“Provocative” Biennale opens in Venice

“Provocative” Biennale opens in Venice


Architects from across the world have gathered in Venice for the Biennale Festival which sees 65 national pavilions taking up 3,000m2 of an old shipyard and opened yesterday (Saturday).

Rem Koolhaas, the curator of the event said this “provocative” edition was all about how different countries have adapted to modernity in design over the past 100 years and was more about examining research and ideas than presenting a finished product.

“Modernisation is a very often painful process,” said Koolhaas, who studio OMA is based in Rotterdam, Holland..

“Somehow every nation in the last 100 years has been forced to modernise itself, and forced to adapt to a condition that is currently dictating the direction of the world.”

The show is made up of three exhibitions: Elements of Architecture and Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014, both at the Giardini, and Monditalia in the Arsenale – a six-month workshop on architecture in Italy.

Some of the exhibits at the Biennale – entitled “Fundamentals” – are designed to be provocative, such as an office ceiling with exposed pipework which is suspended under a dome to symbolise the ambitions of architects in the past.

Koolhaas said this was intended to show that architects now are often confined to superficial changes instead of getting involved in the structures of buildings.

Another part of the exhibition brings together replicas of spectacular doorways from different parts of the world, ending up with a gray airport security scanner.

There is also a toilet room featuring a range from the hi-tech Japanese facility to a Roman latrine.

Another part of the show is devoted to Tim Nugent, a World War II veteran from the United States who pioneered an international campaign for access ramps for disabled people.

The Australian pavilion includes a design for treetop homes for environmental activists, while the British part is devoted to the post-war boom in urban planning and features a concrete cow brought from the new town of Milton Keynes.

French architect and historian Jean-Louis Cohen at France’s pavilion entitled his show: “Modernity: Promise or threat?”

“Modern architecture embodied the threat of an existence dominated by machines and repetitive production,” he said.

Koolhas stressed that the festival was about architecture rather than big-name architects.

“It is really ironic- not a single pavilion talks about Mies, Le Corbusier, or any one else. So in that sense, it is perhaps a lesson of the importance of architecture but a lesson of modesty for the big names,” he said.

The event runs until November 23.

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