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Core Exhibition at Arsenale | Venice Architecture Biennale 2018

Place: Venezia, Country: Italy
Curators: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara - Grafton Architects

2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Arsenale exhibition entrance hall Inexhibit

Video projection in the “introductory room” of the 2018 Venice Biennnale core exhibition at the Arsenale’s Corderie; photo © Inexhibit

Venice Architecture Biennale 2018
FREESPACE – Core Exhibition at Arsenale

The first room of the 2018 Biennale’s core exhibition at Arsenale clearly summarizes the approach by its curators, it’s a large hall that features only two large video installations, depicting the glorious industrial past of the Venetian Arsenal.

Indeed, the Arsenale exhibition is rather unadorned and its sixty-five sections, each curated by an invited architect, alternate ceaselessly in the imposing continuous space of the Venetian Arsenal’s Corderie building, laid bare. Only a graphic sign on the floor marks the exhibition space. The curators, Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara, explain why: “We have considered the given buildings as specific sites, as our context. The Exhibition is designed to reveal the qualities of the Corderie and of the Central Pavilion”.


The participants’ different approaches to the “FREESPACE” theme of the 16th Venice Architeture Biennale are well represented by the projects and installations that form the exhibition. While they relate to works of very different size and typology, all the installations on view focus on the theme of  the “quality” of public space, and to how such quality relate to generosity, intended as a fundamental component of the architectural design process.
But how, and by what means such “generosity” could be investigated and implemented?

We find it, for example, in projects that try to create new forms of public space such as the “bench for 100 people” conceived by Inês Lobo Arquitectos for Piazza Marconi square in Bergamo – a design which redefines the relationships within the urban realm in a new way, in public buildings including the “Avasara Academy” by Case Design with its classrooms arranged around communal spaces; in the Fuji Kindergarten by Tezuka Architects – example of an architectural design that merges building and natural environment into a whole to celebrate the vital energy of children; or in the beautiful 14-story tower, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro to accommodate a medical school, whose circulation and large internal terraces form a unified vertical strip providing abundant free socializing and relaxing space to its users.

Inês Lobo Arquitectos 100 people bench installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

Inês Lobo Arquitectos, Una panca per 100 persone (A Bench for 100 People), installation view; photo © Inexhibit

Case Design Avasara Academy installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

Case Design Avasara Academy installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit 2

Case Design,  Avasara Academy; installation view; photo © Inexhibit

Tezuka Architects Fuji Kindergarten Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale

Tezuka Architects, Fuji Kindergarten, installation view; photo © Inexhibit

Diller-Scofidio + Renfro Roy Diana Vagelos Education Centre model 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Roy and  Diana Vagelos Education Center, installation view;
photo © Inexhibit


Yet, the concept of freespace can also be implemented in large residential developments – such as the audacious redevelopment project by Laura Peretti Architects for the huge Corviale social housing complex in Rome – or in projects aimed to give access to impervious pieces of landscape – such as the Transcaucasian Trail by which  Gumuchdjian Architects propose a concrete alternative to conventional tourism.

Corviale redevelopment Lura Peretti installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 1 Inexhibit

Model of the redevelopment project of the Corviale social housing complex in Rome by Laura Peretti Architects; photo © Inexhibit

Gumuchdjian Architects transcaucasian trail Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit 2

Gumuchdjian Architects,Tread Lightly. A linear festival along the transcaucasian trail, model view; photo © Inexhibit


This multifarious collection of designs also includes the “reinvention” of disused buildings and sites; for example, the Sala Beckett theater in Barcelona, formerly an abandoned building which once was accommodating a workers’ cooperative, that has been restored and given back to the community after a design by architects Flores & Prats. A nice example of the creation of new free spaces is the “ Corte del Forte” designed by Rintala Eggertsson Architects, a public space for socialization built in a former military fortress in Mestre to be used by both the local comunity and the Biennale’s visitors.

Flores & Prats Sala Beckett Barcelona Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 2 Inexhibit

Flores & Prats Sala Beckett Barcelona Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 1 Inexhibit

Flores & Prats, the installation presenting the Sala Beckett theater project in Barcelona; photos © Inexhibit

Rintala Eggertsson Corte del Forte model Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit 2

Rintala Eggertsson Architects, the Corte del Forte in Mestre, model; photos © Inexhibit


The Arsenale exhibition also features large installations – sort of materialization of architectural concepts – express different visions of space; such as in the Recasting installation through which Alison Books expresses her research of beauty and proportions for residential spaces, and with the work of Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA who respond in a poetic way to the theme of the exhibition with a space defined by a transparent spiral -almost invisible to the eye, and that we perceive as weightless, airy, and ethereal – as the symbol of an architecture that doesn’t want to attract attention on itself.

Alison Brooks Architects ReCast installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 3 Inexhibit

Alison Brooks Architects ReCast installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 2 Inexhibit

Alison Books Architects, ReCasting, installation views; photos © Inexhibit

Kazuyo Sejima Ryue NishizawaSANAA Guruguru installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 1 Inexhibit

Kazuyo Sejima Ryue NishizawaSANAA Guruguru installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 2 Inexhibit

Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA, Guruguru, installation views; photos © Inexhibit

We’d like to conclude with a Greek proverb, cited by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara in their Biennale’s Manifesto: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”.


More images (all photos © Inexhibit)

Mario Botta installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 1 Inexhibit

The installation by Mario Botta

O'Donnell Tuomey installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

The installation by O’Donnell +Tuomey

Alvaro Siza Evasao installation Arsenale exhibition 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

Alvaro Siza, Evasão, installation view

Dorte Mandrup Conditions installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 1 Inexhibit

Dorte Mandrup, Conditions, installation view

Hall McKnight installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

The wooden installation designed by Hall McKnight

Toyo Ito Virtual Nature installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

Toyo Ito, Virtual Nature, installation view

Studio Gang, wooden log facade installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

The installation by Studio Gang features samples of the wooden log facade of their Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership in Kalamazoo, MIchigan, United States.

Rozana Montiel Stand Ground installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

 Rozana Montiel, Stand Ground, installation view

Riccardo Blumer installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

The “Wall” installation by Riccardp Blumer, Lorela Arapi, Andrea Cappellaro, and Stefano Clerici

Jensen & Scodvin Moya Spring Water Source Roof Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 1 Inexhibit

Jensen & Scodvin, Moya Spring Water Source Roof, model

DNA - Design and Architecture the songyang story Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 2 Inexhibit

DNA – Design and Architecture, The Songyang Story, installation view

Estudio Carme Pinos Cube tower model Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

Estudio Carme Pinós, model of the Cube tower in Zapopan, Mexico

Miralles Tagliabue Weaving Architecture installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Biennale Inexhibit

The Weaving Architecture installation by Benedetta Tagliabue – Miralles Tagliabue EMBT

Sauerbruch Hutton Oxymoron installation Arsenale 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale Inexhibit

Sauerbruch Hutton, Oxymoron, installation view


16th Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 – pavilions, program, events

16th Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 – pavilions, program, events

16th Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 – pavilions, program, events

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