale Architettura 2018, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara have introduced this year’s theme as being ‘Freespace’.
“Freespace describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself. It celebrates architecture’s capacity to find additional and unexpected generosity in each project – even within the most private, defensive, exclusive or commercially restricted conditions. It also provides the opportunity to emphasise nature’s free gifts of light – sunlight and moonlight, air, gravity, materials – natural and man-made resources.”
The theme has been selected to encourage new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the well-being and dignity of each citizen of this fragile planet. There is an exchange between people and buildings that happens, even if not intended or designed, so buildings themselves find ways of sharing and engaging with people over time, long after the architect has left the scene. Architecture has an active as well as a passive life.
Keeping with the theme, some exceptional talent displayed their projects portraying riveting thoughts and processes that go in their work;
Anne Geenen and Samuel Barclay of Case Design have presented a project they have been working on for four years. The school in Pune is an unconventional concept that comprises of solar chimneys heated by a greenhouse that extracts air through convection. This process can cool the school up to 5-10 degrees centigrade depending on the time of the year.
Their display includes their process of construction, collaborations with artisans, climate engineers and colour artists and the showing of spaces where the life of the school happens. Collaborating with other creators, they produced and displayed a variety of items which will eventually be taken back to Pune to be installed. “The energy and enthusiasm of the Biennale has helped us attract new collaborators,” said Barclay.
Rahul Mehrotra, principal architect of RMA has been awarded a special mention at the Biennale for his exhibit that revolved around the idea of soft thresholds, a theme that highlighted how a building can become a more inclusive entity. “For ‘freespace’ to occur, it was very important to determine whether the thresholds are hard or soft; the latter including people while the former not”, said Mr.Mehrotra.
Three projects that were representative of different forms and patronage were selected within the rubric of soft thresholds. A low income housing for elephant keepers where courtyards were used to convert 350 sq.ft homes to 1500 sq.ft homes enabling the ‘poor to live in mansions’, a curtain wall project made of a plant wall sending an ecological message of cooling the building with minimal cost and a library for CEPT university that was built three storeys below ground to meet the six story requirement but also respecting the total height of the area in accordance to all B.V.Doshi’s buildings.
The 16th edition of the Biennale gained additional notoriety due to the inclusion of The Vatican as
Eleven architects hailing from different countries and practicing varied forms of architecture were invited to construct a series of chapels free from the attachments of religious sites and beliefs. These truly awe-inspiring structures, all aimed at questioning the meaning of the chapel in the 21st century. They showcased incredible variety meeting only one common requirement – the need for a lectern and an altar.
Norman Foster, Terunobu Fujimori, Javier Corvalan, Eduardo & Moura Souto were among the talents that exhibited. These structures aren’t just constructed for the purposes of modeling as they will all be installed in different countries all over the world once the Biennale ends. Francesco Pal Co was the curator for this ‘star’ attraction.
Gurjit Matharoo of Matharoo Associates has interpreted the theme in a very innovative concept. Having been invited for the second time consecutively, Matharoo Associates have conceptualized a house in Chennai made of concrete with an exhibit at the Biennale made of aluminum exhibiting the same function.
“Liberated from the burden of function on a particular element proves pure delight. The prime most function of architecture is the enjoyment of a building,” he explains. This use of a single malleable material that can become a door, bed, table as well as a load-bearing wall comes from a deeper thought of creating a continuum where spaces flow into each other.
Niall McLaughlin’s exhibit, ‘Halls’ involved a structure of spaces that are commonly used by people from all walks such as churches, restaurants, sports venues, etc. ‘Halls’ represents the angle of the sun on a particular day on these spaces. This is demonstrated by shifting a table that exposes a light-riddled column which shines light on the halls.
A specially designed calendar gives an in-depth schedule of each activity in the halls at any given point within the year. “For me, the more interesting ones are the ones where a building goes beyond its own private needs and offers something generously back to the society.
The best cities have public spaces that are open to everybody and that to me, is the core of Freespace”, said Niall.
Subverting notions of generic architecture, the Biennale ventures into a free-flowing form of expression for the professionals, allowing them to entwine with the event and loose themselves into a borderless vortex of art.
Text By Neerja Kapadia