GRAFTING ARCHITECTURE – CATALONIA AT VENICE
A short review of the Catalonia exhibit at the 14th Architecture Biennale, Venice, 2014, by Randy Bosch.
The Catalonia region of Spain, very recently near to a non-binding plebiscite regarding independence from Spain, sponsored a Collateral Event at the Biennale. Their venue was in an old warehouse on the Isola d’Olivolo at the far eastern end of Sestiere Castello, an island thought by some to be the site of the earliest settlement in the midst of the Lagoon.
Grafting Architecture was beautifully curated to take full advantage of the long, narrow space, successfully contrasting contemporary exhibit installations with the exposed finishes of the old warehouse.
I viewed the result as a successful and invigorating grafting of a contemporary exhibition onto the historic stock of the building.
The curators, Josep Torrente along with associate curators Gulliem Carabi Bescos and Jordi Ribas Boidu, provided a carefully wrought explanation:
“Grafting is a process that involves inserting part of a tree with one or more buds into the branch or trunk of another tree such that a permanent union is established between the two as with the viticulturist who grafts a scion from the desired grape variety onto the rootstock and where the subsequent grape quality and the excellence of the resulting wine stem from correct union between scion and rootstock.”
Sixteen projects spanning the past 100 years were exhibited to illustrate the concept as realized in the architecture of Catalonia.
Their intent is to encourage us to learn from the past in order to renew architecture, “…giving it new horizons” – not to return to the past. They perceive much contemporary work to be “global and franchised architecture” rather than recognizing, appreciating and reformulating local architecture, updating a living tradition.
This approach is a continuous process, diametrically different than embracing and promoting a “movement”. The approach is informed by the passage of time, by daily life and by “reinterpretation of architecture through an artistic action.”
Rather than bulldozing out the vineyard of local tradition and replanting it with a non-native “International Style”, they challenge the creation of an architecture that is refreshed and renewed through grafting over the vast passage of time in a place that is nurtured by it, and in return continues the nurturing,
Where local tradition has been corrupted or become moribund, bring in strong, healthy new scions to graft onto existing, healthy roots. Or, bring in strong, healthy new rootstock to replace what has not survived the test of time and graft on healthy, local scions that continue cultural quality and sense of place with renewed vigor.
“Grafting transmits the idea of a new organism that combines the strong points of its original components and is more vigorous than either of them on their own, an idea of renewal and growth.”
In this, there is wisdom for application in far more than architecture.