A featured session of the Venice 2014 – la Biennale is the 14th International Architecture Exhibition / Fundamentals. The 2014 edition of the biannual exhibition will be held from June 7 to November 23, 2014 in, of course, Venice, Italy.
With the dispersal of exhibitions representing perhaps 100 countries spread around the Giardini with its collection of architecturally significant National Pavilions, in the repurposed halls of the historic Arsenale, and several score venues in historic churches and palazzi around the great city, the journey between and the opportunity to observe spaces normally not open to the public adds immensely to the spectacular of viewing the conceptual and built work of 100 architects – selected by their country’s organizing committee yet “on their own” here.
Internationally famous architect Rem Koolhaas was selected to be the curator for this exhibition, and chose the title:
Condensing Koolhaas’s statement of intent from the Biennale’s news release,
“Fundamentals will be a Biennale about architecture, not architects…. Fundamentals will focus on histories – on the inevitable elements of national architectures in the last 100 years…. [T]his retrospective will generate a fresh understanding of the richness of architecture’s fundamental repertoire, apparently so exhausted today.”
Given the history of Biennale exhibitions, divorcing personal fame (of architects in this case; no shrinking violets, they) and focusing exhibited work on the intent of the theme has often been an impossible task for organizers, curators and (intentionally) for national organizing committees and the representative talents they select for exhibition. Still, despite the heartburn that will be visited upon the Biennale leadership, the result is always a fascinating mixture of creative works ranging from the sublime to the self-congratulatory.
We’re in for a long year of “Outbreak of the Great War Centennial” linkages to contemporary life, culture and politics!
Good luck Mr. Koolhaas! Really!
Continuing the condensation of Rem Koolhaas’s statement,
“In 1914 it made sense to talk about a…” (name your nationality/culture) “architecture…One hundred years later…architectures that were once specific and local have become interchangeable and global. National identity has seemingly been sacrificed to modernity.”
“Ideally, we would want the represented countries to engage in a singe theme – Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 – and to show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in favour of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language in a single repertoire of typologies.”
We will be expected to translate the manifestos accompanying many architects’ submissions – often “semantic architecture” - which grow like kudzu even in the face of (or perhaps particularly in the face of) the most mundane and banal design results.
However, hope springs eternal, one person’s weed is another’s orchid, and pearls of wisdom will be found among them (I am already driven to mixing metaphors in anticipation of rampant mixed architectural metaphors on display – The Horror!).
“The First World War – the beginning of modern globalization – serves as the starting point for the range of narratives. The transition to what seems like a universal architectural language is a more complex process than we typically recognize, involving significant encounters between cultures, technical inventions and imperceptible ways of remaining “national.”
“In a time of…the flattening of cultural memory…”
The intended outcome:
“By telling the history of the last 100 years cumulatively, the exhibitions in the National Pavilions will generate a global overview of architecture’s evolution into a single, modern aesthetic, and at the same time uncover within globalization the survival of unique national features and mentalities that continue to exist and flourish even as international collaboration and exchange intensify…”
The approach is audacious and to be applauded, even with its burden of Western European anthropocentrism based upon the leadership’s immersion in global modern/post-modernism design and awareness of the myopia of the design elite selected for acclaim and publication by the architectural media.
Yes, I come predisposed to be cynical based upon past experience there. I hope to be disabused of that notion, but tend to agree with the late, great critic Robert Hughes, who stated,
“I have never been against new art as such; some of it is good, much is crap, most is somewhere in between.”
Stay tuned for an exciting adventure! I hope to see you there!