Venice Architecture Biennale 2012 – Giardini Highlights

The Central Pavilions of the Giardini and Arsenale is curated by David Chipperfield. 69 projects by 119 architects, critics, designers, photographers and scholars respond to Chipperfield’s brief of common ground with specific and original installations.

Unique to the Biennale, the central pavilion represents a meeting point for the fascinating encounter of concepts between influential architects, designers and critics. Below are my favourite Giardini Central Pavilion exhibits. The article is the third of five instalments which cover my time at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2012. Check out the first and second instalment here and here.

Atelier d’Architecture Autogeree – R-Urban Commons


Created by AAA, R-Urban Commons identifies human consumption beyond the point sustainable processes. The focus of their exhibition is upon regenerating and reconsidering the human consumption of water, energy and resources. Through posters and statements of new urban rules and principles, AAA advocate for a bottom-up approach to architecture and city development.

The exhibition presents multiple opportunities for new modes and interpretations of diversity, society, occupation, urban tactics, collectives and mobility. The project reconsiders the role (and focus) of architecture as one that needs to enable and facilitate the participation and energy of community citizens.

Crimson Architectural Historians – The Banality of Good


Created by Crimson Architectural Historians, The Banality of Good exhibits the unique spatial, demographic and economic formulas for six cities built in-between 1935 and present day.  Through a timeline of painted canvases, the exhibition is a critique on the progress of urban planning and illustrates the negative developing principles of city design.

The exhibition illustrates the movement away from optimistic social considerations of equity and progress to current considerations of profit, efficiency and expediency. The exhibition calls for architects and city planners to re-evaluate the motivations and implications of their work.

Eisenman Architects, Pier Vittorio Aureli and Jeff Kipnis – The Piranesi Variations


Created by a team working in-between academia and practice, the Piranesi Variations explore common ground through the interpretation of a famous but speculative Roman drawing: The Piranesi’s Campo Marzio created in 1762.

Through models and drawings, four teams create new speculations for Campo Marzo. The exploration of each team generates a unique political, social and philosophical ides, demonstrating the inexhaustible opportunities and potential for creation and reinterpretation in architecture.

Herreros Arquitectos – Dialogue Architecture


Created by Herreros Arquitectos, Dialogue Architecture contains a selection of projects including the Munch Museum in Oslo, the AGORA project in Bogota, the competition design for an Intermodal Railway Station in Santiago de Compostela, and Casa Garoza. In the centre of the room is a large table where visitors can listen to the recorded dialogues about each project and to initiate new dialogues of their own.

Common ground is explored by bringing to light the breadth of skill involved in the process of design and construction. Herreros describes the installation about “spreading technical knowledge and culture as a tool for dialogue and anchoring for ideas.” Source. The recorded dialogues and diagrams that surround the room suggest a future for the architect, not as head consultant but as mediator of the dialogues between consultants, experts and citizens.

Jasper Morrison – The Good Life


Created by Jasper Morrison, The Good Life brings to light the creativity and beauty of vernacular and everyday objects.  Six photographs of objects born from necessity including a chair, light, bus stop and pot plant make up the exhibition.

The object in focus is responsive to issues of climate, function and/or material. The outcome looks and feels different to the typical response of the architect if given the same necessities. The exhibition shows how ordinary people with unique and accumulated practical knowledge can create a specific and beautifully simple object. The photographs (and their subsequent descriptions) therefore question the appropriateness and usefulness of the architect.

Kuehn Malvezzi – Komuna Fundamento


Created by Kuehm Malvezzi, Komuna Fundamento unites two spaces at the Giardini Central Pavilion. The first intervention is directly outside the pavilion in the form of a bench. The bench disrupts the axis of the entry into the pavilion. The second intervention creates a narrow corridor to delay the spectator’s entry into other exhibitions. Each piece is created using the single material of grey slate.

Both pieces create two unique thresholds and encourage people to linger and meet or to sit down and watch. The installations investigate architecture as part of a curatorial action in space, neither the foreground nor background, but a medium of the in-between ground; common ground.

MVRDV and The Why Factory – Freeland


Created by MVRDV and the Why Factory, Freeland explores common ground in the neighbourhood and answers the age-old question of why we need our neighbours. The exhibition is in the form of a video and proposes a radically free, almost libertarian model for city planning.

The video shows the creating, working and benefit of a city made completely from ‘do-it-yourself’ and bottom-up approaches and without the rules of urban planning.  The content is successful through its presentation: a stimulating storyline where we start over, forming a new utopian vision for the future. The exhibition demonstrates common ground born from necessity, here architects respond to need rather than vision.

Olafur Eliasson – Knowing Feeling Acting


Created by Olafur Eliasson, Knowing, Feeling, Acting is delivered in three locations throughout the Biennale. A short film titled Solar Syokoy forms one part of his initiative; the film depicts a mysterious creature of ‘little suns’ emerging from the forest into the urban city. The video depicts the strange and indescribable sensations of experience.

Another work includes a fan with the same ‘little suns’ attached. When the fan is turned on the individual lights blend into one continuous ring. Each work talks of being disconnected yet connected, being committed yet indifferent and of doing rather than thinking. It is within these philosophies we can find our common ground.

OMA – Public Works: Architecture by Civil Servants


Created by OMA, Architecture by Civil Servants exhibits the work of 15 post-war buildings created by anonymous bureaucrats and employed by guiding public sectors, councils or departments. The exhibition shows public architecture with coherent and optimistic social visions. The buildings represent a mode of practice that focuses on civic service rather than the market economy.

Each building focuses on shared motivations and not private ideologies. The exhibition therefore questions the morals of current architecture and serves as a reminder that left-leaning governments and architects have created significant and influential modern buildings capable of movement and change.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss – Airport Photographs


Created by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Airport Photographs is a simple yet effective video documentary about the airport. The documentary depicts the airport as a ubiquitous and relentlessly similar space throughout the world.

The airport is explored as a place of temporary and autonomous civilisation with its own spatial system and order. The airport (irrespective of location) depicts the theme of common ground through the negation of cultural and geographical differences; here there is everyone yet no one.

Toshiko Mori Architect – Dialogue In Details


Created by Toshiko Mori Architect, Dialogue in Details exhibits ten 1:1 models. Details of building components by Frank Lloyd wright, Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Marcel Breuer, and Paul Rudolph are displayed alongside details of building components by Mori.

Common Ground is explored through the dialogues of the building details, investigating the convergence of idea, material, tectonic and construction. The installation demonstrates how ideas can be re-embodied and re-interpreted through time.

Other exhibits within the Giardini Central Pavilion include projects by Alison Crawshaw, Grafton Architects and Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Wolfgang Wolters and Mario Piana, 40,000 Hours, Norman Foster, O&O Baukunst, Thomas Demand, Caruso St John, Elke Krasny, Muf architecture/art, Ateliers Jean Nouvel and Habiter Autrement, Alejandro Aravena/Elemental, Fulvio Irace, Diener and Diener and Steve Parnell.

Thank you for reading and be sure to check out the next article which will cover the Arsenale National Pavilions. 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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