La Biennale di Venezia di Architettura 2016 – Padiglione AUSTRALIA

Sestiere Castello, Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy

21. Australian PavilionThe Pool – Architecture, Culture and Identity in Australia

Commissioner: Janet Holmes a Court AC. Curators: Amelia Holliday and Isabelle Toland (Aileen Sage Architects) with Michelle Tabet. Exhibitors: Conversations with Olympians Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe; authors Anna Funder and Christos Tsiolkas; musician Paul Kelly; environmentalist Tim Flannery; fashion designers Romance Was Born; and art curator Hetti Perkins.

Venue: Giardini

As an architectural device the pool represents a physical edge but it also expresses a social and personal frontier. This is explored through the narratives broadcast in the exhibition space for which eight storytellers have been selected. Their interviews reveal stories of fulfillment and accomplishment, of segregation and inclusion, of learning from the past and reflecting for the future, all through the lens of the pool.

The pool is a vital force in Australian life, not only as the setting for formative childhood memories, family gatherings and community events but also as the stage for sporting feats that fuel the nation’s pride. A backdrop to the good times, the pool is also a deeply contested space in Australian history, a space that has unfortunately highlighted racial discrimination and social disadvantage. Few spaces can represent so simply and wholly the identity and passions of a nation and inspire such a complex narrative. By celebrating the cultural significance of pools in Australia, we seek the critical engagement of architects in a broader public debate about the civic and social value of the spaces we create.

For all their immediate appeal, pools in many communities in Australia are facing significant challenges as social institutions. Improving the economic model of a pool is certainly an issue worth addressing, however the social capital of the pool needs equal consideration in this equation. The stories of The Pool are unapologetically personal, subjective and anecdotal. Using The Pool as a platform for the sharing of stories, the exhibition has created a space for discussion that is accessible to all. A place where everyone can participate, observe and learn.

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