|The Sky Over Nine Columns by Heinz Mack|
|Winner GOLDEN LION for Nat. Participation - Republic of Korea Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia|
|South Africa Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia|
|Winner SILVER LION for National Participation - Chile Pavilion. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia|
|Special Mention: Canada Pavilion Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15|
|Special Mention - France Pavilion. Modernity: promise or menace? Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia|
|Special Mention - Russian Pavilion Fair Enough: Russia’s past our Present|
|US Pavilion. Image © Nico Saieh|
"The year 1955 finds the US building industry hard at work in almost every country of the free world. Our architects and planners are creating whole new towns from teeming India to tiny El Salvador. Our engineers and contractors are building new dams and power plants in Turkey and Afghanistan, new refineries in Sumatra and Ceylon, new highways in Columbia, new hospitals in Iran and Peru. We have opened gleaming new embassies and consulates in a dozen capitals, big luxury hotels in a dozen more.
What is the significance of this tremendous activity?
First, it means we are building up the basic welfare of other nations, creating climates unfavorable to communism, readying countries for industrialization and democratic independence, making them prosperous enough to buy more of our products.
Second, our industry and commerce are expanding in search of new sources of raw materials, new markets for finished products. To serve increased travel and trade, hotels and stores are springing up along the new commercial routes.
Third, we are helping build defenses for ourselves and our allies.
And fourth, we are keeping up strong governmental and public relations through our official missions: new embassies, consulates, libraries, information services."
WHOA. I could not believe that I was reading about a scheme in a publication written nearly 60 years ago that clearly and precisely outlined what the United States was doing abroad -- it seems like it would have "Confidential" marked all over it today. The sections called ECONOMIC AID and POINT FOUR were especially pertinent to current affairs in Afghanistan:
"By late 1948, thanks to the Marshall Plan, Europe fairly crawled with members of the US construction industry. Architects went abroad to advise on the planning of industrial plants and housing to give the benefit of their experience in expanding the US wartime industrial machine.
... In some instances, the various US aid programs overlap. For example, in Afghanistan, a $75 million project calling for construction of two dams was largely funded with Export-Import loans while Point Four financial assistance to the same country has been showing previously nomadic Afghans how to use the 400,000 newly irrigated acres that dams will create.
This project, begun in 1947 by Morrison-Knudsen, is just winding up and is typical of the kind of situations that US firms find themselves in when they work on aid project. Examples: 1) M.K. used 60 local workers for every US national employed and had some unusual problems to contend with as a result. For instance, the Afghan version of the coffee break consists of two prayer periods each day on company time in addition to three prayer sessions on the workers' own time. 2) The transportation difficulties were enormous and getting 17,000 tons of equipment into the middle of this backward Asian nation accounted for about 25% of the project's cost. 3) Despite Point Four work in Afghanistan, M.K, found it necessary to start its own model farm in one area just to show local farmers how to use the new land -- certainly an unusual venture for a construction crew."
Which particular businesses were booming abroad?
"...In the field of manufacturing and assembly plants, General Motors is probably the leader of all US investors abroad with its 27 plants in 17 nations and its $191 million expansion plan for Europe alone. Other fields marked by other blue-chip investors: Pan American (through Intercontinental Hotels) with its 15 foreign hotels, Readers Digest with its publishing plants in 14 countries, E.B. Squibb (today Bristol-Myers Squibb) with 17 factories around the world and (my personal favorite) Coca Cola with its ubiquitous bottling plants."
HOW BIG THE FUTURE? pretty much sums up the Foreign Policy of the United States of America back in 1955 -- not much seems to have changed:
"Although the scope of our private operations abroad seems large, it is actually small when measured against the undeveloped state of most of the world and the prewar investments made by Britain when she occupied our present position as leader of the Western Alliance."
The curators say, “We are setting a stage for the architects and visitors to address and respond to the most pressing architectural anxieties of the last one hundred years," and I found their attitude refreshing. Looking at the policies of the United States abroad in terms of history really gave me a new perspective on why our country is in the position that it is in today.
|Sonnets in Babylon by Daniel Libeskind - Venice Comune|
Fundamentals, the Venice Biennale 14th International Architecture Festival directed by the brilliant Rem Koolhaas runs from June 7 to November 23, 2014. Click here for more information.
Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog