Biennale Architettura 2018: Responding To The Space Around Us

The Biennale Architettura 2018 is currently being held in Venice. It opened in May and runs until November. As with previous biennials this year’s event focuses on “…examples, proposals, elements – built or unbuilt – of work that exemplifies essential qualities of architecture.”

The exhibition was curated by the Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, co-founders of Grafton Architects in Dublin. 

This year’s theme is FREESPACE and the curators have encouraged a generous interpretation of that term. Starting from the premise that architecture is “…thinking applied to the space where we live, that we inhabit…” they have chosen projects that explore the “…question of space, the quality of space, open and free space.”

To get a better understanding of the range and scope of the exhibits let’s look a a few of the biennial’s pavilions…

The Swiss Pavilion features an installation titled House Tour that focuses on the physical similarities of nearly all contemporary apartments and rental properties…items such as blank white walls, box-like rooms, plastic window frames and generic door handles. 

As visitors move through House Tour they are gradually introduced to exaggerated versions of commonly used (even overused) architectural elements. By radically altering scale and spaces the architects encourage a dialog about the qualities of those elements as they appear in the real world of temporary housing.

Here is a short video about House Tour created by the folks at Dezeen, an online architecture and design magazine.

For those of you reading this in e-mail click here to see the video.

The Nordic Pavilion contains enormous inflated balloons that constantly monitor, and respond to, the atmospheric conditions outside the pavilion. They expand or contract based on the carbon-dioxide levels and humidity in the air. They also change color in response to the temperature.

Biennale Architettura 2018 Nordic Pavilion with inflatable objects

Although they are not permanent structural elements these soft inflatables dominate the space that houses them. The fact that they “breath” and respond to natural elements make the forms seem life-like and the entire space becomes more engaging. They introduce a “living” organic presence to an otherwise sterile rectilinear environment.

The architects who designed these inflatables wanted “…to try to think of what architecture could be in a more symbiotic relationship with its environment.”

The Australian Pavilion focuses on the relationship between architecture and its surrounding natural spaces in yet another way. Their installation titled Grasslands Repair is a statement about the loss of native plant life over the years, architecture’s roll in that loss, and possibilities for architecture that can help reverse this trend.

Biennale Architettura 2018 Australian Pavilion with indoor meadow

Commemorating the loss to urbanization and development of more than 90% of the grasslands in southeast Victoria, these architects brought in lighting, irrigation and over 10,000 plants to create a garden inside and around the pavilion. They also project more than a dozen videos on the pavilion’s walls that feature architectural projects focused on restoring the landscape. 

The Australian architects note that ”…there is a role for architecture to actively engage with the repair of the places it is part of: the soil, hydrology, habitat, connections, overland water flow, microorganisms, vegetation and so on.”

As you can tell, this biennial exhibition is showcasing a wide range of formal, conceptual and political responses to the notion of how architecture engages space. You can find additional examples and read more about Biennale Architettura 2018 here.

Photos in this post are courtesy of the online magazine Dezeen.

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