Venice Architecture Biennale 2010

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I’ve just popped down to the Adriatic for a couple of days to absorb as much sun, saltwater, blue sky and ‘la dolce vita’ as I can before my second winter of the year in Germany.

I can tell you that it suits me here: the coffee, the chillaxed pace, the sun/water combo. Even the madness of Venice isn’t bothering me like it did last time.

I came to check out the architecture biennale (last time i was here for the art biennale) and I kind of cheated –  I pretty much Followed Architecture curator/writer Rory Hyde’s suggestions (with a few added extras of my own) and it was actually perfect.

In a way, I’m lucky that i’m not an architect. Whilst I have a level of critical understanding and certainly believe that architecture needs to be political, with its undeniable relationship to people (ie, without people, architecture is dysfunctional), but I haven’t formal training, so I can be more easily pleased than when I go to the art biennale. I can also ‘skim’ things a little easier, which is a necessary skill for any trade fair.

Rory Hyde’s suggestions are here

And it was an excellent itinerary. I had slightly different highlights, but still massive thumbs up to Mr Hyde.

And here are my top tips:

Japan – form is great, politics is satisfyingly present and videos are excellent – I watched all 3.


Australia – they managed to make the Cox disaster pavilion into a great space. It’s immersive, interactive and the floodslicer movie is a great clip of the best of Australian architects, which I also watched all the way through. I also bought a t-shirt (sucker).

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OAM preservation – The photo index, the alternate history, the not-so-slick look was a relief.
The Selgascano flexible corner space was also an excellent antidote to all the furrowed brow gloss of the rest of the biennale spaces.

Venice10_IT_OMA Cushion InstallWeb

Hans Ulrich Obrist the Ubiquitous – his interviews really were (begrudgingly) great – especially as they were still very ‘current’ – undertaken within the last few weeks. Sadly, no where near enough time to watch them all.

Janet cardiff – Motet for 40 voices. In the round, multi-directional sound sculpture. Personally satisfying to see acoustics – sound relating to architecture – getting a look-in.

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Transsolar+Tetsuo Kondo – Cloud Room. It wasn’t as claustrophoic as the Gormley White Light show at the Hayward Gallery, so it was truly engaging. Being up in the clouds near a ladder looking out a window, it also managed to create a Rene Magritte-style space, probably by accident, but still cute.

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The Studio OE (Olafur Eliasson) water whip – Wet contrast to the previous works’  smoke, it uses water, light and motors to articulate space and trajectory. It is spectacular and an artistic way of interpreting interior elements and movement.


Studio mumbai – not on its own, but as a follow-up to the 1:1 architecture exhibit at v&a.

Oh, and Venice itself. It’s still pretty impressive, especially on a sunny September day.

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My gripes:

Wim Wenders’s film – interesting idea, but could have been halved – and if I saw one more person close their eyes and ‘drink in’ the building, I was going to vomit on the carpet.

The Aalto exhibit in Finlandia was extra disappointing. Given his standing in design, I was hoping that would be overwhelmingly inspiring.

Given the theme of the biennale being on the political/social interaction of architecture/design, there were still a lot of ho-hum architecture presentations that don’t necessarily deal with real people, or the nature of public life.

However, the small snippets of brave exhibitions and bold expressions maintained a relevance for the issues of the day.

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