Architecture Biennale – Venice 2014 – A Few Reflections




There is simply too much to cover – molto troppo!  In future posts, I will share impressions formed in many of the pavilions and exhibits we did visit this year.


Ubiquitous Poster for the Biennale - 2014

Ubiquitous Poster for the Biennale – 2014

The thought, hard work and dedication that went into the conceptualization, design and implementation of each and every one of them was incredible.  Conformance to the Director’s mission statement was, as usual, extremely sporadic – we are dealing with architects here, after all…. Of course,

Non-conformity is the ultimate form of respect for conformity!

Most exhibits, in various ways, either celebrated modernism to impose socio-democratic (in the case of many countries, read “20th  Century Socialist/Marxist”) political and cultural ideas on their own and other countries.

Most exhibitions from countries currently freed from totalitarianism showed how that failed, and failed miserably at a high cost to local culture and creativity.  Some other countries’ exhibitions, countries that have not faced such extreme or long-lived “new order” rule, show that the lesson has not be learned in them, although their “me too” embrace of modernism usually shows far greater freedom and innovation.  Too many show the effects of literally always having and still maintaining totalitarian systems.

What did the countries now independent of totalitarian masters, whether home-grown or imposed from without, learn from the imposition of Modernism in architecture and city planning from 1914 to 2014?   They learned, painfully, that the system and imposed Modernism failed not only because the goal was to wipe out historical cultures and impose a new, monolithic world-wide social order.  They found that most of the cityscapes and buildings for the general populace were not only poorly built (crap for the proletariat, lowest value goods), but also created sheep pen/chicken coop uniformity.  They learned that the “new order” leaders – the “elite” political group and their architectural acolytes – knew what was best for their lesser, the masses they claimed to champion, and demanded its imposition and unquestioning acceptance.

The outcomes for many cities and for whole nations in terms of their cities and individual buildings of all types were in the most part chilling.

The “New Humanist” social order was to be partially enforced by modern architecture as part of the destruction of regional, national and ethnic cultures – one size to fit all of society, all nations, but it did not fit any.

Not one

I am a student of and even a fan of much of what is known as Modern Architecture – only the better parts, of course!  I designed more than a few modest examples during my architectural career.  However, the exhibition of that genre that I appreciate turns out to be the forms in which it often been found in non-totalitarian, non-centralized power countries.  The rest may produce a “wow” response in a few examples due to the sheer audacity and overpowering statement in designs, but that “wow” is usually one of shock and horror, definitely not of appreciation or a source of inspiration.

In the Giardini for the 14th Biennale d'Architettura 2014

In the Giardini for the 14th Biennale d’Architettura 2014

Other exhibitions highlighted an aspect of change in a type of economic development or a specific use-type of building over the century past, or basely promoted the design and construction companies and products with which they have or hoped to seize an ever larger share of the contemporary competitive world market.

As I stated, MOLTO TROPPO!

We explored the Elements of Architecture theme pavilion as well as Hungary, Brazil, the Venice pavilion, Italy, Serbia, Austria, Poland, Greece, Austria, Romania, Egypt, Australia, Nordic Countries, Portugal, Slovenia, Morocco, Kuwait, Malaysia, Thailand, Croatia, Kosovo, Bahrain (“Arab World”), Indonesia, Latvia, Ireland, Chile, Dominican Republic, Mozambique, United States, Estonia, China, Russia, Spain, Catalonia, Netherlands, Belgium, AND MORE…

Time, energy and over-exposure kept us from visiting the exhibitions from Iran, Costa Rica, Macedonia, Albania, Turkey, South Africa, Peru, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Finland, Israel, Denmark, Switzerland, Korea, Canada, France, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Japan, Uruguay, Armenia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Paraguay, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Moscow, Liechtenstein, or Taiwan.

de Chirico Lives!  In the Arsenale for the 14th Biennale d'Architettura 2014

de Chirico Lives! In the Arsenale for the 14th Biennale d’Architettura 2014

Many exhibitions are scattered around Venice in various palaces, salons and cloisters, allowing visits into many buildings normally not accessible to the public.

Sometimes, the building is more fascinating than the temporary exhibit!

Within the main venues for the Biennale, the Giardini Publicca and the Arsenale, there are simply too many halls and themed exhibitions to be consumed, even if one were given to drive-by visits, within the two back-to-back days allowed by entry tickets.  One can purchase a season ticket at great price or, of course, another 2-day ticket, but eventually sensory overload occurs.

Perhaps more importantly, there is all of Venice to experience!


About randysrules

From a professional background in architecture, community and regional planning, urban design, leadership, and fine arts, this blog provides insights on ethics, leadership, architecture/planning/urban design, Venice, and whatever intrigues me at the time. Enjoy!
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1 Response to Architecture Biennale – Venice 2014 – A Few Reflections

  1. Pasquino says:

    So when will someone reject the glass, concrete paradigm and convince big business to once again choose Venetian gothic? How about tax breaks for companies that spend more on non ‘modernist’ buildings and contemporary shopping malls that are encouraged to rival Milan?

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