The 2010 Biennale is closing its gates. The purpose has been fulfilled: discussions, positions, theoretical fights. Poor in images? Maybe. Poor in real facts? Definitely ! Poor? Absolutely not. Really soon after I came back from Venice and wrote that introductory piece, I was assaulted with opinions: How can you like that exhibition or pavilion? It’s awful ! It says nothing ! or The Biennale really made me think about this or that. The Biennale made people meet in what architecture is today: a confuse state of concepts and built work. But people met in discussions, and drew their own conclusions and were almost forced to take a position. In my opinion, this is the next step in solving the crisis of architecture: taking a position (with arguments).
As you enter, you are greeted by a movie showing the Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne by SANAA (directed by Wim Wenders). This is one of the most interesting pieces of architecture in the last period of time. Why? To say it very simple and fast: it has no doors! (Archetype of closure and limit imposed by someone etc, the discussion is huge and I will hopefully treat this example thoroughly in another post). Was it a sign of autocracy by Kazuyo Sejima, the curator and architect of the RLC? Maybe, but somehow that doesn’t mind, after all, she received a Pritzker (amongst other reasons) for this particular building. Also, it’s a place where people meet more or less freely, in any case more free that in other type of architecture.
The rest of the exhibition is somewhat conceived like this building. There is no rule to follow the exhibition. The only limit is imposed by the old Arsenale warehouses. Somehow it broke a rule of the Biennale, usually strictly planned to make you see a linear story. But our society is not that linear, now is it? A sort of freedom is ensured for the visitor who is most times, less of a contemplative one and more of an active visitor.
The exhibition doesn’t show architecture. BIzzare? No. It shows different stances of what architectural essence is, according to different people. But always, architecture has people inside that meet. We don’t build for ourselves after all. Maybe architecture’s essence is the intellectual concept proposed by someone and people feel represented and have their meeting in a conceptual space, appropriated by each one (Smiljan Radic + Marcela Correa).
Cloudscapes (Transsolar and Tetsuo Kondo Architects) is one essential point of the exhibition. People meet in different types of weather and visibility conditions. Somehow you are with your head in the clouds alongside others, walking on the huge metal and wooden loop … the architecture promenade without the building, just series of atmospheres, just like in any other house. There are no walls, just clouds. No building, just the essence of building.
Studio Mumbai Architects makes us believe that contrary to the general belief, globalization and networking did not destroy the local, it just gave it another dimension. No longer autarchic but exposed as a creative entity, permanently reinventing itself. Studio Mumbai Architects show us the essence of their work, a type of work that has people at the essence of conceiving and building, a type of work where the architect is just another actor in the relation between people. New and old, tradition and inovation, architecture that doesn’t necessarily repeat the form of traditional housing, but reinvents architecture with traditional methods of building, building with people, social architecture.
Hans Ulrich Obrist is a renowned curator. His work in the Biennale is an exhibition of ideas. Come in and meet everybody that worked in the Biennale. Hear what they thought. A plane of tarmac with screen and headphones spots. Melting pot of ideas. (all videos on http://www.youtube.com/user/BiennaleChannel)
Olafur Eliasson drove me in a pitch black room with water hoses squirting water in a certain pattern, while light flashed at an interval of one second. An ever changing image, and only the fact that people didn’t want to get wet made this a strange interval in the exhibition. I would have thought that seeing people jumping and dancing in moments determined by the light flashes would have made its point even stronger: space is judged in moments and its ever changing.
Janet Cardiff made the other essential piece in my opinion. She has separated the voices in Thomas Tallis’s Renaissance 40-part choral work Spem in Alium through 40 speakers arranged in a diamond. This was a space for closed eyes, and i don’t mean that you were in a space with speakers but the speakers created space, or better said, music creates space. You could sit on the bench in the middle, close your eyes, and feel people singing next to you, in a cathedral. Opening your eyes again, after the end of the piece of music, I felt disappointed. The visual space of the Arsenale with speakers was extremely poor in comparison with the space imagined with my eyes closed.
This was not an exhibition for the spectacular, for the specular or the shiny. This was not an exhibition about what we should do in the next 2 years. This exhibition had no intention to give answers to our crisis. Just made us pose ourselves questions, and think for ourselves what the future of architecture should be like. The National Participations were even more conclusive to this idea.