If you follow us on Twitter or Instagram, you may have gathered that a large part of the team were out and about at the Venice Biennale last week. As well as representing our clients’ pavilions and projects out there, the team also managed to take in some of the Biennale’s other offerings (alongside a few Aperol spritzes and glasses of prosecco for good measure).
When asked for their standout highlights from the whole Biennale, which any visitor to Venice between now and November simply must visit, here is what made the grade.
“My highlight was part of the main ‘Reporting From The Front’ exhibition – an immersive video installation that documented the everyday life of school children in Santiago, Chile. Created by architects Mirene Elton and Maurico Leniz, the installation explored their site-specific user experience in the design. Visually it was very cool – you stand in the middle of the canvases and the video is projected across 360 degrees. It is beautifully done and definitely has the ‘wow’ factor when you walk in.” Estelle Jarvis
“With so many participants at the Venice Biennale the challenge to engage audiences can often lead exhibitors to over compensate. From too much text, garish colours to unreliable virtual reality tech, having the confidence to let your work do the talking can have a huge impact.
Grafton Architects showed this in typically restrained and intelligent fashion with their video installation ‘The Physics of Culture’ in Alejandro Aravena’s Central Pavilion. Focusing on their UTEC University of Lima Campus in Peru, plans and models for which they exhibited at the 2012 Biennale, the film is an elegant portrait of their clean and considered concrete building.
In terms of Reporting from the Front, it portrays students and staff simply moving around the building, engaging with the space and enjoying it, as well as shots of the city and how the campus sits within in it. The film, produced by Filmico together with Fadeout, was reminiscent of Sarah Morris’ Bye Bye Brazil, in that it captures a sense of the building and life in a city without being brash or even loud (audio was simply traffic, echoes or field recordings). It was hard to pick a highlight and this was one of many, but the contrast and execution of ‘The Physics of Culture’ stood out for me in particular.” Bobby Jewell
“My top pick of the Venice Biennale is a triple whammy as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania combine forces, for the first time, to present a vast and thoughtful exhibition at the Baltic Pavilion – it’s a story from three fronts. Set in a brutalist sports hall designed by Entrichetto Capuzzo close to the Arsenale, the project explores the individual countries’ architectural infrastructure and use of natural resources through photography, diagrams, video pieces and sculptures brought together by the Pavilion’s nine curators under a huge white canopy. This pavilion deserves time and attention so if you visit, take your time to consider each piece individually and then as part of a whole in order to truly understand the story shared here from the Baltic states.” Luke Neve
“Venice during the Biennale previews was hectic. My days were full of commissioning last minute photographers, sourcing microphones, catching up with old colleagues and friends, meeting new colleagues, eating, drinking, rescuing speakers from the Vaporett0, looking after journalists, arranging interviews with the curators, stuffing press packs, sending images, walking to the Giardini, to the Arsenale and back again and again, and again.
On the last afternoon I finally got to see some pavilions, other than the ones we were representing: The British pavilion was brought to life by an informative talk by one of the curators but I must admit I got lucky joining the tour. I would have missed a large part of the essence of the pavilion if I had walked around myself. My top three were Spain, Ireland and Turkey.
I spent a much-needed half hour (waiting for my iPhone to charge) sitting on the wooden steps of the Nordic Pavilion contemplating the theme of the Biennale, Reporting from the Front. It was the first time I’d stopped in two days and I enjoyed the sense of stillness and contemplation the ‘In Therapy’ installation encouraged.
The Australian pavilion achieved this same sense of stopping and thinking. While you could argue that it didn’t tick Aravena’s theme box, it definitely brought a bit of Australia to Venice. It was great to see kids and adults kick off their shoes and just enjoy the space and the amazing atmosphere enhanced by the natural and artificial light.
So what conclusion did I draw from the theme while contemplating in the Nordic and Australian pavilions? My four-year-old pretend plays he is a super hero. I imagine his dreams are full of a make believe world where good always triumphs over bad. Aravena speaks about ‘expanding the role of the architect’ in the catalogue. Well, if all the visions of this year’s Venice Biennale installations come true then perhaps we have born witness to a new kind of super hero – the architect. It is one of the few disciplines that really does have the power to change the world in which we live for the greater good. Many of the reviews have criticised the theme being ‘too worthy, too social, and not about buildings’ but I would encourage every school to take their classes to this year’s Biennale and show the kids that if they train to be an architect then they can battle the forces of evil and create a better world.” Dominique Broomfield
The Venice Biennale runs until 27 November 2016.