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Venice Biennale

edited September 2006 in architecture
A friend has just translated this review of the Venice Architecture Biennale from Le Monde - a heroic effort - which I am publishing in full because I don't think it's available in English. He warns though that it, "is a rapidly translated approximation of the original newspaper" but it reads quite well to me. Don't know about the content though - but then I've never been to the Biennale..
Disappointing Venice Biennale:

As the Biennale, which brings together the cream of architecture every 2 yrs, opened, a huge Norwegian cruise ship pulled into Venice capable of swallowing up the whole of the city up given its size. The author suggests it symbolises the Biennale: a great ‘Mostra’ (monster) with neither head nor tail.

Festival director Richard Burdett, protégé of Richard Rogers who by more than mere chance won this year’s Lion d’Or for his career (Centre Pompidou to Lloyds of London), had firstly chosen the theme ‘Meta-cities’, a catch-all formula that he later modified to ‘City: Architecture and Society’.

It’s now three or four times that the Mostra has been allowed to get lost in these muddy concepts. This year the shipwreck is complete, at least as regards the official part, housed at the Arsenal. Burdett has chosen at least 17 megalopolises, from Barcelona to Shanghai, Bombay to Bogota, weighing each account of them down with wearisome demographic data, very much in the vein of conventional accounts of the problems of urban life in the world.

High Society Carnival:
The uselessness of this attempt at pedagogy leads nowhere since it doesn’t draw any conclusions either on what are and will become cities OR the urban and architectural responses they evoke, even less again what could happen to society (read men and women) who occupy them, frequently not very happily.

Instead, the mission to illustrate and examine these things has devolved to the ateliers set up around the exhibition, where the festival director has brought together several big names of an intelligentsia who tend to harp on from year to year in the same Venetian framework: Fuksas, Herzog, Koolhaas, Hadid, Piano, Roigers, Bohigas. Happily, France remains a country totally excluded from Burdett’s preoccupations; none of our usual crowd of thinkers have been brought into this ‘high-society’ carnival of commonplace urban thinkers.

After a long and rambling detour extolling the virtues of stone, the order of the exhibition at the Arsenal finally leads one (pleasant surprise!) to China’s pavilion. The Chinese who well understand with what fear and overwhelmment Western architects face the colossal task of urban development there, have done as they did four years ago with the ‘Commune’ Village in playing a card which is unexpected (and also unusual for this expo): that of an insistence on quality.

The architect Wang Shu, who builds and teaches mainly at Huahngzhou, has presented an exhibition inspired by the roofs of his works, which structures are themselves inspired by classical Chinese forms and are frequently covered with traditional tiles.

China, phobically imagined as both marketplace and object of study, is beginning to invade the national pavilions in the Gardens of the Biennale. Beginning with the former Italian pavilion whose spaces have been randomly distributed by the festival director to his private circle of clients, a small group but whose work is sometimes as vivid and lucid as the Arsenal show is naïve and uninspired.

It’s here that one would like to see the work or thoughts of a French person while Burdett’s clients complacently trot out in atrociously schematic fashion the supposed thoughts of Deleuze, Virilio, Derrida. But the work of the Berlage Institute (Netherlands) stands out, esp. on the urban communities that pop up spontaneously, especially in China.

If several pavilions concentrate rather prolongedly on the same theme, the Danish are exhibiting a whole collection of work on the problematics of the development of Chinese villages, in partnership with teams from Peking, Shanghai, Chongqing and Xian Universities.

And one can also discover in the detours of the Venetian alleyways that Hong Kong and Singapore are now capable of championing discourses opposed to the heritage-destructive approaches that they had been following, approaches most of China’s towns are now following.

When the theme of a Biennale is as vague as this one, each country can interpret it as they wish. Perhaps it was only Spain and the US who followed the imperative to bring together city, architecture and society. One in having recourse to the double feminine of the male architect [?], the other in examining with a certain skill the consequences of Cyclone Katrina - with less emotion than after S11, but at least with a genuine humility.

The 10th Architectural Biennale of Venice: The Arsenal and Gardens of the Biennale. To 19th November.

Frederic Edelmann
First publ. in the 10-9-06 edition of Le Monde.

Comments

  • edited January 1970
    Whats wrong with not drawing conlusions. Cam a subject as complex as this even have a conclusion? i think who ever wrote this is just bitter about his lack of ability to comprehend the complexity of architecture in the 21st century. Especially with the emergence of Asia major.

    I would have loved to go and saw all these unconcluded products of arteliers.

    Went to the shanghai biennale. it wasnt about architecture. a couple cool media installations but that was about it. It also only costed me less than a dollar so.....
  • edited January 1970
    Here's a link to the official VB blog:

    http://www.venicesuperblog.net/

    Australia gets 2** out of 5.

    Here are some comments on the RMIT/RAIA Australian Pavillion.


    AUSTRALIAN PAVILION

    Big photographs on walls, little photographs on tables, plans that are so dull they need to grafitti on them. Not just me that's bored by this. Come on architects - W A K E U P, G E T O U T M O R E
  • edited January 1970
    The french pavilion sounds a little bit different...
    I entered and was offered a drink from the communal kitchen. A yellow T-shirted founder member of EXYZT, Pier Schneider, encouraged me to ascend the metal stairs that took me first past the bedroom cubicles, some modestly curtained shut, and then further up to the roof. On the way, I passed several handsome young men, fresh from the showers and wrapped in white towels.
    BLOOMBERG 22.09.06
    EXYZT AT VENICE
    EXYZT ELSEWHERE
    LE MONDE 09.09.06 (french)
  • edited January 1970
    "And one can also discover in the detours of the Venetian alleyways that Hong Kong and Singapore are now capable of championing discourses opposed to the heritage-destructive approaches that they had been following, approaches most of China’s towns are now following. "

    You know, they[Singapore] say it all the time now. Singapore,post-tabula rasa, unfortunately, has nothing much to preserve or conserve anymore. Try preserving all that Thai-imported sand, that has been placed around the artificial beaches of Sentosa Island, and currently being washed away by the sea currents.
  • edited January 1970
    Are you trying to tell me that this was just another government-funded family daisy chain?
  • edited January 1970
    French
    idea about the city - done in the medium.
    rejected exhibiting - smart.

    Germans did too!

    Aus = Passe' analysis sans outcome and obvious content = last century?
    Looked right for Howard Era Australia.

    RMIT - is it over?
  • edited January 1970
    What's with that MERRIMA/TUG submission? The audacity to propose an IDEA! However, it seems - an IDEA + ABORIGINAL CLAIMS on Australian cities is just too hard to swallow. Or has it turned up in Perth for real? But I thought cities belong to Europeans only - at least in Australia.
  • edited January 1970
    peter wrote:
    A friend has just translated this review of the Venice Architecture Biennale from Le Monde - a heroic effort - which I am publishing in full because I don't think it's available in English. He warns though that it, "is a rapidly translated approximation of the original newspaper" but it reads quite well to me. Don't know about the content though - but then I've never been to the Biennale..
    Disappointing Venice Biennale:

    As the Biennale, which brings together the cream of architecture every 2 yrs, opened, a huge Norwegian cruise ship pulled into Venice capable of swallowing up the whole of the city up given its size. The author suggests it symbolises the Biennale: a great ‘Mostra’ (monster) with neither head nor tail.

    Festival director Richard Burdett, protégé of Richard Rogers who by more than mere chance won this year’s Lion d’Or for his career (Centre Pompidou to Lloyds of London), had firstly chosen the theme ‘Meta-cities’, a catch-all formula that he later modified to ‘City: Architecture and Society’.

    It’s now three or four times that the Mostra has been allowed to get lost in these muddy concepts. This year the shipwreck is complete, at least as regards the official part, housed at the Arsenal. Burdett has chosen at least 17 megalopolises, from Barcelona to Shanghai, Bombay to Bogota, weighing each account of them down with wearisome demographic data, very much in the vein of conventional accounts of the problems of urban life in the world.

    High Society Carnival:
    The uselessness of this attempt at pedagogy leads nowhere since it doesn’t draw any conclusions either on what are and will become cities OR the urban and architectural responses they evoke, even less again what could happen to society (read men and women) who occupy them, frequently not very happily.

    Instead, the mission to illustrate and examine these things has devolved to the ateliers set up around the exhibition, where the festival director has brought together several big names of an intelligentsia who tend to harp on from year to year in the same Venetian framework: Fuksas, Herzog, Koolhaas, Hadid, Piano, Roigers, Bohigas. Happily, France remains a country totally excluded from Burdett’s preoccupations; none of our usual crowd of thinkers have been brought into this ‘high-society’ carnival of commonplace urban thinkers.

    After a long and rambling detour extolling the virtues of stone, the order of the exhibition at the Arsenal finally leads one (pleasant surprise!) to China’s pavilion. The Chinese who well understand with what fear and overwhelmment Western architects face the colossal task of urban development there, have done as they did four years ago with the ‘Commune’ Village in playing a card which is unexpected (and also unusual for this expo): that of an insistence on quality.

    The architect Wang Shu, who builds and teaches mainly at Huahngzhou, has presented an exhibition inspired by the roofs of his works, which structures are themselves inspired by classical Chinese forms and are frequently covered with traditional tiles.

    China, phobically imagined as both marketplace and object of study, is beginning to invade the national pavilions in the Gardens of the Biennale. Beginning with the former Italian pavilion whose spaces have been randomly distributed by the festival director to his private circle of clients, a small group but whose work is sometimes as vivid and lucid as the Arsenal show is naïve and uninspired.

    It’s here that one would like to see the work or thoughts of a French person while Burdett’s clients complacently trot out in atrociously schematic fashion the supposed thoughts of Deleuze, Virilio, Derrida. But the work of the Berlage Institute (Netherlands) stands out, esp. on the urban communities that pop up spontaneously, especially in China.

    If several pavilions concentrate rather prolongedly on the same theme, the Danish are exhibiting a whole collection of work on the problematics of the development of Chinese villages, in partnership with teams from Peking, Shanghai, Chongqing and Xian Universities.

    And one can also discover in the detours of the Venetian alleyways that Hong Kong and Singapore are now capable of championing discourses opposed to the heritage-destructive approaches that they had been following, approaches most of China’s towns are now following.

    When the theme of a Biennale is as vague as this one, each country can interpret it as they wish. Perhaps it was only Spain and the US who followed the imperative to bring together city, architecture and society. One in having recourse to the double feminine of the male architect [?], the other in examining with a certain skill the consequences of Cyclone Katrina - with less emotion than after S11, but at least with a genuine humility.

    The 10th Architectural Biennale of Venice: The Arsenal and Gardens of the Biennale. To 19th November.

    Frederic Edelmann
    First publ. in the 10-9-06 edition of Le Monde.
    the french pavillon was surely very inspiring, a very fresh idea very well done. i didn't exactly get the italian concept. spanish was bad.
  • edited January 1970
    Come to think of it, the farce comes when you think whatever that was exhibited was meant to be an answer. However, at the end of the day, there is no right answer. Everything is a response. And whatever response you get reveals how much consideration, importance has been given to the topoic at hand. Also, it probably reveals a great deal about the pressing issue that the responder is facing.
  • edited January 1970
    Re Collar.

    Don't know about Federally Funded Family Daisy Chains.
    How much federal funding was there?
    Money was by commercial offices RAIA and RMIT?
    See the logos.

    What is the history of Architecture in Aus. Pavillion.
    Only know one before when Lyons went with postcards !?!.
    Exhibit from Seppelts Prize in Sydney @ Museum of Modern Art.
    RMIT provided judges and exhibitors for S. prize 2-3 occasions it ran late in the 90's - early 0's. Prize fizzled out.

    Tom Kovac took on getting Venice Aus pavillion going after he went to main show.
    interesting (?) - maybe.
    Ended up in L Van S's lap.
    Lyons selected - sent their sydney S. prize exhibit and covered costs (?).
    practical and expedient. Got the job done. Commercial offices deliver and can be trusted - (In Australia also seen as the avante garde?!!?! - maybe thats weird collar)

    Only connections are Murray was maybe a judge of Seppelts.
    Lyon is president of RAIA - took part (?) in selecting RMIT (murray/bertram) for VB.
    Its a small country.

    Others were involved in VB from RMIT besides Murray.
    Bertram, academic colleague, Forthun, artist and wife of M, Delaney - arts administrator and brother in law of M, N. Murray brother of M etc. There is nothing in that - its a small town. Get the people who can do the job - they might be related - place isn't big enough not to be. Murrays are an artistic family.

    Its a long bow to draw Collar.

    RMIT may be best academics we've got.
    IF there are others you wouldn't know - the silence here is deafening.
    RAIA are best to run architecture at VB - make it happen.
    Merrima thing may be interesting - Johny H - but not as professional as RMIT.
    Others submitted - might be good to see.
    Bet RAIA picked the best one.

    If all eggs have to go in one basket - RMIT - question still can get asked.
    Just how good are they - is their time over?
    Who's next in a small town and a small country?
  • edited April 2010
    Mmmmm nice Tweakin [xxxx] - yes it is a small town and attitudes like yours make it smaller to the point where you want to leave. So your first harsh dismissal shifts to conceding that the support, organisation, professionality, academics and team selected are the best available.Is it that hard to sustain an argument ? Wasn't the point of the curation of the Biennale Exhibit to demonstrate typical urban/non-urban conditions (including the reduction or disappearance of occupants, programme and architecture advocated as an investigation in the Merrima proposal) directed at people unfamiliar with what occurs here in order to draw comparisons or define difference ? Would you prefer what passes as some sort of 'natural order' here - 'Mies in the bush" to sustain selective and singular external imagery of Australian architecture? Had some of the alternatives been chosen (I'm thinking north of the Murray, eastern seaboard) this is what would have occurred-look at Cox's pavilion itself if you need further evidence.Also look at the effort in the selection to be geographically equitable in order to appease factional interests.Also note that no Federal funding was made available (this is an attempt to try to establish some funding) and NO, Murray did not select the Seppelt Prize winner in Sydney-do some research before going public with your trouble-making paranoia.Why does this petty small-town triviality distract from larger issues? Better to get personal and let envy regarding small prizes (who gets the academic positions or curates exhibitions) while morons build our cities.Start making this contribution despite what you will have to wade through - schoolyard office mechanics and prevailing interests of mediocrity - or do your Tweakin in the privacy of your bedroom.
  • edited January 1970
    Collar's question is clear - however irrelevant and inaccurate inquiry.
    Mild disgust - has no bearing?
    The position of YoB. - entertainingly shrill, equally moral .

    The scope of the enterprise is accountable. From top to bottom.
    Should the baton be passed - the way it is in a small town and a small country
    - or should the chain not go unbroken?

    What can be made of YoB's assembled points.
    "wasn't the point of the curation of the Biennale Exhibit to demonstrate urban/non urban conditions' - to quote.

    By all accounts - Theme of the Biennale was Meta Cities.
    "meta" - generally accepted to mean - "after".
    may not have been to demonstrate urban/non urban conditions?

    YoB. on alternative proposals for the Bienalle exhibition project.
    "(including the reduction or disappearance of occupants, programme and architecture advocated as an investigation in the Merrima proposal)" - to quote.

    RAIA catalog shows RMIT curatorship team interested in "shrinkage"
    analytical term? - (amongst a number of analytical descriptions)
    Linked it to "growth/densification" - one requires the other?
    Growth here - causes decline there - analysis of a condition of recent past?

    Merrima proposition linked on thread appears interested in 'decline" - per se.
    A future prospect? An outcome in design - Country?

    Contending attitudes? - not similarities?

    YoB outlines grisly alternative to the RMIT/RAIA proposition.
    "would you prefer what passes as some sort of natural order here - Mies in the bush" .......Had some of the alternatives been chosen (I'm thinking north of the Murray, eastern seaboard) this is what would have occured-look at Cox's pavillion itself if you need further evidence" to quote

    5 propositions were shortlisted. (see AA, May/June 2006).
    1 from SA 2 from Melbourne 1 from Brisbane/Melbourne 1 from Sydney
    Only one clear alternative listed north of the murray.
    Content of this alternative does not yet appear to be displayed anywhere on websites nor been published?
    How does YoB. know that it entailed Mies in the Bush?

    Do the - west of Renmark, north of the Murray, National Magazine of Australian Architecture Review regard a possible external image of Australian architecture -
    as "Whakatane Airport in the Suburbs"?

    Is provincial rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne a matter of history?
    Do Sydney architects understand it was irrelevant after c 1989?
    Is MiB really a feature of the remaining 3 undisclosed propositions for the VB?
    YoB. is quaint?

    YoB. believes "morons build our cities".
    Initial V.B. reviewers have no problem with morons who build our cities - finding in their work - "some nice enough projects".
    Their reservations are restricted to the RAIA/RMIT team and their curatorial work.

    Is RMIT's time over?
    Just how good are they?
    Who is next in a small town and country?

    Is Melbourne over?

    A robust arch. press might provide indications?
    What is a robust press?

    Ronnie Di Stasio (RAIA/RMIT VB sponsor) has made up mind?
    Di Stasio advertisement in Epicure - the Melbourne Age (Sept 26) features a photo of the French Pavilion.

    Why this enthusiasm for the French.
    Is it because they refused to exhibit?
    And chose to build?
    Is it the explicitness of the project - rooftop?
    The Germans more explicit/less distracted about same thing?
    Is this the theme of the biennale - after city - architecturally.

    What of the Venezuelan's - a two paragraph Two Fingers to arrogant Europe?
    Or just attitude a conga line of aust-ralians wished they had?

    Back to the bedroom.
  • edited January 1970
    At the risk of boring outsiders, Tweakin's recurring question of RMIT's academic supremacy or fall warrants discussion.For outsider's benefit, the 'ongoing decline' of RMIT is as perennial a subject of discussion in (very limited-and that should be remembered) Melbourne architectural circles as the decline of The Age is in the general Melbourne population.

    How these judgements are measured is always mysterious to me - aren't the virtues and weaknesses evident to the graduates only a few years later? The bigger mystery for me is why with many disgruntled observersof RMIT that, say Melbourne Uni for example, is not swamped with energy and ambition for architectural education ? Or Deakin seems to be much improved judging by my exposure to some recent graduates compared to some years ago.

    Is Melb. Uni a relatively closed shop clogged with tenured academics? I certainly agree that RMIT presumes a sanctified and untested position (at the very least for Victoria, if not elsewhere) but surely this is an easy position to take as there are no pretenders to the throne.I would like to see a vibrant and healthy alternative develop and Melbourne Uni has the resources and publishing to launch this - can someone explain why it is so lacking ?
  • edited January 1970
    Greetings,

    An interesting website/blog this is.

    I am writing to clarify Merrima's position on the difference between Decay vs Shrinkage as per earlier entries on this blog. Specifically, as submitted by Merrima/tUG for the recent Venice Biennale Creative Directorship vs that exhibited in Venice by the RMIT/Murray/Bertram team. Before I go any further, I congratulate the RMIT/Murray/Bertram team on their work given the limited resources and timeframe available to present in Venice.

    The critical difference between the two perpsectives can best be explained by the Wilcannia MPS (hospital) completed by Merrima/NSW Gov Arch in early 2002. Wilcannia is located in far westen NSW, about 2 hrs drive east of Broken Hill. It is the traditional country of the Barkindji people and during the wool boom a century ago maintained a non-Aboriginal population of around 30,000. The Barkindji people were moved away, incacerated and generally denied. As its significance as a port town on the Darling River declined, the town itself actually DECAYED (it did not SHRINKE - nothing else has grown to make it so). The non-Aboriginal population and industry moved out, the sandstone buildings began to crumble, the Barkindji people moved back in. Today Wilcannia is approximately 1000 people - 100 non-Aboriginal people and 900 Aboriginal people. The MPS project that Merrima completed focused on the cultural significance of the place (ie Ngati - or the Darling River) and developed an architectural scheme that squarely presented three strategies. Firstly, to articulate an urban/river space extracted from the Barkindji connection;secondly, to construct an architecture that positioned people relative to Ngati; and thirdly, to synthesize (all scales of space) landscape, culture, urban, architecture and art not to make a place, but to REVEAL it. Given Merrima's cultural position it is inevitable that what would be revealed was an Aboriginal sense of place.

    This case study underlaid Merrima's contribution to the collaboration with tUG and our (unfortunately)unsuccessful bid for the Creative Directorship this year. The proposition that Merrima/tUG presented incorporated aspects of the above - ie (imagine this) a capital city DECAYS what can be REVEALED (at all scales) ... open to the entire profession to contribute, blah, blah, blah ... ah well, maybe next time.

    Perhaps, this blog should now re-direct its attention to 2008 through one specific and combined action:

    THE DEMOLITION OF THE EXISTING PAVILION.

    Regards,
    Kevin O'Brien
    MERRIMA design
  • edited January 1970
    Murray Bertam/RMIT/RAIA are pro Australian Pavilion.
    Enthusiastic about it being a fine space to exhibit in - refer to the Podcasts of their interviews on 3RRR architects show - a unique view of the Pavillion and its qualities?

    North of the Murray views are different.
    Cox, the architect of the pavillion is reported in the Melbourne Age, 11 Aug 2003 in "Tear down my shack" (reporter Michael Hutak) as saying -
    "I would be very pleased if the Australia Council or the Australian Government replaced the building because it is a temporary structure. I am completely behind putting a permanent building there".

    I vote - keep the pavillion - Melbourne.
    2 votes - get rid of the pavillion - Sydney & Brisbane.

    AR98 carries an unethusiastic Don Bates review of MACRO MICRO city.
    Perhaps the last critical review?
    Spin to come from official Media Partners and Lifestyles of the Monumentally Rich to contrast?

    Hugh Pearman, architecure and design critic for the Sunday Times in London, has posted on his site GABION, a review of the Venice Biennale.
    The wisdom of Burdett's exhibition in the arsenale is questioned.
    Hope and interest is out in the various national pavillions.
    The french struck a chord with Hugh too - spirit of 68 chord.
    Australia doesn't get a mention - too dull? - too modest? - too last century?
    Go here.
    http://www.hughpearman.com/2006/28.html

    Is the moderators work ever done?
    Yob drops names 24 hours from Tulsa?
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