Sinking into the lagoon?

In a sense, each Venice Biennale marks a changing of the guard, as the scope of the exhibition invariably dovetails with the social and professional sphere of the appointed curator. For the past couple of decades, the upper stratosphere of architectural culture has been occupied by a familiar coterie of designers, mutually acquainted by their proximity on shortlists, design juries, panels, presentations and exhibitions like this one. To upset this long-standing order is, it seems, heretical, especially when the old generation denigrates the new as being masters of nothing but compromise and political game-playing. Or at least, that’s the opinion of Wolf Prix, refreshingly outspoken but also hidebound by the tradition of the avant-garde: ‘However, instead of that we face: “People Meet in Architecture,” and now “Common Ground.” In other words: compromise. It cannot get any worse! … This situation conjures an image of the Venetian carnival – one can imagine all the architects in Pierrot costumes surrounded by masked critics and dancing the Dance Banale. Or, even better, the architects are playing on a sinking gondola like the erstwhile orchestra on the Titanic playing their last song, while outside in the real world our leaky trade is sinking into powerlessness and irrelevance. This is because politicians and project managers, investors and bureaucrats have been deciding our built environment for a long time now. Not the architects.’ (above image is ‘A Field of Walls‘ by the Belgian studio Dogma).

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Some more Venice opinions, ‘Construction and society‘ (Edwin Heathcote at the Financial Times: ‘a strange lack of a sense of crisis’), Hugh Pearman in the RIBA Journal (‘…the third Biennale in a row to try to break free from the icon and, in truth, it does not look or feel so very different from its predecessors’), Jay Merrick in the Independent, ‘Banging techno architecture? It’s all happening in Venice‘ (‘The only architect-as-Jesus moment is the screening of a film, on an ice-white pontoon, about the proto-superstar architect, Ole Scheeren. The hideously banal imagery and the 1950s B-film actor voiceover presents Scheeren as a postmodern Citizen Kane, a slickly marketed messiah with a Bambi-cum-Kraftwerk manner that will presumably lead us to the New Jerusalem.’), Rowan Moore in The Observer (‘But there is an atmosphere of generosity in Chipperfield’s biennale that should be appreciated. There’s also patience and care, exemplified by the returning popularity of crafted and handmade objects…’) and Christopher Hawthorne in the Los Angeles Times (‘For architects in their 20s and 30s, born into a digital age, architectural culture no longer spins in cycles of fashion and taste but exists as an endless menu of à la carte options to consume at will.’). Oh, and the catalogue and signage was all designed by John Morgan Studio, also responsible for things 19-20 (still available, of course).

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Other things / art by Freddy Dewe Mathews / What might have been: The ill-fated Chicago Spire, Lee Bey, who blogs about Chicago’s contemporary architecture, on Calatrava’s tower-that-wasn’t (via Chicago Screenshots) / WWW: World Wild Web, a group exhibition that includes the ‘digital travels‘ of artist Mary Flanagan. We’ll return to the idea of generated landscape tourism in a future post, we’re sure / Iggy Peck, Architect, a book by Andrea Beatty and David Roberts / LOGO R.I.P: A Commemoration of Dead Logotypes, a revised and updated version of the classic grave guide to dead branding. See preview. See also how much did that logo cost?

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