Spending three wonderful days in Venice musing over Architecture seems like something of an indulgence. But it’s an annual right of passage for me. The Biennale represents a coming together of images, projects, issues and ideas to mull over and absorb. It’s always a great pleasure…
The messages and themes are vast, but beyond the dialogue I took away a few salient thoughts that I’d like to share alongside a few of my favourite exhibits. Human nature means we tend to search for what is most relevant to our own work, but it’s important to widen our perspective and to understand other challenges and learn from successful outcomes.
The Biennale’s theme “Reporting from the Front’’ covers every extreme and you are greeted by a simple statement:
ARCHITECTURE IS GIVING FORM TO THE PLACES WHERE PEOPLE LIVE
It is not more complicated than that but also not easier than that…
The burden of beauty is something that we face. Yes, it’s a given that everything the studio designs, aspires to high aesthetics, but what we create is not an added layer of good taste, rather the capacity to capture and express human desires. One of the things that people identify with in Architecture is beauty. Beauty seems to be the added value of an Architect and actually the reason why we are even hired. This is not so, or at least it shouldn’t be.
Patience is a prerequisite for good Architecture. This seems obvious but the process of Architecture is slow to come to fruition. In Kashef Chowdry’s sculptural exhibit titled “To Live is to be Born Slowly” he refers to the idea that although we can be sure of our intentions with a clear vision, the path to achieving that may not be straightforward – we can see clearly but not progress easily.
Peter Zumthor exhibited his Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with the sub text “intensifying construction and taking time as an antidote to homogeneity”. He takes much more time to deliver a project than conventional standards; he uses time as an antidote to probably one of the biggest threats to contemporary architects – the idea of copying oneself. By taking time, Zumthor has the ability to face each project as if it was his first. I empathise and aspire to that.
Waste and efficient use of resources and materials is a bold and clear message that hits you when entering the Arsenale. A hauntingly elegant space is created using the waste from the previous year’s Art Biennale, accompanied by a boggling list of statistics around the materials skipped from last year.
There are many projects that demonstrate a pared back simplicity that result in outstanding results in parts of the world where resources and funding are sparse. The unfinished buildings and resourceful approaches used by Architects in the Spanish Pavilion reveal the devastating impact of the economic crash in the Spanish economy. In effect, the dilemma the Architects faced has produced some astounding pieces of design.
This biennale is almost devoid of ‘starchitecture’ projects and therefore very accessible.