by Nathan Romero Muelas
|“Radix”, Aires Mateus|
In “Le Rouge et le Noir” Stendhal famously wrote that the novel was a mirror carried along the highway, reflecting at times the blue skies and other times the mud of the road, a sentence that soon became a banner for realism in literature. This 13th Venice architecture Biennale directed by David Chipperfield, could be proposed as a version of Stendhal’s passing and, in principle, innocent mirror.
Chipperfield´s mirror locks on very diverse places, always relevant: this is one of the most inclusive Biennale to the date, conveying in its kaleidoscopic character a quite complete vision of the many open fronts of today’s architecture, from the most personal researches to the very militant or committed.
The theme of this Biennale “Common Ground” appears well intentioned and general, emphasis being made on shared aspects and collaboration. At the exhibition this will have multiple readings:
In this first “intradisciplinary” group we could include the profound dialog of the Irish Grafton Architects with the Brazilian master Mendes da Rocha and the intriguing room showing construction details in half scale turned into dialoging totems by Toshiko Mori. And finally I would highlight the tridimensional exploration on the theme of the copy that Cino Zucchi displays in “Copycat”, an elegant taxonomy on the recurrence of form.
Here we can place the golden lion winning project “Torre de David”, the record of the occupation by the homeless of a banking headquarters skyscraper in Caracas, portrayed in a direct and vibrant manner by Urban-Think tank and J. McGuirk. Also the “Spontaneous interventions” presented by the United States Pavilion and “the banality of good”, a very political installation on urban dynamics by Crimson Architectural Historians.
The pavilion curated by Toyo Ito documents the possibility and transforming power of architecture after the concrete catastrophe of the tsunami. Pragmatic and delicate, the project is necessarily contextual but paradoxically utopist in its social ambitions.
This rotund gesture prepares the occasion: on a white table a number of architects lay a sort of sediment of their creative world, through self chosen postcard-size images. Beyond the self-referential cultivated game, this reminds us of the presence of the artistic, esthetic and even autobiographic universe of each creator within the architectural process. An intense and unsettling phenomenon takes place: on this big table of clinical whiteness, these creators are on display, scrutinized, fixed in their horizontality. We are entering a very private territory. We watch the dissecting table, the aseptic laboratories of modern archeology. There remains the work, hard, insufficient and partial, of reconstructing something that once was living pulsion, creative flame.
Souto de Moura’s intervention, smaller in size, stands at the periphery of the garden, by the water, leaving center stage to Siza, his old master. Part ship and part dock, the little sand color pavilion consists of a linear open corridor flanked by a low wall towards the garden and three openings of different proportions framing the view across the water. A virtuous exercise that stages the capacity of the architect to interpret the environment, through the dimensioning of openings and the election of views. We enjoy the pavilion mostly standing on it, but in the “vaporetto” on our way to the airport, it revealed also its precise and calm proportions from the waterside.