Venice Pavilion at the Biennale 2014 – Sonnets in Babylon by Daniel Libeskind

Venice has its own permanent pavilion at the Biennale, adjacent to those of many nations.  This is not only appropriate because the Biennale is in Venice, but because Venice was an independent nation-state for over 1000 years – until Napoleon conquered it in 1798.

That Venice shows independence in selecting its Biennale exhibits regardless of the annual theme, be it Art (in odd years, of course) or this year’s Architecture theme of “Fundamentals”, is also appropriate – the host’s prerogative, as it were.  Whether art or architecture, I have always found Venice’s exhibition to be extraordinarily well-conceived, seamlessly curated, and always a remarkable Surprise! catalyzing continuing review.

“Se non ti aspetti l’inaspettato, non lo troverai; e difficile da ricercare e complesso.”  Erodoto*

This year, Daniel Libeskind, internationally recognized innovator in architecture and urban design, was selected to prepare Venice’s exhibition, perhaps because “…he is renowned for his abiity to evoke cultural memory in buildngs of equilibrium-defying contemporaneity” (from the brochure prepared for the exhibit).


A "Sonnet in Babylon" Libeskind - Venice 2014

A “Sonnet in Babylon” Libeskind – Venice 2014

This manifested itself as

“A meditation on the origins and destiny of form in architecture.”

A staggering array of 101 Libeskind drawings are exhibited – the “Sonnets in Babylon”.  The final production greatly enlarged and screenprinted his hand drawn pen and coffee grounds-infused sepia-toned wash drawings on glass panels.  The interior wall of the pavilion is a great semi-circular curve.  The 100 drawings are arrayed at angles along that wall, “…so that light is reflected and refracted between surfaces like biomorphic prisms.”  It was a fantastic three-dimensional graphic and curatorial presentation.

Sonnets in Babylon - Libeskind - Venice 2014

Sonnets in Babylon – Libeskind – Venice 2014

“The drawings depict a space in frozen flux, a kind of “favela of the mind” or metamorphic city of the future.”

We are told that Libeskind uses these Sonnets to raise “the question of whether ‘Form is disappearing into ‘Techne’ or continually emerging as the permanent expression – indeed, the fate – of human beings.” 

The work was exquisitely drafted and carefully arrayed in chapters, yet “arrayed without order or hierarchy”. Daniel Libeskind even provide the extremely extensive – and witty -“Recipe” for the work, as well as an excersie assigned to his IUAV students (the School of Architecture in Venice).

I elected to keep thinking about his question.  After retrospection and introspection, yet unexpectedly, I found my answer to be…

“Either or, neither nor, or both.”


*”If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it; for it is hard to be sought out, and difficult.” Herodotus

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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