Venice Architecture Biennale 2012 – Arsenale Highlights

I hope you have enjoyed my highlight coverage of the Venice Biennale. Below are my favorite projects from the Arsenale Central Pavilions. This article is the final of five installments which cover my time at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2012. Check out the first, second, third and forth installments here, here, here and here.

Alvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de Moura


As long-time collaborators Alvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de Moura each have a piece that accompany and compliment the other. The work of Moura creates a gateway; it opens up to create a grand scale while looking outward across the water. The work of Siza however, evokes the intimate bodily scale of the streets of Venice, framing a new setting for the land.

One piece is introverted while the other extroverted, here the notion common ground is through friendship, commonalities, differences, context and site.

Atelier Peter Zumthor, Wim Wenders – Notes from a day in the life of an Architect


Created by Atelier Peter Zumthor and Wim Wenders, notes from a day in the life of an architect captures the uncompromising approach to Zumthor’s work. The exhibition is an intimate and very personal portrayal of Zumthor at work in his small studio in the village of Haldenstein, Switzerland.

The documentary speaks of the poetry, practicality and radicalism behind Zumthor’s work. The video conveys his passion and sensitivity in architecture that is genuinely compelling and inspiring.

Bernard Tschumi Architects – Advertisements for Architecture 2012


Created by Bernard Tschumi Architects, Advertisements for Architecture 2012 builds upon the iconic series of posters created by Tschumi in 1976-1977. The posters were manifestos for understanding architecture and incorporated tactics of advertising to emphasise the difference between architecture theory and architecture in reality.

The exhibition is a series of 4 prints that re-conceptualise the original series to raise new questions about public space, truth, function, conditioning and planning.

Case Studio Vogt – Un Common Venice


Created by Case Studio Vogt, Un Common Venice documents and explores the public space in Venice. The exhibition is the result of an extensive research project, involving interviews and public opinions including the topic of tourism, water usage and ownership of space.

The research is printed as a newspaper that forms part of the exhibition content. The newspaper also contains unique maps of the city based on tourist and local experiences. The newspaper can be obtained from within the Arsenale and also throughout Venice. Postcards from the exhibition allow the spectator to conduct their own surveys on the street and to contribute to the greater dialogue. The continual presence of the exhibition throughout Venice makes Un common Venice a unique, engaging and highly effective project.

Cino Zucchi Architetti – Copycat empathy and envy as form-makers


Created by Cino Zucchi Architetti, Copycat empathy and envy as form-makers explores the notion that we are all in part products of copying. The installation investigates culture and objects that are propagated by processes of imitation and reproductive progress.

The installation shows a collection of look-alike objects and images that express the idea of common ground through similarity rather than originality.  The work explores the idea that resemblance permits dialogues and gives form and classification to our urban environment.

DK-CM – Folk in a Box Venezia


Created by David Knight & Cristina Monteiro, Folk in a Box a mobile performance centre, travelling throughout Venice during the Vernissage and then located in the Arsenale. The vessel allows a single performer and a single audience member for the duration of a single song to sit within a compelling space.

By removing the element of vision, the exhibition intends to provide a highly intimate and sensorial experience. Darkness amplifies the sense of hearing and allows one to not only hear but to listen. The exhibition romanticises the ambiguous and through darkness everything or nothing can be understood as common.

FAT – Museum of Copying


Created by FAT, the Museum of Copying explores the concept of architecture progress and influence derived not from originally but imitation. The installation reveals copying as a rich terrain for ideas and succession. The centrepiece of the room is a large-scale cast of Palladio’s Villa Rotunda, possibly the most copied building in history. Through five installations the Museum of Copying recognises that copying threatens the mythology of architecture production.

Sam Jacobs of FAT describes the copy as both opportunity to perfect and evolve and also as the enemy of progress,representing an inauthentic dead end.  Shown below is Ines Weizman’s installation Repeat Yourself: Loos, law and the Culture of the Copy which explores the function of copyright in architecture investigated through the ownership disputes of Adolf Loos. Also below is the Book of copies, a publishing project by San Rocco, spectators contribute to a new library through the photocopy of existing books.

Gigon/Guyer – Inflection of Common Ground in Several Cases


Created by Annette Gigon and Mike Gyer, Inflection of Common Ground in Several Cases explores common ground through the movement that occurs within and around architecture. Seven rooms contain mediums of sound and film to capture the rain, animals, people, cars and objects that animate the quotidian life of a building.

Each room is suggestive of events that have taken place within architecture. The 1st room shown below is titled taking care and shows the working space of an engineer, artist, architect or craftsman. The second image is titled Walking on an Ancient Battlefield and shows the archaeological findings from the Teutoburg Forest Battle between the Roman and German tribes.

Herzog & de Meuron – Elbphilharmonie


Created by Herzog & de Meuron, Elbphilharmonie is a concert hall designed by Herzog & de Meuron, located in Hamburg the project came to a halt in 2011 due to political, budgetary and ideological complications. The exhibition exposes the common battleground and invisible forces that surround architecture and development.

Uncensored newspaper extracts cover the perimeter walls and chronologically chart the debate and negative public opinion surrounding the project. Physical models and video content document the design of the concert hall. The exhibition brings to light the often-complex history of development.

Mark Randel and Thomas Kupke – Tempelhof Airport


Created by Mark Randel and Thomas Kupke, Tempelhof Airport in Berlin is a palimpsest for the issues and histories that saturate the public ground of the 21st century city. Through video, drawings and photographs the exhibition exposes the process of the airport design, construction, disuse, dereliction and future for one of Berlins most famous and contested building sites.

The site represents major opportunity for development in Berlin and is a case study for a currently contested common ground. The exhibition allows the spectator to question the future benefits of the site.

Norman Foster – Gateway


Created by Norman Foster, Gateway is a projection, video and sound exhibition examining the history of architecture and public space. The result is a collage depicting architecture culture and verging on the encyclopaedic.

The film highlights the diversity of space; the historic, canonical spaces of the western world, the unstable new cities of Asia and South America and the huge interiors of modern museums, stadiums and airports. The exhibition refers to the body of knowledge passed on through generations of architects, designers and critics and also refers to the use of space for important communal and social orders and disorders.

O’Donnell + Tuomey – Vessel


Created by Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey, Vessel explores the notion that architecture practice is inseparable from art and literature. The centerpiece of the exhibit is in the form of a timber ‘Vessel’ providing a place for contemplation and directing portal views toward tables with contributions from poets, artists and architects.

The ‘Vessel’ mimics the geometric form of the ubiquitous brick walls of the Arsenale. The theme of common ground is reflected in the relationship between the architect’s physical and intellectual manifestations.

Robert Burghardt – Denkmal Fur Die Moderne


Created by Robert Burghardt, Denkmal Fur Die Moderne (monument for modernism) presents a hybrid building for a real site in Berlin. The model contains references to 24 modern buildings (including Le Corbusier, Mies var der Rohe and Oskar Hansen), but here they are chopped up and stuck back together, creating a hybrid building, far from an ideal modern form.

The exhibition brings together work, big and small, east and south. The model is a satirical piece about the obsession and instability of modernism, raising questions about how architecture can build upon modernism and postmodernism to produce something new. His work is a reflection upon what a building of our time might be.

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects – Wunderkammer


Curated by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, Wunderkammer is an exhibition about the unlikely and sometimes mundane objects that inspire architects. 35 Boxes were sent to 35 architects from around the world (including Peter Zumthor, Glenn Murcutt and Toyo Ito) who then filled them with a selection of inspirational artifacts.

The collection explores the differences and similarities between architects and their inspiration. The exhibition provides an insight about the collection of items that architects chose to keep and be surrounded by.

Urban-Think Tank, Justin McGuirk – Torre David Gran Horizonte


Created by Urban-Think Tank and Justin McGuirk, Torre David Gran Horizonte documents the Torre David vertical slum in Caracas. The Torre David is a 45-storey uncompleted office tower now inhabited by over 2,500 people who would otherwise live in the slums of Caracas.

The exhibition is a series of photographs that capture the culture and living condition of Caracas. A Venezuelan restaurant weaves through the exhibition space transporting the diversity and taste of public life in Caracas. The notion of meal sharing and informality provides the common ground for discussion.

Valerio Olgiati – Pictographs – Statements of Contemporary Architects


Curated by Valerio Olgiati, Photographs – Statements of Contemporary Architects explores the complex and ambiguous common ground of imagination and inspiration in architecture. 41 influential architects from around the globe display their own personal inspiration through a selection of images.

323 images in total refer to something important about their work, history or influences. Some speak of analysis and explanation while others of memory and atmosphere.  Each however represent the common middle space of imagination that is by nature unique and highly personal.



Other exhibits within the Arsenale Central Pavilion include projects by Thomas Struth, Luigi Snozzi, Ruta del Peregrino, Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, Peter Marlki and Steve Roth, Robbrecht en Daem architecten, M Jose Van Hee architecten, Noero Architects, Hans Kollhoff, Farshid Moussavi Architecture, Sergison Bates, Kenneth Frampton, Seung H-Sang, Gort Scott, Robert McKillop, Renzo Piano Building workshop, Zaha Hadid Architects, Anupama Kundoo, Alberto Campo Baeza, Eric Parry Architects, Haworth Tompkins, Lynch Architects, San Rocco, 13178 Moran Street, Luis Fernandez-Galiano, Team Chicago: City Works, Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA, Jose Rafael Moneo, Mario Nanni, Piet Oudolf and Aires Mateus.

Thank you for reading my five part series. Please feel free to contact me on if you would like further information or photographs on any of the exhibits. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.


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