Monday, 28 May 2018

Top 3 Favorite National Pavilions at #FREESPACE - La Biennale Architecture Exhibition 2018 in Venice

Bed-In by Beatriz Colomina - Dutch Pavilion - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) As a lay person with no background in architecture except for what I've learned after 20 years of living in and blogging about Venice -- the most architecturally beautiful city in the world -- what appeals to me at #FREESPACE, this year's La Biennale di Venezia 16th International Architecture Exhibition, is probably different from what appeals to professionals in the biz.

I am not including the Vatican Chapels in my Top 3 because it is in a class of its own. There were so many people at the inauguration on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore on May 25 that I just got a taste of it, and must return at a calmer time.

NUMBER ONE: The Dutch Pavilion - WORK, BODY, LEISURE

The Dutch Pavilion - WORK, BODY, LEISURE - Photo: designboom
I was just going to buzz through the Dutch Pavilion, but it was so riveting that I got stuck in there for about an hour. Upon entering, you see what appears to be a bunch of orange lockers. But when you tug on the knobs and open the lockers, there are great surprises inside. Some are windows. Some contain images. Some contain text. Some contain drawers filled with news clippings and documents. Others open onto powerful mise-en-scènes. And some are actually doors, with an entire world on the other side.

Commissioned by Het Nieuwe Instituut and curated by architect and researcher Marina Otero Verzier, "the project seeks to foster new modes of creativity and responsibility within the architectural field in response to emerging technologies of automation." The curator invited a potpourri of architects, designers, historians and theorists who take us on a journey through human labor, and how robots will impact mankind's future.

Bed-In by Beatriz Colomina - Dutch Pavilion - Photo: Cat Bauer
As a die-hard John Lennon disciple, I was astonished when I opened one door and walked into a recreation of Room 902 of the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel, the site of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Bed-In for Peace, held from March 25 to 31, 1969. Beatriz Colomina, the creator of the installation, explained: "Here the bed -- a horizontal architecture for protest, work, production and reproduction -- becomes a 'fucktory,' anticipating the working bed of today." Columina has written an essay entitled The 24/7 Bed, which you can read here.

The Netherlands Pavilion on La Biennale site is here.

NUMBER TWO: The Israeli Pavilion - IN STATU QUO

Model of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
and Surroundings, Jerusalem, 1862
Photo: Cat Bauer
The Israeli Pavilion captured me by illustrating just how difficult it is to maintain the status quo in the Holy Land, let alone try to determine a permanent solution. Subtitled Structures of Negotiation, the exhibition "traces the complex and controversial mechanism of coexistence that was established in the nineteenth century: the Status Quo," and focuses on five contested holy sites.

The pavilion starts on the ground floor with a model of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and surroundings, commissioned by the Turkish governor, Sureyya Pasha, in 1862, more than 150 years ago -- the same proprietary rights are still in effect today. Which denomination of Christianity owned what was so complicated that Pasha needed a 3D model to explain the situation to his superiors in Constantinople. So he commissioned Conrad Schick, a German Protestant archaeologist and clock maker to build a wooden model to try to make some sense out of the whole thing.

The Holy Sepulcher contains two of the most important Christian sites: where Jesus Christ was crucified, and his empty tomb. It was an effective reminder that it isn't only Muslims and Jews that are fighting over the territory of the Holy Land, but that Christians make strong claims on the region, too, and have been battling over Jerusalem for centuries.

Legend for the different Christian denominations in the Holy Sepulchre - Photo: Cat Bauer (with foot:-)
Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem is revered as the burial place of the biblical matriarch, Rachel, and is considered holy by all the Big Three: Jews, Christians and Muslims. It used to be that the roadside tomb was open to everyone; it is now surrounded by a 26-foot high separation wall and accessible only to Jewish worshipers.

The other three sites are the Mughrabi Ascent in Jerusalem, the only one of the eleven entrances to the upper level of the Temple Mount that is open to non-Muslims; The Cave of the Patriarchs aka the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, shared by both Jews and Muslims; and the Western or Wailing Wall Plaza in Jerusalem, which was created after Israel destroyed the 800-year-old Muslim Mughrabi Quarter in 1967 and transformed an intimate courtyard into a vast plaza.

The Israel Pavilion on La Biennale site is here.

NUMBER THREE: The Romanian Pavilion - MNEMONICS

Mnemonics at the Romania Pavilion - Photo: Cat Bauer
I loved the Romanian Pavilion simply because it was fun and I got to play with a bunch of kids. Inside the grey and pedestrian pavilion are childhood playground games like swings and ping pong, devoid of any color. I hopped on one of those foot-propelled old-fashioned carousels and was spinning myself around when some little girls jumped on. I hopped off and started spinning them so they could go faster -- but not too fast -- when suddenly the carousel kicked into warp speed after a 12-old-boy hopped on. The kids were just flying, and my memory lit up with colors and swirls and green grass and trees and pine needles and brown earth, and how when we were kids we would spin ourselves right off the carousel, and how much fun that was, which is the simple message of Mnemonics. Fun for grownups, too!

"Mnemonics refers to the power of space to generate strong, vivid memories." The Romania Pavilion on La Biennale site is here.

La Biennale di Venezia - 16th International Architecture Exhibition runs through November 25, 2018. Go to La Biennale for more information.

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

1 comment:

  1. As a lay person with no background in architecture except for what I've learned by living in Venice, the most architecturally beautiful city in the world, for 20 years, what appeals to me at #FREESPACE, this year's La Biennale di Venezia 16th International Architecture Exhibition is probably different than what appeals to professionals in the biz.

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Ciao from Venice,
Cat