As you might expect from anything involving Rem Koolhaas, the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale is different. The title, ‘Fundamentals’, is a clue to the curator’s attitude: what is that has made profound differences to the architecture of the past 100 years?
This is not a ‘back-to-basics’ exercise, more an examination of the myriad ways in which Modernism affected traditional architectures, and architectural traditions, across the world.
Koolhaas was appointed just after the last Biennale, giving him the luxury (denied to David Chipperfield, whose show in 2012 was a triumph of achievement against the clock) of setting a programme to which the national pavilions can truly respond.
And so they have. Unusually for this event, much of the work on display is not contemporary; far less of the (at worst) self-promotion that can characterise this show, far more thoughtful interpretation of Whatever Happened to Architecture.
Bound to provoke debate, amongst historians just as much as architects, a question arises as to whether architecture has any particular direction – not just now, but ever? And if it did, was that a productive or destructive tendency?
Shades of Prince Charles, I fear, but the Biennale offers a chance to reflect, reassess and – though this will inevitably take time – respond accordingly.
Paul Finch is director of the World Architecture Festival, and Inside Festival