May 28, 2016 - Nov 27, 2016


New Zealand - Biennale Architettura 2016

Future Islands

"Whatever country my words may evoke around you, you will see it from your vantage point." Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

About 'Future Islands'
How may a country’s architecture be communicated and comprehended? Future Islands presents New Zealand architecture as a grouping of metaphorical islands, an imagined archipelago encompassing a variety of approaches and responses to the fluid and uncertain conditions of contemporary global practice.The exhibition explores some of the opportunities available to architects working in one of the world’s smallest, most open, informal and diverse societies.It acknowledges and encourages speculative work because architects – forever optimistic, as they are obliged to be – have a responsibility to develop new ways to help different people live together in changing social and natural environments.Future Islands puts its faith in architecture’s possibilities,its necessary enterprise and requisite adventure –an appropriate commitment in Venice, where for numerous prosperous centuries the merchant galleys went on their expeditions, trading risk for reward.
Creative leads
Dr Charles Walker (BArch, DipArch, MSc, PhD) leads New Zealand’s creative team to the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Walker has a comprehensive knowledge of New Zealand architecture. He was the editor of 'Exquisite Apart', a book documenting 100 years of architecture in New Zealand, and is a former associate head of design at The University of Auckland School of Architecture and Colab at AUT University. The exhibition's associate director is Kathy Waghorn, a senior lecturer in design and media at the University of Auckland School of Architecture and Planning. Waghorn has delivered complex multi-disciplinary projects in exhibition, publication and performance-based formats.

The creative team, back: Bruce Ferguson, Jessica Barter, Maggie Carroll, Kathy Waghorn, Jon Rennie, Minka Ip. Front: Stephen Brookbanks, Charles Walker.

Riva degli Schiavone, Venice. 'Future Islands' is located just back from this busy promenade.

'Future Islands' opening ceremony. A haka (traditional war cry or dance) is performed by New Zealand's cultural delegation in front of Palazzo Bollani.

Introductory text at Palazzo Bollani.

The exhibition insitu at Palazzo Bollani.

The formal Maori blessing of the exhibition led by delegations from Ngai Tuhoe and AUT University.

About 'Future Islands'. How may a country’s architecture be communicated and comprehended? Charles Walker, creative director of 'Future Islands', explains themes and conceptual motivations.

On Future Islands
Charles Walker, Creative Director of Future Islands, discusses the exhibition: "We started by thinking about what we could say about architecture in New Zealand, and how and why we might say it in a meaningful way, in an international context. At a time when national jurisdictional boundaries are increasingly questionable, what, if anything, constitutes ‘New Zealand architecture’? We are interested in how New Zealand, which foreigners might presume is relatively homogeneous, is actually one of the most dynamic societies in the world in terms of population demographics, political economy and culture. We wanted to look at that in the international context of financial uncertainty, climate change, inequality, and what could turn out to be one of the most significant global movements of people – migrants and refugees – in history. Also, as academics interacting with people in the early stages of their architectural careers, my Associate Creative Director Kathy Waghorn and I are very conscious of how the profession is attracting a greater variety of people, and there is now a greater diversity of approaches and influences than our histories tend to record. We started to think about the opportunities and responsibilities for architects in the early years of the twenty-first century – about how architects are reflecting or responding to that super-diversity in architectural terms, and the implications of all this for New Zealand architecture."

Exhibition interior. The exhibition is installed within two rooms, one light-filled, the other darkened.

Future Islands and Invisible Cities
'Future Islands' is a story about New Zealand but it also has a conceptual connection to Venice. The exhibition’s structure is loosely derived from Italo Calvino’s 'Invisible Cities', a book framed around a conversation about cities and life between Marco Polo and the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. Over nine chapters, the famous Venetian explorer recounts tales of 55 wondrous cities he has seen, the conceit being that all the stories are fictional descriptions of Venice. Likewise, 'Future Islands' presents 55 architectural projects – multiple evolutions and evocations of the varied faces of New Zealand architecture. The exhibition’s creative director, Charles Walker, says “Islands have always provided real sites for different ways of living, and imaginary sites for possible ways of living differently. They have inspired romantic and utopian narratives, and they have always been, literally, places of discovery. In this spirit, our exhibition will present contemporary architectural practice in New Zealand and explore the frontier of New Zealand’s architecture.”
Referencing Calvino
"I’ve always been a fan of Italo Calvino’s 'Invisible Cities'," Walker says. "When I was a student it was a cult book – this was very much in the post-modern period – but I’ve returned to it over the last few years. In the book, Marco Polo, the Venetian merchant who went to China in the thirteenth century, is telling Kublai Khan stories about the wondrous cities he’s seen on his travels. The emperor is entranced by these stories, and also slightly suspicious of them. As it turns out, what Polo is doing is describing his own city of Venice over and over again, in different ways and from different perspectives. We wondered whether we could do something like that about New Zealand. The propositions in 'Invisible Cities' are dressed up as fantasies and allegories, but they’re informed by real contemporary debates about architecture, politics and the city... 'Invisible Cities' came out when the French post-structuralists were deconstructing meaning. Everything was picked apart,but nothing was put back in place. I think that’s a very anti-architectural position. Architects don’t want to just tear things down, they want to build things up. Calvino was saying we can’t just criticise everything. He admired what he called intelligenza leggera, the ‘light intelligence’, of Renzo Piano, and his ability to link knowledge, imagination and technology. I think by telling stories about fantastic projects Calvino was exploring the tension between pragmatics and poetic expression that is also at the heart of architectural practice." (Charles Walker; 'Future Islands' catalogue)
Metaphorical islands
By presenting New Zealand architecture as a grouping of metaphorical islands, an imagined archipelago encompassing a variety of approaches and responses to the fluid and uncertain conditions of contemporary practice, 'Future Islands' establishes New Zealand as innovative, creative, forward-thinking and bold.The exhibition explores some of the opportunities available to architects working in one of the world’s smallest, most open, informal and diverse societies. It acknowledges and encourages speculative work because architects – forever optimistic, as they are obliged to be – have a responsibility to develop new ways to help different people live together in changing social and natural environments. 
Diverse perspectives
'Future Islands' presents multiple perspectives of the country’s architecture – nearly fifty projects, many of them unrealised,designed by big firms, small practice and students, are modelled in the exhibition. In the exhibition, the link to Italo Calvino isn't labored, but there is one overt reference: there is the same number of projects in 'Future Islands' as there are stories in 'Invisible Cities', and they’re categorised, as in the book, according to a simple taxonomy. Calvino tells short stories about 55 cities which fall into 11 types: cities of memory, cities and desire, cities and signs, etc. Like Calvino’s cities, the projects in 'Future Islands' are assigned to various categories: "Islands of knowing, islands of prospect and refuge, reclaimed worlds, islands of encounter, suburban islands, future climates, making islands, trading islands, and islands of (im)possibility."

Te Uru Taumatua, an illustration of the exhibition theme of Reclaimed Worlds.

Four figures illustrate four women, recent architecture school graudates, who collaborated to build a whare (house) in the bush.

A sphere-like form from 'Occupying Māori Architectural Time', Reconstructing the Architectural Process through Māori Interpretations of Space.

Occupying Māori Architectural Time
The programme for a commercial paua farm within a Wellington marina forms a starting point from which to explore Māori notions of space, time and (the loss of) identity within a colonised landscape. Provocatively posited as a ‘Māorigang business front’ as a means of confronting cultural stereotypes,the architectural proposition is reimagined as a series of fantastic spheres constructed by The Warrior, a mythical hero who circumnavigates Māori Time, journeying through past, present and future states. Each planet represents a single function: The Entrance, The Meeting Room, The Studio of Resistance, The Block Bar and Eatery, and The Pāua Farm. The project explores new conceptual and methodological spaces for pūrakau (shared Māori creation myths or interactive narratives) that can inform the design, construction and ongoing re-creation of the urbanlandscape. (text: Charles Walker; Reclaimed Worlds, 'Future Islands' catalogue)
Christchurch Bus Interchange
Christchurch Bus Interchange is a project that was realised in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake of 22 February 2011, which killed 185 people and rendered the centre of the city uninhabitable. Damaged buildings were still being demolished five years after the quake. In the aftermath of the disaster there was intense discussion about the rebuilding of the city. A fundamental question was: Should the city actually have a CBD and, if so, what shape should it take? As businesses fled to the safer suburbs, the agencies in charge of urban recovery announced that the central city would be rebuilt – with a smaller footprint – and that it,and the recovery as a whole, would be buttressed by substantial public‘anchor’ projects. The first anchor to be put down is the Christchurch Bus Interchange. Four principles guided its construction: urban integration,customer comfort, operational excellence, and value. The 3500m2 building is designed for safety and ease of use, and is intended to promote public confidence in public transport. It’s a clear signal that,after several challenging years,Christchurch is moving again. (text: John Walsh; Islands of (Im)Possibility, 'Future Islands' catalogue)
Warrender Studio
The modest Warrander Studio presents a new building typology:not only is it New Zealand’s first full cross-laminated timber (CLT) house, but the entire building has been digitally designed and fabricated using building information modelling (BIM) and computer numerical control (CNC) technologies.The CLT panels are much like enlarged plywood sheets and consist of timber boards glued together in both directions, creating an inherently solid, strong, earthquake-resistant material. The beauty of the system is that the building can be assembled by unskilled labour, meaning that only one qualified builder is required onsite to oversee construction.The timber panels form the primary structure and have been used throughout the building for the floors, walls, ceilings and roof; and they also provide a cleanly finished timber interior surface. This means the entire building can be made weathertight within days rather than months, as is frequently the case with traditional building methods.The system provides a fully flexible design system that can easily be unclipped, disassembled, altered,added to, moved, reconstructed or recycled. (text: Charles Walker; Islands of (Im)Possibility, 'Future Islands' catalogue)
Cathedral Grammar Junior School
Cathedral Grammar School, one of the oldest schools in Christchurch, lost a number of historic buildings in the earthquakes. Tezuka Architects(Tokyo) and Andrew Barrie Lab (Auckland) won a competition for rebuilding the school with a masterplan arranged around a central circulation route that will allow the school to subtract and add buildings over the medium and long term without loss of character or amenity.Generating a series of intimate gardens, courtyards and cloisters,the buildings are characterised by a heavy prefabricated structure of laminated veneer lumber (LVL) assembled on site. For the junior school, a roof terrace (to be exited by a slide) allows small children to feel like giants, offering an unimpeded view through cherry trees and across the green expanse of the neighbouring park. (text: Kathy Waghorn; Islands of (Im)Possibility, 'Future Islands' catalogue)

From Making Islands, Kamala's Pavilion, a social space in Wellington Zoo's former elephant house. The arched roof is made out of the repetition of a single element joined together and then pulled apart, much like a crêpe-paper lantern

MIT Manukau + Transport Interchange
MIT Manukau is certainly aspirational. Self-consciously adopting an initialism that’s the shorthand title of one of the world’s pre-eminent research universities, the institution declares its soaring ambition in theatrium of its new building located in the heart of working-class South Auckland. This vast void is overlooked by six storeys of stairs, balconies,walkways and casual teaching areas. The interior is meant to be read and appropriately construed: physical movement suggests social mobility (education as a way up); transparency implies accessibility (education for all); and flexibility signifies informality (education without hierarchies). To reinforce the democratic point, the ground floor serves as the concourse for a commuter railway station. The building is thus an unusual amalgam of social and transport engineering; its message, to students and straphangers from a less-privileged part of town, is that you can go places. (text: John Walsh; Islands of Knowing, 'Future Islands catalogue)

'Islands of prospect and refuge', where houses finely tuned to remote sites stand in stark relief to an unbuilt social housing work.

A couple purchased an island over the internet. A small settlement was planned: house and guest house, caretaker’s cottage, jetty, cable car for carting heavy loads of supplies to the house on the ridge above, water tanks, low solid walls of rammed earth, sunken bath, terraces sheltered from the prevailing winds . . .The couple broke up, the island was sold, the drawings are all that remain.But not quite: the idea of the roofas a folded plane, a semblance ofthe drifts of dead leaves on the abandoned island, light and fragile,continued as memory and intention,and finally, 10 years later and elsewhere, was built. (text: Kathy Waghorn;Islands of Prospect and Refuge, 'Future Islands' catalogue)

Dune House, by Fearon Hay Architects (left), Langs Beach House, by ark (centre) and Fielding House (right), by Cheshire Architects.

Vanishing Acts (detail)
'Vanishing Acts', a speculative work by Holly Xie, sits conceptually within 'islands of encounter'. "This ‘Archive for Discarded Identities’ contends with traditions of collection, organisation and systemisation affiliated with deep storage. Visiting Deception Island, tourists partake in an Antarctic pilgrimage to the 18 stations of the archive situated along the interior coastline of a submerged caldera. The stations mark out vanished sites read off the superimposition of historical maps, where cartographic deceit and misrepresentation reveal the intrigue of early expeditions of Antarctic discovery. Along the beach we come across, for example, the Sea Foam Combs, the Snow Catcher and the Tea Tower, and ascend the Shouting Stairs. The state of isolation envisaged here is not one of absolute dislocation reached through geographical remoteness but rather an opportunity to encounter a dialogue between absence and presence, solid and void, lost and not found." (text: Kathy Waghorn; Islands of Encounter, 'Future Islands' catalogue)
Vanishing Acts (details)
Additional details from 'Vanishing Acts' by Holly Xie, where a series of 18 stations mark now vanished sites that were read off the superimposition of historical maps. The work investigates the cartographic deceit, misrepresentation and intrigue of early expeditions of Antarctic discovery.
Otuataua Stonefields Heritage Centre
The city of Auckland sprawls across a field of 55 volcanoes; in places scoria cones fashioned through a millennia of irruption still press through, meeting the sky and reminding us of where we are.At Otuataua, where land and sea touch, basalt boulders ejected from deep within the earth lie scattered about. Exceptionally fertile, this landscape lent itself to early settlement and horticulture; the underlying volcanic stone retains heat in the soil, offering a warmer ground and extended growing season for kūmara, taro, yams and gourds,plants brought from other islands far to the north. For Te Wai-o-Huatangata whenua (the indigenous people) this place is a taonga (treasure). Hape, a mythological guardian arrived on Kaiwhare, the stingray, and here his fish is imagined among boulders and trees, making a roof to shelter the centre within.But the city wants to press onwards,upwards and outwards, squeezing people and their stories into smaller,tighter pockets. (text: Kathy Waghorn; Islands of Encounter, 'Future Islands' catalogue)

Thompson House, Auckland.

Thompson House
Reclaimed Worlds, a category of work within the exhibition, shows new forms of knowledge contesting and extending the frontiers of architectural theoryand practice; reclaiming ways of representing space, timeand dwelling that have been dismantled, suppressed, lostor covered over by colonial frameworks and anxieties about post-colonial identity. Thirty years after its construction,the Thompson House still has the ability to shock. Its impassive façade, now scarred and weather beaten,offers few clues as to what lies within. In 1985, architect Rewi Thompson alluded to the violent history of the land upon which the house was built:a landscape of volcanic eruption,warfare and more contemporary conflicts over subdivision consents and sea views. Yet he also spoke of the connection between the stepped form and the terraced hillsides of its surroundings, of myth, metaphor and spirit. Critics found the building difficult to understand. They saw a rough intruder squaring up to affluent suburban neighbours, or a protest building, an architectural bunker on the front-line of biculturalism. For Thompson, cultural difference is a fundamental right in Aotearoa New Zealand – it brings richness, diversity and creativity to a young country. ‘Who wants to live in a bland sameness, mediocre world?’ he asks. ‘Not I.’ (text: Charles walker; Reclaimed Worlds, 'Future Islands catalogue)
Te Uru Taumatua
Te Uru Taumatua is the headquarters – and so much more – of Ngāi Tūhoe, the iwi (tribe) of Te Urewera, the remote and steeply forested region to the northeast of Lake Taupo. For 150 years, as Tūhoe people endured the effects of colonisation and economic marginalisation, they maintained their connection to their land and culture and a commitment to self-determination. The iwi’s resolve to go its own way is expressed in this building, in which a large wooden arch symbolising te Tūhoetanga o terā (the sun at its zenith) frames the tribal chamber. Also accommodating a public library, archive, gallery,interpretation centre, offices and a café, the building was designed and built on resolutely sustainable principles. The timber comes from renewable sources and toxic construction materials were eschewed; water is conserved and reused, and hundreds of photo-voltaic cells provide energy self-sufficiency; and the building is designed to resist a one-in-2000-years earthquake. Social sustainability was another guiding principle. For Tūhoe, the construction of their new building was a means to provide their people with work skills and employment opportunities. Embodying the concept of tūrangawaewae, Te Uru Taumatua is, proudly, ‘a place to stand’. (text: John Walsh; Reclaimed Worlds, 'Future Islands' catalogue)

'Amritsar', by Athfield Architects, from Suburban Islands.

Amritsar House
For several decades, Amritsar House has been New Zealand architecture’s most extraordinary story, just as Sir Ian Athfield was its most compelling figure. Athfield started building the house in the late 1960s, when he was young, hairy and provocative – he was always fun – and he just kept going, for nearly half a century, until his death in 2015. The house, a mash-up of Metabolism and Mediterranean and New Zealand colonial vernacular forms, spills like a Cycladic village down a steep Wellington hillside, flouting local building and social conventions.Mainly masonry (in the midst of timbered suburbia), the complex accommodates not just several generations of the Athfield family and various tenants, transients and domestic animals, but also the Athfield architecture practice. Amritsar House has angered neighbours and bemused the local council, but, although Athfield could be mischievous, the house is more treatise than tease. In its mix of private and communal areas – and despite appearances, the house is thus arranged – Amritsar House expresses its architect’s beliefs about how we might live together, tolerably and tolerantly. (text: John Walsh; Suburban Islands, 'Future Islands' catalogue)

'Trading Islands' - a series of works that allow projects to be negotiated, designed and constructed at a distance. Mongolia Social Housing Project by Bull O'Sullivan Architects.

Awaroa Lighthouse (above, centre), a speculative project by Henry Stephens,Nick Roberts, Jansen Aui. The Awaroa Lighthouse records tectonic movement, seismic noise and electromagnetic waves.

'The Restaurant at the End of the Universe'- a speculative proposal for the exhibition - a critique of the rhetorical role of architecture in representing how New Zealand is seen on the global stage.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (detail)
A speculative project by IMPORT_EXPORT™ that can be read as a can be seen as a critique of the rhetorical role of architecture in representing how New Zealand is seen on the global stage – whether as picturesque tourist destination, pliable barrier-free trading partner or remote green Eden. It poses questions about national borders, corporate regulation and jurisdictional law in our post-colonial,post-national market economy. (text: Charles Walker; Trading Islands, 'Future Islands' catalogue)

A visitor inspects a Lomipeau, a large waka designed by Norman Wei for 'Super-Pacific City', a work that address future climates in the Pacific.

Lomipeau, from Norman Wei's 'Super-Pacific City'.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary Visitor Centre
Orokonui Ecosanturay, a completed work by Architectural Ecology, lies to the north of Otago Harbour, high on the upper slopes between two volcanic cones – Mopanui and Mihiwaka – and is generally described as a cloud forest: typically misty, with snow and ice in winter, drought in summer and high winds all year round. This visitor centre is about the interpretation of place and the discovery of landscape as a repository of unique flora, fauna and local histories. It is also an inland island, a fenced ecosanctuary of native forest, where indigenous plants and animals live unthreatened by introduced predators.The architecture adopts small joined-building elements scaled to the grain of the surrounding landscape. A community of shipping containers sourced from the port just over the hill are organised round a covered atrium and sheltered under a floating canopy. The building integrates primary sustainable strategies of natural lighting, passive solar design, thermal-storage rainwater harvesting and adaptive reuse with controlled views over significant landforms and protected regenerating flora. (text: Charles Walker; Future Climates, Future Islands catalogue)

Visitors during the Vernissage period of la Biennale.

'Islands’ suspended at Bollani. The ‘islands’ are made of lightweight composite materials, fibreglass or carbon fibre, or infused hemp. The more three-dimensional ‘islands’ have a polymer resin core.

A cloudscape - one of three data projections within the exhibition - projected on the wall of Palazzo Bollani. Aotearoa, as New Zealand is known in Maori, translates to 'Land of the Long White Cloud'. 

Video data mapping. An island depicting a sequence of complete inundation of land by water.

Making an island. A time-lapse video of an island being fabricated at Core Builders Composites, in Auckland.

How may a country’s architecture be communicated and comprehended? Future Islands presents New Zealand architecture as a grouping of metaphorical islands, an imagined archipelago encompassing a variety of approaches and responses to the fluid and uncertain conditions of contemporary global practice.
Credits: Story

Future Islands, the New Zealand Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2016, is an initiative of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

The New Zealand Institute of Architects acknowledges the support of the following people
and organisations:

The members of the New Zealand Institute of Architects who contributed collectively, and often individually, to the funding of the New Zealand exhibition at
the Biennale Architettura 2016.

Exhibition Commissioner: Tony van Raat

The exhibition competition jurors: Patrick Clifford, Architectus; Mary Kisler, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki; Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, Victoria University of Wellington; Andrew Barrie, University of Auckland; and John Walsh, New Zealand Institute of Architects.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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