REPORTING FROM THE FRONT: THE AA AT THE 15TH VENICE ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE Review

by Vanessa Norwood, Head of AA Exhibitions

17th June 2016
Venice Biennale, Italy

 

The AA’s global network resembles an overpopulated airline route map with alumni criss-crossing the globe, and Bedford Square at its centre. The AA’s influence and reach was evident in Venice at Alejandro Aravena’s 2016 Architecture Biennale ‘Reporting from the Front’.

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The MONTHS pavilion, by Dogma and Black Square. Photo by The British Council; credit to Cristiano Corte

At a social level, the narrow streets and open spaces of Venice are populated with AA people of every variety; students, tutors, examiners, exhibitors, and lecturers all in the same city with the same purpose; to discuss, display, and celebrate the practice of architecture. On a professional level, a scan of national pavilion contributors reveals a roll call of AA Alumni.

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The DECADES pavilion, by Hesselbrand. Photo by The British Council; credit to Cristiano Corte

This year it seems as if there are AA connections in a majority of National Pavilions from Australia to Thailand. There is a whole new generation of AA graduates setting up practices to build, publish, debate, and think, and with 85% of AA students arriving at Bedford Square from abroad it’s hardly surprising that the School’s international makeup goes on to influence and shape the world around us.

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The DAYS pavilion, by åyr. Photo by The British Council; credit to Cristiano Corte

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Shumi Bose, Jack Self, and Finn Williams- The 2016 British Pavilion Curatorial Team. Photo by The British Council

The British Pavilion this year is almost entirely an AA led endeavour. The curatorial team of Shumi Bose, Jack Self (both AA graduates), and Finn Williams (a former AA Summer School Tutor), chosen following a competition organised by the British Council, addressed the frontline of British architecture- the home- in their immersive exhibition Home Economics.

Home at Arsenale by Dekleva Gregoric architects-slovenia

The Slovenian Pavilion- Home at Arsenale by dekleva gregoric architects. Photo by dekleva gregoric architects

Through a series of 1:1 environments, Home Economics aimed to ‘ask questions of British society and architectural culture, regarding the changing rhythms and patterns of life’. Five architectural propositions were put forward to address incremental amounts of time: HOURS, DAYS, MONTHS, YEARS, and DECADES.

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The Slovenian Pavillion- Home at Arsenale by dekleva gregoric architects. Horizontal material geometry respects the linear spatial organization of Arsenale. Photo by dekleva gregoric architects

The pavilion, designed by Hesselbrand– a practice established by three recent AA graduates- showed the work of invited participants åyr (AA graduates Fabrizio Ballabio, Alessandro Bava, Luis Ortega Govela, and Octave Perrault); Dogma and Black Square (AA tutors Pier Vittorio Aureli and Maria Scheherazade Giudici); Julia King (AA graduate); Hesselbrand; as well as responses by Self, Bose, and Williams. An incredibly accomplished pavilion from curators that were billed as the youngest ever to oversee our national pavilion utilised full sized models that allowed visitors an immediate physical experience of ideas with real weight.

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The Slovenian Pavilion- Home at Arsenale by dekleva gregoric architects. Vertical contextual geometry responds to the sunlight entering through Arsenale arch window. Photo by dekleva gregoric architects

Home seems to be a theme of AA Graduates in Venice this year. Slovenian architects Aljoša Dekleva and Tina Gregorič built a wooden library inside their national Biennale pavilion called Home at Arsenale, a space integrating display areas, shelves, and seating inviting visitors in to spend time reading a selection of books curated by a list of guests including AA Director Brett Steele. Dekleva and Gregoric’s interest in shared space was explored when they were students in an award winning 2002 AA book and exhibition Negotiate my boundary! Home at Arsenale created a beautifully crafted contemplative space in which to stop for a moment and escape the crowds.

 

For more information:

The Venice Biennale Website

AA News- Launch of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

The British Council- The British Pavilion in Venice

Hesselbrand for the British Pavillion in Venice

åyr Wesbite

Dogma Website

Black Square Website

Julia King Website

dekleva gregoric architects Website

The Negotiate My Boundary! Exhibition