Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Can #Generosity go Viral? FREESPACE - Venice's 16th International Architecture Exhibition

Light on the Doge's Palace - Photo: Shelley McNamara
(Venice, Italy) "The Beast from the East meets Storm Emma" stranded co-curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara in Dublin on Friday, March 2, so they Skyped into the presentation of La Biennale's 16th International Architecture Exhibition. McNamara said they were sad not to be able to come to Venice, but observed how Nature -- the winds from Siberia hitting a storm in the Bay of Biscay -- was still running the show here on planet Earth.

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara are famous for working as a team. They live and work in Dublin, and co-founded the firm Grafton Architects in 1977. Grafton won the World Building of the Year Award in 2008 for the design of the new building for the Università Bocconi in Milan, as well as many other prestigious awards.

The Arts of La Biennale in 2018
The Arts of La Biennale 2018 - Click to englarge

Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia, said that it is we, the citizens, who create the historic center of a city, and that the Architecture Exhibition has two goals:
1. To complete the system of the arts that La Biennale is devoted to -- Art, Cinema, Theatre, Dance, Music -- by engaging in the most political of all the arts
2. To address the public with an informative as well as pedagogical-political function
Showing how something "can be done differently" is in itself a gesture against dependence and conformism.

Therefore, the goal is to promote the desire for architecture.

Giardini - Photo: Francesco Galli
Attendance by both professionals and the public at La Biennale's International Architecture Exhibition has exploded over the years, evolving into one of the most important events on the cultural calendar. There are 65 countries from around the globe that will participate, in addition to the 71 participants who have been invited by the curators. Farrell and McNamara's theme is FREESPACE, and they have written a Manifesto, which you can read in its entirety on La Biennale di Venezia website.

In addition to the 65 national pavilions and the 71 participants, there will be two Special Sections. The first is titled Close Encounter where 16 participants will present works inspired by well-known buildings of the past. The second is titled The Practice of Teaching in which 13 participants, many of whom are actively involved in teaching, will collect projects developed as teaching experiences. There will be Biennale Sessions for universities and institutes of higher learning. There will be educational experiences for students, children, families, adults, professionals and companies. For six months, FREESPACE will be a topic of discussion here in Venice that will resonate throughout the Earth. As architects, Farrel and McNamara see Earth as a client.

FREESPACE describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture's agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself. It provides the opportunity to emphasize nature's free gifts of light -- sunlight and moonlight, air gravity, materials -- natural and man-made resources.

Danish architect Jorn Utzon's concrete and tiled seat at the entrance of the house at Can Lis, Majorca is an example of an element molded perfectly to accommodate the human body. The sunlight on Palazzo Ducale in Venice is an example of a free gift of beauty from Nature.

Jorn Utzon's entrance seat at Can Lis - Photo by Beatrice Pedrotti
Farrell and McNamara relied on the FREESPACE Manifesto to put the Exhibition together, calling it a "robust tool." They revealed the list of participants on Friday, saying that it was wonderful to think that for months architects around the globe have been pondering and responding to the FREESPACE Manifesto, trying to dig deep and reveal the FREESPACE ingredient in their work.

"We believe that everyone has the right to benefit from architecture. The role of architecture is to give shelter to our bodies and to lift our spirits A beautiful wall forming a street edge gives pleasure to the passer-by, even if they never go inside. So, too, does a glimpse into a courtyard through an archway, or a place to lean against in the shade, or a recess which offers protection from the wind and rain."

There are seven countries that are participating in the Architecture Exhibition for the first time: Antigua & Barbuda, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Lebanon, Mongolia, Pakistan, and, most intriguingly -- the Holy See.

Aerial View of the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore 
photo by Alessandra Chemollo 
Curated by Francesco Dal Co, who was the Director of La Biennale's Architecture Exhibition in 1988 through 1991, the Holy See's pavilion will be set inside the mystical forest on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore -- which is truly one of the most enchanting venues on the planet. Peaceful and serene, the island has been a haven for enlightened thinkers since the ninth century.

Inspired by Skogskapellet, or, "Woodland Chapel," a simple wooden structure built in 1920 by Gunnar Asplund in the Stockholm cemetery, Francesco Dal Co has selected ten architects to create their own personal chapels set in the woods. The chapels must be constructed so that they can be transported to places that lack their own houses of worship when La Biennale is over in November. (If you would like to learn more about the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, I wrote an article for LUXOS.com entitled "A Heavenly Island in Venice - Where Humanism Meets Heaven.")

Personally, I can't wait until the Architectural Exhibition previews, which are on May 24 -25, so I can experience how the architects have incorporated FREESPACE into their work. Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara ended their statement with an ancient Greek Proverb:

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."

La Biennale di Venezia 16th International Architecture Exhibition will run from May 26 through November 25, 2018. Go to La Biennale di Venezia for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. Personally, I can't wait until the Architectural Exhibition previews, which are on May 24 -25, so I can experience how the architects have incorporated FREESPACE into their work. Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara ended their statement with an ancient Greek Proverb:
    "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."

    ReplyDelete