May 28, 2016 - Nov 27, 2016

REPORTING FROM THE FRONT - ARSENALE - CORDERIE

Biennale Architettura 2016 - International Exhibition

Biennale Architettura 2016

PAOLO BARATTA - President of La Biennale di Venezia 
While opening previous editions, we have often complained that the present seems to show an increasing divergence between architecture and civil society. Now we wish to explicitly examine whether and where there exist phenomena that show trends that run in the opposite direction with positive messages and we're interested in having not only to the results, submitted to critical judgement, but also in the phenomenology of what has taken place in these positive examples: how the demand for architecture was born, how the needs and desires were highlighted and expressed, which procedures - logical, institutional, legal, poltical and administrative - led to the demand for architecture, and thus allowed it to find solutions, beyond the banal or self-harming ones. We are interested in the awareness that, when it is useful in leading  to the creation of public goods, architecture is a public good, in its technical definition: one's fruition does not reduce the chance for its enjoyment by others. Presenting architecture in action is also one of the answers to the permanent question raised by La Biennale. What is an architecture exhibition and what a Biennale Architettura is? We need to engage with all the possible actors reponsible for the decisions and actions with which the space of our leaving is realized. If Architecture is the most political of the arts, then the Architecture Biennale must acknowledge it. 
ALEJANDRO ARAVENA - Curator of the Biennale Architettura 2016
In his trip to South America, Bruce Chatwin encountered an old lady walking in the desert carrying an aluminium ladder on her shoulder. It was German archeologist Maria Reiche, studying the Nazca lines. Standing on the ground, the stones did not make any sense; they were just random gravel. But from the height of the ladder those stones became a bird, a tree, or a flower. Maria Reiche did not have the resources nor the technology to study the lines from above the desert. But she was creative enough to still find a way to achieve her goal. The modest ladder is the proof that we shouldn't blame the harshness of constraints for our incapacity to do our job. Against scarcity: inventiveness. On the other hand, standing on the roof of a car or a truck to look from a certain height and moving around the area would have destroyed the object she was trying to study. So, there was a canny understanding of the reality and the means through which to care for it. Against abundance: pertinence. We would like the Biennale Architettura 2016 to offer a new point of view like the one Maria Reiche has from atop the ladder. Given the complexity and variety of challenges that architecture has to respond to, Reporting From the Front will be about listening to those who were able to gain some perspective and are consequently in the position to share some knowledge and experiences, inventiveness and pertinence with those of us standing on the ground. 
BIENNALE ARCHITECTURE 2016 "MAKING OF"
Mockup built using the debris from Biennale Arte 2015, for the Introduction rooms of Biennale Architettura 2016. Plasterboard debris wall and steel stud celling.

REPORTING FROM THE FRONT
Architecture is about giving form to the places where we live. It is not more complicated than that, but also not easier than that. Those places include houses, schools, offices, shops and retail areas in general, museums, palaces and government buildings, bus stops, subway stations, squares, parks, streets, trees along the streets (or not), sidewalks, parking, and the whole range of programs and pieces that constitute or built environment.
The form of those places, though, is defined not just by the esthetic trend of the moment or the talent of a given designer; they are the consequence of regulations, interests, economies and policies, or perhaps even of the lack of coordination, indifference, and simple chance The forms these places assume may improve or ruin people's lives.

The difficulty of the circumstances (scarcity of means, ruthless constraints, urgencies of all kinds) is a constant threat to the delivery of quality. The forces at play are not necessarily amicable either: the greed and impatience of capital or the single-mindedness and conservatism of bureaucracy tend to produce banal, mediocre, dull built environments. There are many battles that need to be won in order to improve the quality built environments and consequently people's quality of life.

In addition to that, the notion of quality of life ranges from very basic physical needs to the most intangible dimensions of the human condition.
Consequently, improving the quality of the built environment is an endeavor that has to tackle many fronts: from guaranteeing very concrete, down-to-earth living standards to interpreting and fulfilling human desires, from respecting the single individual to taking care of the common good, from efficiently hosting daily activities to expanding the frontiers of civilization.
Our curatorial prosposal is twofold: on the one hand we would like to widen the range of issues to which architecture is expected to respond, adding explicitly to the cultural and artistic dimension that already belong to our scope, those that are on the social, political, economic, and environmental end of the spectrum.
On the other hand, we would like to highlight the fact that architecture is called on to respond to more than one dimension at time, integrating a variety of fields instead of choosing one or another.
Reporting From the Front will be about sharing with a broader audience the work of people who are scrutinizing the horizon looking for new fields of action presenting examples where different dimensions are synthesized, integrating the pragmatic with the existential, pertinence and boldness, creativity and common sense.

These are the frontlines from which we would like different practitioners to report, sharing success stories and exemplary cases where architecture made, is making, and will continue to make a difference.
In order to identify those examples we started from four different angles:

A. Themes
We came up with a list of issues that need to be addressed. Issues like inequalities, sustainability, insecurity, segregation, traffic, pollution, waste, migration, natural disasters, informality, peripheries, and the housing shortage are problems where basic needs and human rights are at stake. We went to look for creative, innovative practitioners willing to risk going into such complex fields. At the other end of the spectrum, we understood that issues like the mediocrity, banality and dullness of the places where we live are equally menacing for the quality of life. So we invited those consistent solid professionals who constitute a kind of resistance and moral reserve of the discipline against such threats.

B. Projects
We knew of projects that we thought had made a contribution so we wanted to know the story behind them, the difficulties, the tipping points, and the strategies they developed in order to succed.

C. Architects (or practitioners)
We contacted those we adimre or had a history of consistently producing quality outcomes in different circumstances. We asked them what were they'd been working on recently or what their next thing was going to be. In short: good architects.

D. Spontaneous submissions
Finally, La Biennale and Elemental began to receive spontaneous submissions from different people or projects that we were not aware of.
Following this, we proceed to invite people.
We did not have any kind of geographical, age, or gender quota. We sought only quality.
Some of them never responded.
Others declined, arguing that even though they were very much interested in the theme, they did not have enough time to give a proper response. Most accepted the challenge and began a dialogue with the curatorial team.

There were some attributes that we wanted the final selection to be able to reflect: for example, we wanted to highlight and underline those practices that even in the most conventional circumstances (doing buildings) were able to respond with precision and consistency to the request, fulfill the needs and desires that originated them and ultimately stand the test of time. We wanted to insist (until it becomes a shared minimum flotation level) on those examples that avoid trends and fashion and resisted the temptation of unnecessary frills.
We wanted to achieve a certain critical mass of architects, younger and older, known or less known, who were honestly in search of a certain timelessness and yet willing to respond to the challenges of our time. We were looking for projects able to integrate more than one dimension at a time, framing old charged issues in an original way in order to move forward.
In any case, it was crucial that there had to be a proposal; just to raise awareness of a problem (or do research), no matter how relevant the challenge may be, was not enough.
The relevance of the problem or the difficulty of the circumstances should not excuse practitioners from responding with quality architecture. Nor was the opposite approach enough: builidings that look nice but are unable to say which problem they are trying to address did not make it to the short list. We did our best to select examples that address a problem that matters and for which quality architecture made a difference.

RECURSOS OSCUROS - DARK RESOURCES
AL BORDE

Architecture against all odds.

PLAY FOR REAL
51N4E

Using a single building as an advocate for an entire building industry and code upgrade.

AT THE PARALLEL SCENE. A CONSTRUCTION EXPERIMENT OF A MUSEUM AND A SALVATION OF AN AREA OF VILLAGES
AMATEUR ARCHITECTURE STUDIO

Using professional prestige to change the status quo.

BEYOND FORM
WERNER SOBEK

Less weight, less energy.

MACHINES PLUGGED INTO THE CITYSCAPE
MENOS E MAIS

Using infrastructure as a way to transform heritage into legacy.

FLATTEN THE CITY, REVEAL THE LANDSCAPE. CARPINTEIRA PEDERSTRIAN BRIDGE, COVILHA, PORTUGAL (2009)
JOAO LUIS CARRILHO DA GRACA

Negotiating generic infrastructural logic with specific local values.

EPHEMERAL URBANISM: CITIES IN CONSTANT FLUX
RAHUL MEHROTRA and FELIPE VERA

Kumbh Mela, a seven milion ephemeral settlment.

SETTLING THE NOMADS
RURAL URBAN FRAMEWORK, THE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG

Sedentary versus nomadic; cities should be able to host from modern to archaic ways of living if they want to properly tackle the migration of people towards them.

MORE THAN A HUNDRED YEARS
CHRIST & GANTENBEIN with STEFANO GRAZIANI

Sustainble architecture is not just one that disappears peacefully (recyclable), but one that stands the test of time (durable).

TEN YEARS LATER, THE WOODCUTTER MADE IT IN VENICE
GRUPOTALCA

How to bring architecture where there is none.

MATREX
BERNASKONI

Control the whole process or let go?

IN SEARCH OF THE UNEXPECTED
MARTE.MARTE ARCHITECTS

Testing the capacity of infrastructure planned in advance (efficiency) to react to the unexpected of the place (identity).

A NEW MAM FOR SAO PAULO
SPBR ARQUITETOS

A building of infrastructural and public space scale as a model for the megalopolis.

A SENTIMENTAL MONUMENTALITY
BAROZZI / VEIGA

Making things last-another dimension of sustainability.

DELAYED MONUMENT. "ARCHITECTURAL PRINCIPLES IN THE AGE OF SCIENTIFICISM"
ALONSO DE SANTOS ESTUDIO

Architecture as a peak of civilization.

WHERE TO LOOK
CECILIA PUGA 

The talent that is needed to conduct with integrity the transit from sketch to reality.

NEUBAU - ON KONIGSBERGER STRASSE AND ALEPPOER WEG
BeL - SOZIETAT FUR ARCHITEKTUR

Open incremental architecture able to register the cultural backgrounds of dwellers (or even refugees).

BEYOND BENDING. LEARNING FROM THE PAST TO DESIGN A BETTER FUTURE
BLOCK REASEARCH GROUP, ETH ZURICH with OCHSENDORF, DEJONG & BLOCK and with THE ESCOBEDO GROUP

The war on bending.

LOCAL IDENTITY - EXPLORING A FORGOTTEN RESOURCE
TRANSSOLAR with ANJA THIERFELDER

Cutting edge engineering at the service of common sense.

INVERTED RUINS
PAULO DAVID

Landscape and tourism: between exploiting and preserving.

THE CLIMATE BATTLE (THE MUSUEM OF CLIMATE IN LLEIDA CITY)
ESTUDI D'ARQUITECTURA TONI GIRONES

Walking the talk of climate change.

useFULL
RURAL STUDIO, AUBURN UNIVERSITY

Integrating hands-on architectural education with social usefulness.

MONTE CARASSO MASTERPLAN
STUDIO SNOZZI

From refusing a commission for a school to taking care of the whole village.

THE BATTLE. UNBUILT COLUMNS
TADAO ANDO ARCHITECT & ASSOCIATES

Trying to negotiate heritage (preservation), art (change), and mass tourism (predation).

BUILDING KNOWLEDGE: AN INVENTORY OF STRATEGIES
ANUPAMA KUNDOO ARCHITECTS

Creating buildings using local knowledge and using buildings to create knowledge.

PEOPLE
INES LOBO, ARQUITECTOS

Urban decay, migrants, and economic crisis.

THE VOICE OF CHILDREN
ASSEMBLE

Questioning authorship and authority in the city.

MICRO HUTONG RENEWAL, BEIJING
ZAO / STANDARDARCHITECTURE

Revisiting the hutong. a traditional courtyard house typology.

EDUcare
C+S ARCHITECTS

Public buildings as public goods.

SLOWLESS DIGNIFIED
HOLLMEN REUTER SANDMAN ARCHITECTS

Improving the architectural quality and humanitarian aid.

MOLOFUNCTIONAL
TYIN TEGNESTUE

Learning from the global south.

THE RING: BROADCASTING LIVE
JOSE MARIA SANCHEZ GARCIA

Architecture as an intensification of reality.

LET'S TALK ABOUT GARBAGE
HUGON KOWALSKI + MARCIN SZCZELINA 
ROCK GARDEN - KINGDOM OF GOD & GODDESS
ROCK GARDEN

Rock Garden: invention in its pures state.

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