La Biennale di Venezia di Architettura 2016 – Padiglione GERMANIA

Sestiere Castello, Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

18. German PavilionIn Therapy – Making Heimat. Germany, Arrival Country

Commissioner: Peter Cachola Schmal, Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM). Curator: Oliver Elser, Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM). Exhibitor: Something Fantastic.

Venue: Giardini

“Making Heimat. Germany, Arrival Country” is a response to the fact that over a million refugees arrived in Germany during 2015. The expectations for 2016 are similar. The need for housing is urgent, but just as urgent is the need for new ideas and reliable approaches to integration. The exhibition therefore consists of three parts: the first part surveys physical refugee shelters. The second seeks to define the conditions that must be present in an Arrival City in order to turn refugees into immigrants. The third is the spatial design concept of the German Pavilion, which will make a statement about the contemporary political situation.

1. Launched on 10 March 2016, the website documents some 35 refugee housing projects that have been gathered by DAM through a Call for Projects since October 2015. The spectrum ranges from temporary lightweight structures that house 300 people, whose interiors have been designed by an architect, to low-cost long-term housing projects, not only intended to house refugees. An emphasis has been laid on wooden modular structures.

2. Many of the current refugees and migrants will remain in Germany, as a swift resolution of the war and persecution in their homelands seems unlikely. It is essential that these new citizens are not treated as guests, who can be “sent home” at any moment, they must be given the chance to make Germany into their second home. This is what the title of the exhibition is meant to convey: Making Heimat implies that the stay in Germany will be a permanent one.

3.The Berlin-based team Something Fantastic was responsible for the overall presentation in the German Pavilion. Its three partners Elena Schütz, Julian Schubert and Leo Streich are trained architects. They were chosen by DAM because of their intensive engagement with Arrival Cities, both in their teaching capacity at ETH Zürich and in their work around the world. Their extensive architectural studies of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Addis Abeba and Cairo have been published in book form. Something Fantastic work as architects, exhibition designers, researchers, curators and graphic designers. They created the spatial concept, and designed the exhibition and catalogue.

La Biennale di Venezia di Architettura 2016 – Padiglione PAESI NORDICI (FINLANDIA-NORVEGIA-SVEZIA)

Sestiere Castello, Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

17. Nordic PavilionIn Therapy – Nordic Countries Face to Face

Commissioner: ArkDes, The Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design (Sweden). Deputy Commissioner: The Finnish Museum of Architecture (Finland) and Nasjonalmuseet (Norway). Curator: David Basulto, James Taylor-Foster. Exhibitors: A group of architecture firms.

Venue: Giardini

A central impetus for this exhibition is to acknowledge the presence of the ‘ghosts’ of Nordic architecture – those architects, theorists and educators—the most famous of which are often described as ‘Modern Masters’—who continue to exert influence on contemporary practice and pedagogy. Indeed, one of the most prominent of these gures, the Norwegian Sverre Fehn, designed the Nordic Pavilion. This exhibition addresses a common challenge faced by Finns, Norwegians and Swedes today: how can a building (or an exhibition, in this instance) exist in a dialogue with its setting when that setting is so charged! For us, this ties into a broader question: how can architecture occupy a legacy while still making progress?

Recognizing Fehn’s original intentions to have the building entirely open, In Therapy treats the Pavilion as an extension of the public space of the Giardini. The central installation of the exhibition—a step-pyramid built using traditional construction techniques from Swedish pine—precisely mirrors the treads and risers of the existing staircase to create a profile-amphitheatre for critical debate and reflection. From concerns relating to demands on immigration and social integration, to an ageing population and realignment in a newly, or soon to be, post-industrial economy, In Therapy has brought together unconscious and conscious elements (the pyramid of projects and a collection of reflections, respectively) in order to tease out the connections and conflicts between architecture and Nordic society at large. It is architecture—in its broadest role as a spatial, social, and cultural practice—which sits at the center of this discourse.

La Biennale di Venezia di Architettura 2016 – Padiglione ROMANIA

Sestiere Castello, Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

16. Romanian PavilionSELFIE AUTOMATON

Commissioner: Attila Kim. Curator: Tiberiu Bucsa. Exhibitor: Tiberiu Bucsa, Orsolya Gal, Stathis Markopoulos, Adrian Arama, Oana Matei, Andrei Durloi.

Venue: Giardini

The Romanian Pavilion showcases “Selfie Automaton”. The exhibition consists of 7 mechanical automata, featuring 42 built in marionetes — 37 human and 5 creatures. Three of the automata is placed in the Romanian Pavilion in Giardini, another three in the New Gallery of the Romanian Institute of Culture and Humanistic Research, and one nomad that will wander through the streets of Venice.

Caricatures of characters, fantastic animals, golden eggs, music boxes and mirrored reflections are assembled in predefined show parts that place the visitor on stage, in various positions, as dynamo and puppet in the same time. The authors thus propose a generic portrait of social relations, stereotypes and wishes, broken into pieces, to be reassembled by the user’s imagination, in an introspective self-portrait, or perhaps a selfie.

To define the role that was given to marionettes in the exhibition, the authors of “Selfie Automaton” approached puppetry, where it is common for the manipulator to play with the meanings and possibilities of control. One is that the marionette can, and should, cross the usual human limits, of gravity for example, as it can jump and remain suspended. Another, to a tragic extreme, is to let it become aware of its manipulator and cut, or not, its own strings. Still, no such possibilities of escape were used for the installations. Even though constructed with the necessary joints that would allow them the “freedom of movement”, the wooden puppets are unstrung and literally nailed into a mechanism that allows them nothing but one predefined repetitive movement. And the visitor is no exception. Seated as part of the automaton, he is given one choice only: to make it work, by his own repetitive action.

“Selfie Automaton” reflects on the characters and actions embodied by the puppets that are nothing but dispersed parts of our own and can be combined or split, in search of a self-portrait, be it of an architect or of anyone else.

La Biennale di Venezia di Architettura 2016 – Padiglione RUSSIA

Sestiere Castello, Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

15. Russian PavilionV.D.N.H.

Commissioner: Semen Mikhailovsky. Curator: Sergey Kuznetsov.

Venue: Giardini

Entitled V.D.N.H. Urban Phenomenon the Russian contribution to the 2016 Venice Biennale is an account of how the V.D.N.H. (the ‘Exhibition of Attainments of the National Economy’)—a unique complex in both scale and architecture—is being transformed into a multi-format cultural and educational space, accessible to all.”

According to Sergey Kuznetsov, Chief Architect of Moscow and the exhibition’s curator: “Unlike most theme and amusements parks, the V.D.N.H. does not merely provide citizens with leisure, but has an educational and cultural mission.” he continues, “the coherence of this urban ensemble, the diversity of its public spaces, and its necklace of national and thematic pavilions create a territory which is capable of accumulating and multiplying society’s intellectual and cultural energy, and it is this which in the final analysis is helping us win the battle for quality of life.”

Kuznetsov outlines the exhibition as “art and multimedia technologies to talk about the past, present, and future of the V.D.N.H.” In addition to “a section dealing with the history of the artefacts from Soviet times” and “a video installation immersing visitors in the atmosphere of the V.D.N.H. today.”

La Biennale di Venezia di Architettura 2016 – Padiglione COREA

Sestiere Castello, Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

14. Korean PavilionThe FAR Game: Constraints Sparking Creativity

Commissioner: Arts Council Korea. Curators/Exhibitors: Sung Hong KIM, Eungee CINN, Keehyun AHN, Seungbum KIM, Isak CHUNG, Daeun JEONG.

Venue: Giardini

“The FAR Game is a kind of self-portrait of Korea. Rooted in our past, it will continue to exert itself on the development of architecture in Korea well into the future. A far game, indeed.”

In Korea, most clients and landowners are paying for the invisible quantity of the building, not the visible quality of the architecture. Buildings themselves are often not valued in the real estate market. The average lifespan of a building is shorter than that of a human being. If a new building can provide an increase in FAR, then demolition and reconstruction are sought. It is not uncommon to see celebratory banners when a building fails its structural stability test, because it means the demolition will be approved.

On seeing that Alejandro Aravena proposed the theme “Reporting from the Front” for this year’s Venice Biennale. The fact is that 99% of Korean architects must play the game in order to survive. An architect rarely gets a commission unless they can convince clients that their design proposal has larger rentable floor areas than their competitor’s.

The FAR Game Exhibit at the Korean Pavilion is designed to track changes in the game after the global economic crisis of 2008, and highlight the best examples of creative responses to the demands of FAR. Aravena explains the curatorial tactics as a “team of six curators that have analyzed the data and have worked to enroll participants and select materials that will illustrate not only the harsh realities facing Korean architecture and cities, but also the ways that our industry is making small changes for a better life”

La Biennale di Venezia di Architettura 2016 – Padiglione GIAPPONE

Sestiere Castello, Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

13. Japanese Pavilionen : art of nexus

Commissioner: The Japan Foundation. Curators: Yoshiyuki Yamana. Exhibitors: Seiichi Hishikawa, mnm (Mio Tsuneyama); ondesign (Osamu Nishida); Erika Nakagawa; Naruse Inokuma Architects (Jun Inokuma, Yuri Naruse); Naka Architects’ Studio (Toshiharu Naka, Yuri Uno); Nousaku Architects (Fuminori Nousaku, Junpei Nousaku); miCo. (Mizuki Imamura, Isao Shinohara); Levi Architecture (Jun Nakagawa); Shingo Masuda + Katsuhisa Otsubo Architects (Shingo Masuda, Katsuhisa Otsubo); Koji Aoki Architects (Koji Aoki); 403architecture [dajiba] (Takuma Tsuji, Takeshi Hashimoto, Toru Yada; BUS (Satoru Ito, Kosuke Bando, Issei Suma); dot architects (Toshikatsu Ienari, Takeshi Shakushiro, Wataru Doi), teco (Chie Konno, Rie Allison).

Venue: Giardini

Japan’s national pavilion was another favourite of the Biennale awards jury, who awarded it a special commendation. The exhibition titled, EN (縁), is a Japanese word meaning both “relationship” and “opportunity”, curated by Yoshiyuki Yamana from the Tokyo University of Science, it is different from other more “conceptual” ones, and is quite traditional in its layout and clearly focused on built architecture.

The starting point is the subterranean contradictions which have characterized Japan since the early 2000s, which include a growing unemployment rate (especially for young people), increasing social inequality, and a diffused disillusion about those optimistic visions of the future. A country that experienced a spectacular growth and modernization for at least four decades in a row, after the end of the World War Two.

Yet, such problematic situation is also fostering a novel approach to the relationship among people and between people and architecture. Hence, the curator has choose to present the work of a new generation of younger Japanese architects which is investigating how architecture could be an instrument to re-create a social network, based on solidarity, opposed to the diktats of an intransigent neoliberalism. A neoliberalism which many Japanese now identify with dramatic events such as the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Therefore, all the architectures presented focus on the idea of sharing values, resources and lifestyles, opposed to the selfish approach to life and society encouraged by the principle of social competition.

La Biennale di Venezia di Architettura 2016 – Padiglione CECA e SLOVACCA

Sestiere Castello, Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

12. Czech and Slovak PavilionCare for Architecture: Exemplum of the Slovak National Gallery or Asking Arche of Architecture to Dance

Commissioner: Monika Mitášová, Monika Palcová. Curators/Exhibitors: Benjamín Brádnanský, Petr Hájek, Vít Halada, Ján Studený, Marián Zervan (Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava and University in Trnava).

Venue: Giardini

A bright red model of the Slovak National Gallery forms the centrepiece of the Czech and Slovak Pavilion, questioning whether the country’s Soviet-era architecture should be saved or demolished.

Designed by Slovak architect Vladimír Dedeček in the 1960s and built in the 1970s, the bridging gallery building is seen by many as a symbol of the country’s communist era, so plans for its renovation have been contentious. Care for Architecture: Asking the Arché of Architecture to Dance, questions whether buildings like the extension to the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava can ever be disassociated from the political regime.

The broad spectrum of opinion the building receives from both Slovakian nationals and foreigners is represented by a series of films, played on wall-mounted screens, offering opposing strategies for the renovation of the building.

La Biennale di Venezia di Architettura 2016 – Padiglione OLANDA

Sestiere Castello, Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

11. The Netherlands’ PavilionBLUE: Architecture of Peacekeeping Missions

Commissioner: Het Nieuwe Instituut. Curator: Malkit Shoshan.

Venue: Giardini

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, 9/11 and the “War on Terror” that followed, warfare has moved into the city. While the wars of the 20th century were waged largely between nations, over territorial sovereignty and along disputed borders, the wars of the 21st century are internal and borderless. They are fought between large multinational coalitions and insurgent networks. It is not only war that has moved into the city, but also the entire security apparatus, including its peacekeepers and their infrastructure.

Today, the United Nations peacekeeping operations unfold at large scale in hundreds of cities around the world, becoming long-term features within their urban fabric. For the 15th International Architecture Exhibition, the Dutch entry BLUE: architecture of UN peacekeeping Missions curated by Malkit Shoshan explores architecture’s potential to improve the quality of the built environment, and the lives of the people within it, by critically examining its own role in missions and frontiers.

BLUE turns the spotlight on contemporary UN peacekeeping missions as an urban phenomenon, taking Camp Castor — a Dutch camp for the UN in Gao, Mali — as its case study. On the edge of the Sahara Desert, the encounter between the “blue people” (the Tuareg, known for their indigo-dyed clothing) and the “blue helmets” (the UN) has the potential to lead to the emergence of new spatial forms and projects.

The project positions architecture in three different ways: as research, identifying spatial challenges and opportunities and making them visible; as practice, improving the living environment for local populations; and as a critical cultural space, reflecting upon phenomenal transitions in society. BLUE proposes that architecture and design thinking be introduced into the planning process of UN peacekeeping bases in order to leave behind a stronger city with infrastructure, resources and knowledge that will stay with the local populations after the mission has gone.

La Biennale di Venezia di Architettura 2016 – Padiglione DANIMARCA

Sestiere Castello, Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

10. Danish Pavilion“Art of Many and the Right to Space”

Commissioner: Kent Martinussen, CEO, Danish Architecture Centre. Curator: Boris Brorman Jensen and Kristoffer Lindhardt Weiss. Exhibitors: A selection of danish architects and urban planners.

Venue: Giardini

Fans of architectural models will find no better hangout than Denmark’s pavilion, which is full of small-scale examples of the country’s most impressive buildings from the last 15 years.

Going by the name “Art of Many and the Right to Space”, the contribution curated by architect Boris Brorman Jensen and philosopher Kristoffer Lindhardt Weiss presents a collective exhibition of more than 130 projects by over 70 architecture firms, discussing the daily social commitment of Danish architects to improve the quality of life in Denmark as a whole.

This isn’t just a showcase of architectural icons for its own sake, but an overview that explores the theme of creating high quality architecture for many people, through public spaces, hospitals, public housing, schools and jobs. A really broad front that aims to be a platform for discussing the right to space and the paradoxical dynamics intrinsic to improving the quality of life in cities.

On this theme, a central video installation is dedicated to the work of Professor Jan Gehl who in his 50-year career helped contribute to a more humanitarian vision in cities.

La Biennale di Venezia di Architettura 2016 – Padiglione POLONIA

Sestiere Castello, Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

9. Polish Pavilion – “Fair Building”

Commissioner: Hanna Wróblewska. Curator: Dominika Janicka, in cooperation with Martyna Janicka and Michal Gdak.

Venue: Giardini

Construction workers are one of the most critical yet underrepresented groups of people in the architecture industry. Often times, the safety of labor conditions are pushed aside in favor of budget constraints and strict deadlines. The Fair Building, an exhibition hosted by the Polish Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale, addresses these issues and ask: “why don’t buildings come with ‘fair trade’ marks?”

Responding to the theme of “Reporting from the Front”, the curatorial team, Martyna Janicka, Dominika Janicka, and Michal Gdak, based their pavilion design around the idea that “construction sites represent the frontline in architecture.”

The pavilion contains a two-part installation. The first part is a mockup scaffolding, which represents a construction site and displays videos of construction workers describing their workplace conditions. The second part of the exhibition is a display of infographics that “explore the industry in numbers,” situated in what is designed to look like a showroom apartment. The pavilion will focus on the ethical issues involved in construction through the views of laborers in the industry.

Instead of showing a finished product or design resolution, the exhibition aims to spark a debate about this often overlooked sector of the field, with the goal of attracting the attention of architects, engineers, consumers, and developers in the industry.

“By presenting the stories of persons directly involved in the building process, we ask whether ‘fair trade’ is achievable in the field,” says Curator Dominika Janicka in a press release. “If so, what would it be? Is ‘fair building’ possible? We don’t focus on looking for culprits responsible for the abuses occurring at the various stages of the construction process. Rather, we create a space to reflect on how to make this process not only effective but also fair.”