Venice Biennale of Architecture: the Belgian pavilion


Let’s go back to the Venice Biennale of Architecture, shall we?

Because i’m Belgian, i tend to shun the Belgian pavilion in my reports. Well, this time i won’t. It was one of the most exciting pavilions of this edition of the Biennale.

The title of the Belgian exhibition is enigmatic: 1907… after the party.

0aafrompromen.jpgView of the pavilion from the promenade

0aatunenenene.jpgGoing through the tunnel

1907 is the year that the first foreign pavilion, the Belgian one, landed in the Giardini of the Biennale. 1907 also refers to the internal volume of the building in cubic metres.

The pavilion celebrated thus its 100th birthday last year. Yet, no festivities were organized in its honour. The project that Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen designed for the biennale pays a tribute to the historical pavilion, highlighting the monument by emptying and wrapping it in a seven-metre-high facade of galvanized steel. The steel structure hides the gem that architecture aficionados have come to see: the Belgian pavilion itself.

0aaendoparthbh.jpgOn the other side of the steel facade

You get access to the pavilion by walking through a tunnel. Once you’re out of the tunnel, and on the other side of the galvanized wall, the meaning of the second part of the title (After the Party) becomes clearer. Confetti are scattered all over the place and apart from a few chairs thrown here and there, the place is empty and abandoned. There is one artwork hung on one of the walls though. It’s Terrasse, a photo by Thomas Demand that the architects originally used as a reference for the ‘after the party’ atmosphere.

0aaafteraprtybh.jpgThomas Demand, Terrasse, 1998

The 2008 pavilion revolves around the idea that the motor that drives architecture is not to be exhibited, but to be built. The usual models, 3D renderings and plans were therefore not welcome. Instead, the pavilion displays architecture as a reality that can be experienced physically.


The Venice Biennale of Architecture continues until Nov. 23, 2008.