Venice Architecture Biennale 2012 – Arsenale Highlights

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

Argentinian Pavilion – Identity in Diversity


Curated by Clorindo Testa, Identity in Diversity presents the works and projects of Argentinian designers and architects who have won major international competitions. The purpose is to show the historical construction of Argentina alongside and contrasting to the present.

Each winning competition reflects upon the positive interactions between architecture, territory and society throughout the history of Argentina. The proposals are curated in order to construct a story of diversity, integration, memory and territory that together form the modern identity of Argentina.

Chilean Pavilion – Cancha


Curated by Maria Pilar Pinchart Saavedra and Bernardo Valdes Echenique, Cancha is derived from the word Quechaun, indicating a void that enables a connection to the ground. The exhibition explores common ground via the Andes mountain range as a resource for producing heritage and landscape. Common ground is hereby not territorial.

7 Architects present 7 points of view on the interpretation of this definition. 7 lanterns throughout the room present 7 ideas of natural resource production as a critical moment in social change. The floor of the pavilion is covered in salt to connect the natural resource of salt with intellectual and emotional space.

Chinese Pavilion – Originaire


Curated by Fang Zhenning, Originaire is a word representative of memory and mental image in the original world. Five architect and designers show their work on the interpretation of this meaning.

The work of TAO Na, Palace in the Sky is the layering of 3 views, the forbidden palace, the land-form of Mars and the unbounded galaxy. 4000 blocks create a layering of these views and spectators are asked to take a block home, therefore transforming the picture into something else, leaving a new composition of architecture and human civilisation. The work of SHAO Weiping, Sequence is composed of 96 Sections. It transforms the original concept of the Mobius strip, proposing that architecture is endless can be endlessly reinterpreted.

Croatian Pavilion – Unmediated Democracy Demands Unmediated Space


Curated by Tomislav Pavelic, Unmediated Democracy Demands Unmediated Space proposes a post-capitalist manifesto for listening and creating new ways of operating. The exhibition highlights the civic struggles of the region and student protesting a “Forum for Space”. The content conveys the fight and struggle for collective space, capable of containing conditions of political, social, economic and ecological fulfillment.

Through the mediums of context, map and device, Common ground is explored by representing a collective conflict and the subsequent collective hope for mediation. Strong use of sound and the distortion of imagery creates an engaging and evocative exhibition. One of my favorite!

Cypriot Pavilion – Revisit, Customising Tourism


Curated by Charis Christodoulou and Spyros Th. Spyrou, Revist, Customising Tourism explores the implications of the frequent travel activity. The exhibition represents tourism as a monopoly of rules whereby the character of the resort, theme park, hotel and city icon alienate the traveler from local.

Another of my favorite, Revist explores the customisation of the tourism industry and reconsiders the common ground between the traveler and local. Multiple projects form a think tank of ideas create a framework for discussion and propose the improvement of our built environments. The design of the pavilion re-enacts the tourist beach scene, littered with lounge chairs. Integrated media boxes conceal the projects for reshaping the tourism industry.

Estonian Pavilion – How Long is the Life of a Building?


Curated by Tuune-Kristin Vaikla, How Long is the life of a Building? explores the relationship between time and space and considers the use of architecture once a building becomes uninhibited. The theme is investigated via the modern legacy of the Linnahall Concert Hall in Tallinn.

The exhibition contains of two films that unfold to tell the larger story of reuse, redevelopment and hope for a greener future. The exhibition speaks of the need for future generations to consider building reuse and adaption and to reveal the possibilities they offer.

Hong Kong Pavilion – inter cities/intra cities: ghostwriting the future


Curated by Oval Partnership, inter cities/intra cities investigates the theme of sustainable urban development in Hong Kong and other global cities. 12 teams of architects and designers propose both real and speculative projects for the two districts in Hong Kong. The focus of the content is to support new commercial success alongside the enablement of diverse and sustainable modes of living.

The room is full of contrasting ideas that conjure debates and dialogues about the development of future cities. Scattered projects throughout the room recreate complex, partial and fragmented experiences, parallel to that of the city, with opposing voices and spaces.

Irish Pavilion – Shifting Ground


Curated by John Mclaughlin, Shifting Ground investigates architectures relationship to network flows of products, data and knowledge. The exhibition questions how global architecture can be grounded culturally, philosophically and spatially within such a context.

The pavilion charts languages of projective geometry that is embodied along the perimeter and benches of the pavilion. Diagrams present precise measurements and extraction of data relating to building, consumption and nature.

Italian Pavilion – Architecture Made in Italy


Curated by Luca Zevi, Made in Italy explores the work of Italian architects and designer and highlight their contribution to the development, well-being and cultural characteristics of modern Italy. The Pavilion showcases the work of various individuals and teams.

Created by Bosco Italia, one enters into a garden representing the infancy of the Italian landscape and from here grows the Italian forest. The growth of the forest (Italy) is a multimedia narrative of fours seasons and includes work from Olivetti to the Green Economy.

Kingdom of Bahrain Pavilion – Background


Curated by Noura Al-Sayeh, Background is the installation of real and imagined images. 5 screens duplicating the location and shape of the entrances represent video portals to Bahrain. Here background images become foreground and the individual becomes collective.

The video portals illustrate landscapes; lakes, squares and roads that largely appear empty or frozen in time. Through the stillness, one imagines the feeling within space; the breeze, tides or temperatures. The exhibition room is filled with chairs to encourage the spectator to simply sit down and soak up the atmosphere of the world outside the room.

Kosovan Pavilion – The Filigree Maker


Curated by Perparim Rama, The Filigree Maker is the collection of Kosovan architecture, past and present alongside architecture from around the world, submitted by spectators. Named after the traditional metal making technique, Filigree ties together architecture and emotion via a system of wires and colour coded lighting.

Data wrapping the exhibition is a collection of messages, emails and tweets, creating data of common ground from distant locations.  In addition to this spectators are encouraged to upload photographs of where they live, therefore creating an ever expanding library of architecture divided also into colour coded emotions of: happiness, sadness, entrapment, excitement, freedom and anger. The exhibition explores the need for people to reflect and reconsider how they think about their surroundings.

Kuwait Pavilion – Kethra


Curated by Zahra Ali Baba, Kethra is the realisation of an almost empty room whereby spectators walk over faded and defunct master-plans. Cushions surround the perimeter of the room while hanging speaker’s eco voices from above.

The defunct master-plans represent the archive of out-dated and failed planning proposals for the development of Kuwait. The cushions represent the settlements outside the city walls, while the hanging speakers recreate the noises of various places. Through investigating the past, the content of the exhibition focuses on reflection, future propagation and growth of quality.

Macedonian Pavilion – Architecture in a Mirror: Everyday and Sublime


Curated by Sasa Tasic and Aleksandar Radevski, Architecture in a Mirror highlights the fragmented work of 25 architecture components. Specific configurations of the components have been separated from their original frame and therefore take on new meaning and interpretation. The models are situated on a reflective base and are no longer of their original and casual context. The mirror provides a new and particular imagery, reflected in time.

The architecture fragments are no longer of the everyday and gaze into magical images similar but entirely different to the perfect imagery of international architecture. The fragmentation investigates the separation of architecture from place.

Malaysian Pavilion – Voices


Curated by Lim Teng Ngiom, Voices explores the unique conditions of each architect, including environment, circumstance, experience and language. The exhibition is the abstract interpretation of architecture in the context of environment. Common ground is explored through a common platform for unique expression and voice; an architecture narrative in three-dimension.

The pavilion contains 21 models, created by architects representing the voice of their architecture work pre-occupation. Each model is situated within an armature, a statement about the collective cultural landscape of Malaysia.

Peruvian Pavilion – Yucun inhabit the desert


Curated by Enrique Bonilla Di Tolla, Yucan inhabit the desert is a collection of 20 architecture projects. The exhibition responds to the recently completed tunnel that carries water from the Amazon to the arid desert on the Peruvian Coast.

Given the recent access to water, each architecture firm presents their idea for the potential habitation of the arid desert. Each idea is conceptually manifested via a clay model and supported with drawings and documentation. Common ground is in the form of an entirely new infrastructure and city capable of supporting new homes and opportunities.

Thailand Pavilion – Common Collage


Curated by a team of architects, academics, and designers, Common Collage brings together 100 ideas that collectively portray diversity in Thai architecture and culture. The work is presented through 40 models of equal size, volume and weight. Each box intends to speak of its own language, representative of individual ideas.

Neither a representation of the past or future, individual concepts are presented without synthesis; instead the spectator is required to construct this into a picture about the positive and common ground we could share.

Ukrainian Pavilion – Mirage Architect Project


Curated by Alexander Ponomarev and Olilga Milentiy, Mirage Architect Project is the investigation for habitation in the Arctic. Via videos, models and drawings, the investigation is manifested in two conceptual projects, a floating personal museum and a transformable museum of contemporary art.

The mirage is drawn from the optical phenomena of icebergs and Arctic coastlines being transformed into different structures before disappearing. Common ground is explored in the geographical reality of a new Arctic nation.

Thank you for reading and be sure to check out the last article which will cover my favourite projects from the Arsenale Central Pavilion exhibits. 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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