September 17, 2008

Architecture is not building. International exhibition in Venice

Are you in Venice during this time? Are you interested in architecture? Should your answers be “yes” to both these questions, then you shouldn’t reasonably miss the 11th International Exhibition of Architecture, entitled OUT THERE: Architecture Beyond Building. But if you trust, as I do, Cat Bauer, an American author living in Venice, then, just one “yes”—to the first question—should be binding enough: you have got to come! And this is why I decided I will overcome my laziness and go (well, it won’t be too big a sacrifice: it takes me only 30 minutes by train to get there …).

Started on Sunday, September 14, through Sunday, November 23, 2008, this year’s exhibition, directed by Aaron Betsky—for six years director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI) in Rotterdam, and since last year director of the Cincinnati Art Museum—, faces the fundamental changes taking place in contemporary architecture, and, as can be read in the official website of La Biennale, “turns to architecture beyond building to address the central issues of our society.” Instead of buildings, the festival presents installations made by architects who have responded to the impulse offered by Aaron Betsky, and accepted his challenge.

This challenge reverberates onto us, encourages our capacity for interpretation, and relies on emotion to give us the chance to make sense of the world and feel at home in it. Betsky points out “what should be an obvious fact: architecture is not building. Architecture must go beyond buildings because buildings are not enough. They are big and wasteful accumulations of natural resources that are difficult to adapt to the continually changing conditions of modern life”.
“Most buildings are ugly, useless and wasteful. Yet architecture is beautiful—says Betsky—it can place us in the world in a way no other art can. It can make us at home in modern reality. It offers and shapes that most precious and luxurious of all phenomena in the modern world: space. The exhibition seeks is to collect and encourage experimentation in architecture. Such experimentation can take the form of momentary constructions, visions of other worlds, or the building blocks of a better world. It does not want to present buildings that are already in existence and can be enjoyed in real life. It does not want to propose abstract solutions to social problems, but wants to see if architecture, by experimenting in and on the real world, can offer some concrete forms or seductive images.”

The exhibition presents two venues: Arsenale and Padiglione Italia at the Giardini. The Padiglione Italia is a survey of experimental work by young designers and five Masters. And over two dozen works of architecture are on display in the Arsenale.

Last, but not least, as Cat rightly points out, the image up there,

is the first thing you see when you walk into Arsenale. You can make all the points of light connect and change and move if you dance around and flash your energy up at the screen through your fingertips, just like a god. Any architecture exhibit that opens with something like that has got to be a window into the big brain, n'est pas?