France | 14th Architecture Biennale

Place: Venezia, Country: Italy
La biennale di Venezia
Modernity: promise or menace?
The French Pavilion.
Commissioner: Institute française. Ministry of culture and communication
In collaboration with: Citè de l'architecture et du patrimoine
Curator: Jean Louis Cohen
Exhibition design: atelier projectiles – Paris
Text by Federica Lusiardi, Inexhibit
Photos by Riccardo Bianchini, Inexhibit


Modernity: promise or menace?
French Pavilion

The contribution by France to the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale is clearly anticipated in its title: Modernity: promise or menace? A pavilion focused on the contradictions and on the promises, sometimes betrayed, of modernity. The exhibition begins with a scale model of the Villa Arpél, the house that was a main character in Mon Oncle (1958), the hilarious film by Jaques Tati where a modern home, taken to its extreme, is depicted as a space that manipulates and tyrannizes its inhabitants. The exhibition is constituted of three parts: the work of Jean Prouvè during the 1960s and the try to realize low-cost prefab dwelling modules; the production of prefabricated concrete panels, started in France after the WW2; and the case of the Drancy complex, described in 1942 by Josè Luis Sert as the ideal model for urban communities, just before the Nazis confiscated it in order to convert it in an internment camp where confining the Jews prior to deportation to death camps.



Jean Prouvé giving a lecture at the “National Conservatory for Arts and Crafts”
private collection, courtesy of Dominik Remondino.


Villa Arpel in a film frame from “Mon Oncle” (1958) by Jaques Tati.


Marcel Lods, Eugéne Beaudouin, Vladimir Bodiansky,  La Muette Housing scheme, Drancy, 1934. Cité de l’Architecture & du patrimoine.

Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014
Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014 is an invitation to the national pavilions to show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and a single repertoire of typologies – a more complex process than we typically recognize, involving significant encounters between cultures, technical inventions, and hidden ways of remaining “national”.

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