Solving the World’s Problems at the Venice Architecture Biennale

VENICE — It was maybe inevitable that lots of the questions requested of Hashim Sarkis, the curator the 17th International Architecture Biennale, throughout the occasion’s media preview, have been about the pandemic.

After all, the exhibition, which opened in May and runs via Nov. 21, bought bumped by a yr, and numerous restrictions stay in place, limiting journey to Venice.

And after a weird 15 months that blurred the boundaries between the workplace and residential, and challenged the very theme of the Biennale’s foremost exhibition — “How Will We Live Together?” — it was solely pure for journalists to ask, “in a persistent and anxious way,” as Sarkis put it at the information convention, “how the pandemic changed architecture and how architecture is responding.”

Although the exhibition had been deliberate earlier than the coronavirus swept the world, Sarkis, a Lebanese architect and dean of structure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, mentioned that it spoke to a collection of longstanding world points — local weather change, mass migration, political polarization and growing social, financial and racial inequalities — that had contributed to the virus’s world unfold.

“The pandemic will hopefully go away,” he instructed reporters in Venice. “But unless we address these causes, we will not be able to move forward.”

Sarkis’s present brings collectively a plethora of (at instances confounding) initiatives, packed principally into the exhibition’s two principal websites: one in the shipbuilding yard that for hundreds of years launched Venice as a seafaring powerhouse, the different in the Giardini della Biennale, which additionally home pavilions the place collaborating nations are presenting their very own architectural reveals that talk to the foremost theme.

Visitors anticipating to see room after room of shows utilizing the conventional language of structure — scale fashions, prototypes and drawings — had come to the incorrect place.

Instead, many featured initiatives have been extra like conceptual flights of fancy than plans for constructed environments: There have been whimsical hen cages, a bust of Nefertiti made in beeswax and a chunky oak desk designed to host an interspecies convention. There have been initiatives that will have been at dwelling in a college science truthful, like proposals to feed the world with microalgae or to discover the relationship between nature and know-how utilizing a robotic arm.

“The pandemic will hopefully go away,” mentioned Hashim Sarkis, the Venice Architecure Biennale’s curator. “But unless we address these causes, we will not be able to move forward.”Credit…Jacopo Salvi, through La Biennale di Venezia

The query of dwelling collectively is a political concern, in addition to a spatial one, Sarkis mentioned, and several other initiatives in the present spotlight structure’s potential in battle decision.

“Elemental,” an initiative spearheaded by the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, is a putting construction of tall poles organized in a circle that evokes a Koyauwe, or a spot to parley and resolve conflicts amongst the Mapuche, an Indigenous inhabitants of Chile. It was commissioned by a Mapuche territorial group as a part of a rapprochement course of between the group and a forest firm in battle over shared land.

Had it not been for the pandemic, representatives for the two sides would have met at the Biennale — “a neutral territory,” Aravena mentioned — for negotiations inside the construction. It will return to Chile after the Biennale, and talks will probably be staged there as an alternative, Aravena mentioned.

A extra conventional city planning mission comes from EMBT, a Barcelona-based studio, exhibiting scale fashions for the redevelopment of a neighborhood in Clichy-sous-Bois, close to Paris, together with plans for collective housing, a market and a subway station. The initiative is a part of a broader initiative in Paris that may lengthen the metropolis’s subway traces to raised hyperlink the suburbs to the heart, “to make them feel more connected,” mentioned Benedetta Tagliabue, a accomplice at EMBT.

To enliven a colorless neighborhood, the architects created a colourful pergola for the station, impressed by the ornamental patterns of the numerous African migrants who dwell in the space. “The space has to belong to the people,” she mentioned.

The concern of coexistence between folks and different life-forms was additionally explored.

“Alive: A New Spatial Contract for Multispecies Architecture” by the design agency the Living, exalts the advantages of microbes.Credit…Marco Zorzanello, through La Biennale di Venezia

The New York design agency the Living has constructed a tall, cylinder-shaped room made from luffa — sure, the sponge — to showcase what the group’s founder, David Benjamin, described as “probiotic architecture.” The room’s supplies have been “literally alive because of an invisible layer of microbes in their tiny cavities,” he mentioned. “Just as we’re thinking more and more in our society about how a healthy gut microbiome, the microbes in our stomach, can promote our individual health, a healthy urban microbiome might promote our collective health,” he added.

“Yes, in a Biennale, this is a little bit conceptual,” he conceded.

The nationwide pavilions, whose contents are chosen by curators at dwelling, relatively than by Sarkis, additionally tackled the foremost present’s theme of coexistence, taking assorted approaches.

The curators for the pavilion of Uzbekistan, a first-time participant in the Biennale, recreated a bit of a home present in a mahalla, a low-rise, high-density group with shared areas discovered in lots of elements of Asia. Mahallas provided an alternative choice to “generic global architecture,” mentioned one in every of the curators, Emanuel Christ.

Uzbekistan is participating in the Biennale for the first time, with a pavilion that recreates housing from low-rise, high-density communities known as mahallas.Credit…Giorgio De Vecchi and Giulia Di Lenarda

There are greater than 9,000 mahallas in Uzbekistan, housing between 150 to 9,000 residents, Christ mentioned. Embodying a scale that “relates to our everyday experience,” they could possibly be an antidote to “the anonymous solitude of citizens” and “scarcity of nature” in fashionable cities, Christ added.

The United States’ pavilion is unabashedly pragmatic, highlighting the predominance of timber framing in American households (90 % of latest houses are nonetheless wooden framed), with a climbable, multistory timber construction that has been erected in entrance of the pavilion, a pointy distinction to its neo-Classical fashion.

“Affordable, normal wood housing is an obvious fit with the theme of living together,” mentioned Paul Andersen, who co-curated the pavilion. Inside, pictures of undocumented day laborers, by Chris Strong, trace at the building trade’s darker facet. “Unfortunately, there is still cruelty, but hopefully more awareness,” Andersen mentioned.

In the case of another pavilions, like Israel’s, the postponement of the biennale by a yr gave the curators additional time to develop their set up. Israel’s presentation examines the relationship between people, the surroundings and animals (particularly cows, goats, honey bees, water buffalos and bats).

The curators had gained a contest in August 2019 to current their multimedia mission at the Biennale, which was initially scheduled for the following May. But once they got down to movie bats for one in every of the present’s (key) movies that fall, the animals had migrated, and it was too late, mentioned Iddo Ginat, one in every of the curators.

“We realized that nature has its own time and doesn’t run on that of the Biennale,” he mentioned. “The postponement gave us a full cycle in nature.”

And in the case of Lebanon’s pavilion, the additional yr allowed Hala Wardé, its curator, to combine a tragic memento into her multimedia set up, “A Roof for Silence”: glass from the blast that devastated Beirut on Aug. four, 2020, which was remodeled by the glassworker Jeremy Maxwell Wintrebert right into a tall, clear cylindrical construction.

Lebanon’s pavilion was reworked after the devastating bast in Beirut final August.Credit…Alain Fleischer, through La Biennale di Venezia“I chose to present Lebanon through it’s culture,” mentioned Hala Wardé, the Lebanese pavilion’s curator. “It’s what is left when you’ve lost everything.” Credit…Alain Fleischer, through La Biennale di Venezia

That construction is used as a backdrop for 16 work by the poet, writer and artist Etel Adnan. “I chose to present Lebanon through it’s culture,” Wardé mentioned. “It’s what is left when you’ve lost everything.”

Wardé mentioned the mission was about the want for silence, in structure and in cities. But additionally, she added, “Architecture should be able to provoke this kind of emotion, just to be, and to feel good somewhere, and then be able to dream.”