This year's Biennale is dedicated to the theme of Freespace - "free space": this theme was chosen by its curators, Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. The British Council, which is responsible for the Venice National Pavilion, traditionally held a competition for the best exhibition idea, which was won by Adam Caruso and Peter St. John of Caruso St John and artist Marcus Taylor.
Their project "The Island" is not an exposition, but an installation that combines architecture and art, on both counts - the first such experience for the British pavilion. Its building will be hidden by scaffolding supporting a platform at the top, above which only the top of the roof will be visible. In 2018, for the first time, the pavilion will deliberately remain empty during the exhibition: this will allow visitors to take a fresh look at its architecture, at the physical and imaginary traces left there over the decades by curators, the public, and exhibits. At the same time, the observation platform, from where anyone can admire the views of the Giardini Gardens and the Venetian Lagoon, and the pavilion space will become a venue for discussions, poetry readings, etc. In addition to its own program, the premises are planned to be used for events of other countries participating in the biennale.
The curators, Caruso, St. John and Taylor, drew their main inspiration from William Shakespeare's play The Tempest, where travelers find themselves on the island of the wizard Prospero, whose ship was wrecked by a storm he set up. This unnamed island, at the same time paradise and fraught with danger, is similar in ambiguity to the "Island" at the Biennale, which can be seen as a refuge and a place of exile, a hint of abandonment and restoration, Brexit, isolation, colonialism, climate change with rising sea levels (especially relevant for Venice theme). But curators warn against a simplistic interpretation of the platform and the pavilion below it as up and down, heaven and hell, future and past. In their opinion, sometimes the situation can be reversed, for example, when the empty halls will become a welcome refuge from heat or thunderstorms.
It is worth noting that the British pavilion, a tea house built in 1897, which since 1909 has received its current function and in this capacity has survived two world wars, Italian fascism, the formation and disintegration of the Eastern Bloc, the creation of the European Community, and in itself is an island in Giardini and during all of Venice: it stands on a hill - the largest natural hill in the city.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has been participating in the main exhibition of the Architecture and Art Biennale for the third year in a row. In 2018, he dedicated his participation to the future of social housing, revealing its past - a multi-ton fragment of London's Robin Hood Gardens, designed by the brutalist masters Peter and Alison Smithson and completed in 1972. For a variety of reasons, including financial, architectural, political and social, it has become an extremely uncomfortable center of criminal activity and other problems, and, despite the protests of historians and architectural practitioners, is intended for demolition. The museum bought out its section (more
we wrote about it here) and will now deliver this fragment weighing 8 tons and measuring 8.8 mx 5.6 m on a barge to the Venetian Arsenal and mount it so that visitors can climb the “street in the sky”, an open gallery, where they should tenants were to meet and communicate. A duplex apartment from the same complex has also entered the V&A meeting, but it will remain in London.
Since Robin Hood Gardens was built from prefabricated elements made in Sweden, it is not so difficult to assemble and disassemble its parts. The load-bearing structure for the Venetian exhibition was designed by Arup engineers, and the same firm was involved in the design of the residential area itself in the 1960s. The exhibition will be complemented by a media installation by Korean artist Do Ho So: on a 13-meter wide screen, he will show panoramas of the exterior and interiors of this sample of post-war housing.
The 16th Architecture Biennale will open in Venice on May 26, 2018 (vernissage is scheduled for May 24 and 25) and will end on November 25.