By bringing the focus of their exhibition on the thousands of buildings that remain unoccupied in The Netherlands, the Dutch Pavilion puts an ironic twist on "People meet in architecture", the theme of the ongoing Architecture Biennial in Venice.
Even the building where the exhibition takes place has been empty for over 39 years since its inauguration in 1954. The Dutch Pavilion -just like any of the pavilions of the giardini- is indeed open for just a few months per year.
Rietveld Landscape, the office appointed by the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI) as curators, has emphasized the vacancy of the pavilion by leaving the ground floor of the pavilion completely empty. Only by walking the stairs up to the mezzanine can the visitor discover that what looked like a foam blue ceiling is in fact a suspended landscape made of the models of vacant lighthouses, schools, water towers, factories, hangars, offices, etc.
A 'placebook' on the wall shows the connections that could between vacant buildings and creative professionals:
The exhibition Vacant NL is a call for the intelligent reuse of temporarily vacant buildings around the world in promoting creative enterprise.
Vacant NL, where architecture meets ideas is not only an appeal to creative talents to exploit the value hidden in society but also unsolicited advice to countries who want to advance up the table of global knowledge economies but don't know where they can find the hidden strengths. The transition to a creative knowledge economy demands specific spatial conditions. Offering young talents from the creative, technology and science sectors an affordable place where they can share their knowledge, creativity and networks is a way of promoting mutual influences, enterprise and innovation. Vacant NL, where architecture meets ideas shows how architecture can contribute to tackling major social problems.
Project Team for the pavilion: Curator Rietveld Landscape worked with Jurgen Bey (designer), Joost Grootens (graphic designer), Ronald Rietveld (landscape architect), Erik Rietveld (philosopher/economist), Saskia van Stein (NAI curator), Barbara Visser (visual artist).
The Venice Biennale of Architecture runs until 21st November, 2010.
Sorry i've been a bit lame and vague in keeping up with my reports from the Venice Architecture Biennale. I'm going to post a couple more stories about the event then we'll move on with our life.
Just like two years ago, the Belgian pavilion was the one i liked the most. This has very little to do with my nationality. I entered having no idea of what i'd find there and was almost immediately struck by the simplicity and charm of the exhibition.
This year's Director of the Biennale Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA invited participants to explore the relationship between architecture and human occupation. No one has taken the theme as literally as Rotor at the Belgian Pavilion. By focusing on the mundane and the overlooked details of architecture, the collective brought poetry, history and emotion to the biennale.
Called Usus/Usures, the exhibition investigates a specific phase in the life of construction materials: the time when they are subjected to use and are gradually re-shaped by human beings passing through them, walking on them, touching, pressing, stroking, scratching or holding them.
The Rotor collective spent years touring public buildings in Belgium to document and collect sections of walls, banisters with chipped paint, wooden floors, stained carpets, tired stairs, elevator cabins, plastic chairs, door handles, windows, and other worn out fragments of buildings. A selection of them hang on the white walls of the pavilion. Taken out of their original context, the objects looks like minimalist sculptures.
Rotor's interest in fatigued bits and pieces of architecture started as a study to evaluate the viability of a resale network for construction and demolition waste. Their concern, however, was not entirely ecological:
Like any product, they also elicit an aesthetic evaluation and, indeed, an emotional one. Traces of wear play a crucial role in this. They frequently evoke a sense of repulsion from potential buyers, but occasionally evoke attraction and even fascination.
With wear and tear, the material gains a new dimension that is both physical and situational.
A few pictures i took. Image on the homepage by Eric Mairiaux.
Usus/Usures is a project by Lionel Devlieger, Michaël Ghyoot, Maarten Gielen, Benjamin Lasserre, Tristan Boniver, and Melanie Tamm, in collaboration with Benedikte Zitouni and Ariane d'Hoop.
The Venice Biennale of Architecture runs until 21st November, 2010.
Just back from the press view of Pasajes. Viajes por el híper-espacio [Passages. Travels in Hyperspace], an exhibition at Laboral Art and Industrial Creation Centre that showcases some 20 pieces from the collection of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary. Big names, big guns, and bigger egos that i've been used to.
To discover M10, you have to open a very mundane door. Then another one on your right. And another one in front of you. There are ten of them, each leading to a plain, beige room so claustrophobic you quickly look for more doors that will take you out of there as the art critics mayhem pictured below demonstrates:
While M10 might look at first like an abstract installation, it was actually inspired by low-income housing during socialist Poland, where Monika Sosnowska grew up. At the time, Polish administration was setting strict guidelines regarding the size and building of family dwellings. The first dimension of the living space were fairly decent but as living space grew scarce in the 1960s, the authorities repartitioned existing apartments to accommodate more inhabitants. A classification system based on the number of rooms rather than on size meant that an M2 (two rooms) could easily become an M4. M10 pushes the system ad absurdum with a ten-room unit fitting the size of a typical M1.
Pasajes. Viajes por el híper-espacio [Passages. Travels in Hyperspace] is open at Laboral Art and Industrial Creation Centre until February 21, 2011. You can already download the handbook of the exhibition.
Keeping up with the visit to the exhibition of the Venice Architecture Bienniale at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni:
A nail house is a Chinese neologism for homes belonging to people who refuse to move out and make room for estate development. The most famous case is the one of Wu Ping and Yang Wu who declined during two years to sell their house to the developers of a shopping mall under construction in Chongqing. The developers cut their power and water, and excavated a 10-meter deep pit around their home. The family turned down an offer of 3.5 million yuan (US$453,000), but eventually settled with the developers in 2007.
Architect Caruso St John and artist Thomas Demand are paying homage to the Chongqing nail house with a project currently exhibited inside the Palazzo delle Esposizioni during the Venice Biennale of Architecture.
The Nagelhaus (nail house in german) is the winning project of a competition to redesign the Escher Weiss Platz, a former industrial area in Zurich undergoing a dramatic transformation that involves new commercial developments, new cultural institutions, and even new inhabitants. Caruso St John and Thomas Demand propose to reconstruct the Chinese Nail House in the square, under a road viaduct, and to open it to the public as a 24/7 restaurant. The modest building would appear as an archaeological fragment of a street that stood there previously.
The reconstruction of the nail house is also a social experiment that explores how migrating forms can bring new life into an overlooked urban setting. The experiment takes a particularly interesting meaning in a country ill at ease with immigration. Only a few months ago, a referendum has backed a proposal to ban the construction of new minarets.
The Nagelhaus project is facing controversy in Zurich, with the right-wing populist SVP trying to prevent its construction. The party has obtained the requisite number of signatures to force a referendum and the matter will be voted this month. Looks like the brave little Chongqing nail house will have to face yet another battle.
The installation at the Biennale consists of the reconstructed house, built to look like a Demand paper model and squeezed under the roof of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, as well as illustrations of the restaurant under the viaduct.
The inside of the Nagelhaus looks like the hidden side of a theater set.
Also at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni: Tom Sachs at the Venice Biennale of Architecture.
After the Arsenale, let's move to the Palazzo delle Esposizioni to explore the rest of the Biennale exhibition. As i mentioned yesterday, Kazuyo Sejima, this year's Director, has invited some of the biggest names in the contemporary art world to participate to the Venice show.
The most recognizable piece is his handmade version of the landmark of modernism that is the Unité d'Habitation. Le Corbusier had conceived this massive housing block as a universal housing solution for cities that were facing a severe postwar housing shortage. The architect had planned to erect hundreds of Unités all over Europe. Each of them would have accommodated 1000 to 1200 people. 4 bastardized versions of his Unités were completed in Rezé near Nantes, Berlin, Briey and Firminy. Only the Cité Radieuse (radiant city) in Marseille was built exactly according to his designs.
The construction was so innovative for the time that people in Marseille called the Cité Radieuse La Maison du Fada (French - Provençal, "The House of the Mad"). Corbusier's work is equally admired as it is reviled. According to Corbusier's detractors, the public housing projects inspired by his theories have had the effect of isolating poor communities in soulless high-rises and severing the social ties necessary to a community's development.
Sach's handmade Unité is part of a complex body of sculptural, mechanical, and video works. One of them is McBusier, a sculpture that brings together Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye (1928-31) and a McDonalds drive-in; each of them is monitored by security cameras and connected by a racetrack.
The meeting between the two buildings is less heretic than it might look at first sight. Villa Savoye is the first significant residential building to incorporate the automobile in its architecture. The approach towards the house was best experienced when arriving by car (via) and the driver could even park his vehicle under the pilotis.
Talking about Villa Savoye and the drive-in, the artist explained: "The first represents a kind of ideal, but failed, modernism, the second the more successful, but greedy and corrupt, consumer version."
Image on the homepage by designboom.
What makes the Venice biennale so special to me is that part of the exhibition takes place in the Arsenale, a complex of shipyards and armories that used to be the largest industrial complex in Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution. The wikipedia entry reads like a novel: different areas of the historic naval yards each produced a particular prefabricated ship part or other maritime implement. The parts could then be assembled into a ship in as little as one day. The navy owned a nearby forest that provided the Arsenal's wood supply. In 1593, they even had Galileo work as an external consultant.
The biennale exhibition occupies only a part of the Arsenale called the Corderie. Built in 1303, restored in the 16th century, this 6400 sqm surface used to host the manufacture of hawsers, cables and thick ropes.
Unlike most critics and visitors, i can't say that the exhibition of 12th biennale of architecture is particularly exciting. Call me a masochist but i missed being slapped in the face with crucial issues such as the rise of the megapolis, unrestrainable traffic, sustainability, the necessity to provide shelter for populations fleeing conflicts and natural disasters, etc. I missed the overdose of information we were submitted to in 2006. I also missed the extravagance and the speculation of the 2008 edition. The 12th biennale of architecture is mostly about aesthetics and celebration of the discipline.
Olafur Eliasson has visitors take a leap in the dark where water hoses hanging from the ceiling spray water around in spasms that appear to be frozen in time and shaped with each flash of the stroboscopic lightening (Domus has a video.)
Anton García-Abril and Ensamble Studio disrupted the scale and harmony of the Corderie with two enormous concrete I-beams that appear to keep their balance thanks to the mere power of a rock and a coil spring.
Studio Mumbai has piled up wooden building elements over models, tools, materials, samples and tiles in one of the big exhibition spaces of the Arsenale, creating a feeling of intimate, welcoming and controlled chaos. The space speaks of an architecture more akin to craftsmanship and physical labour than neat plan drawings and models.
Swiss architects Valerio Olgiati defends with a stunning tunning 1:33 model his view that architecture does not have to be primarily contextual. According to him, architecture can grow out of an idea or concept that are completely separate from any context.
architecten de vylder vinck taillieu is showing the fascinating model of an un-built project, a large house in Ordos, Mongolia. The dwelling was part of Ordos 100, a project, conceived by Ai Weiwei and curated by Herzog and de Meuron, where 100 young architects were invited to design 100 villas in 100 days. Mirrors placed underneath the model allow for a look inside the house.
Kazuyo Sejima had invited artists to share with the public their perspective on space and architecture. Interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space, Janet Cardiff takes over one of the last rooms of the Corderie with The Forty Part Motet, an audio installation based on the Renaissance choral music Spem in alium nunquam habui by Thomas Tallis (1514-1585). Forty separately recorded voices are played through forty speakers strategically placed in an oval so that the listener can sit in the center of the choir and feel the sculptural construction of the musical piece.
You can't conceive an architecture without R&Sie(n), right? The French studio is showing ' thebuildingwhichneverdies ', a research laboratory of light intended to analyze human beings' physiological adaptation to the dark. The structure also explores solar activity and the evolution of the ozone concentration in the stratosphere (more information and photos in designboom.)
... and of course there was that Cloudscapes by Transsolar + Tetsuo Kondo.
The 12th Intl. Architecture Exhibition, directed by Kazuyo Sejima and titled People meet in architecture, runs until 21st November 2010.