The Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 main exhibition by Hakim Sarkis
One of the rooms of the Biennale’s Central Pavilion exhibition, curated by Hakim Sarkis, with the works “The World Turned Inside Out” by Plan B (on the left), and “The earth is an Architecture” by TVK; photo © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
How will we live together? The Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 main exhibition curated by Hakim Sarkis
Let us get something straight here, to have opened the 17th Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia is half a miracle for which we have to be grateful to the Biennale, its president, and the curator of this year’s edition, Hakim Sarkis. It is an important signal also because it is one of the first major events to take place after the peak of the pandemic in Europe.
“How will we live together” is a complex and multifaceted exhibition that investigates several pressing issues – such as those linked to national boundaries, migration, and climate change – and calls for urgent international policies capable to positively impact on an environment increasingly threatened and weakened by human activities.
It is also an exhibition based on a multidisciplinary collaboration of designers, scientists, and artists, “We can no longer wait for politicians to propose a path towards a better future. As politics continue to divide and isolate, we can offer alternative ways of living together through architecture” Hakim Sarkis says.
Located at the Corderie dell’Arsenale and in the Biennale Garden’s Central Pavilion, the exhibition alternates – sometimes in a rather disorienting way – installations, images, and architectural models that, collectively, emphasize the ideals of collaborative working and advocates architecture as both a visionary discipline capable to create new forms of sociality and as a technical discipline that investigates and experiments new sustainable building typologies, materials, and technologies.
Having said that, I remember that, when it was announced that the Biennale was postponed to 2021, I thought that its concept would have been modified to cover, maybe in passing, the consequences of the pandemic and the role architects could have in rethinking the way we relate to each other and the spaces we live in. Furthermore, the Biennale’s title coined by Sarkin in 2019, How Will We Live Together, seemed perfect for the scope. Instead, it looks like the last year has passed without leaving any trace on the exhibition and, though some of the themes presented relate somewhat to the experience of the pandemic, yet the curator hasn’t chosen to introduce any new specific content; perhaps because he wanted to put a distance between the events of the last year and the burdensome process to comprehend their long-term outcomes.
At the Arsenale, the main exhibition curated by Sarkis is divided into three parts – Among diverse beings, As new households, and As emerging communities – while in the Central Pavilion at the Venice Giardini it consists of two sections: Across Borders and As One Planet.
Among diverse beings – Arsenale
Among diverse beings investigates the relationship between physical space and digital space also taking into account the rapid propagation of digital communication devices and the increasing social isolation that is resulting from it.
Venice Arsenale, Among diverse beings, the installation “Catalog of post Human” by Jessica Charlesworth and Tim Parsons; photo © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Entitled “Designing for new bodies”, the first room of the exhibition presents human bodies hybridized with technology, from performing bodies to prostheses that amplify the human presence in space. In the photo: Any Liu, “A.I. Toys Shapes and Ladders”; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
The installation “Social Contracts; Choreographing Interactions” reflects on how spaces shape our behaviors and, in turn, how our use transforms the domestic space we live in. In the photo: Allan Wexler and Ellen Wexler, “Plain Air Studio”, 2018; “Four White Shirts Sewn into a Table Cloth”, 1991; and “ One Table Worn by One Person”, 2020; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
“Beehive Architecture” by Studio Libertiny explores possible applications of honeybee comb construction for large-scale architectural structures; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Philip Beesley& Living Architecture Systems Group/ University of Waterloo School of Architecture, “Grove”, installation & meeting space; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
As New Households – Arsenale
The second part of the Arsenale exhibition, As new Households, presents projects that challenge the traditional housing models based on the nuclear family, largely replaced by new forms of cohabitation such as singles, extended families, and multigenerational families. Some of the projects on view, along with proposing new architectural typologies to address these social changes, are also interesting experiments on new building technologies.
Ecologic Studio’s “‘BIT.BIO.BOT” is an experimental system and an artificial habitat that transforms air pollutants and water contaminants into nutritious microalgae; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Gramazio Kohler Architects, “Research as Architecture: A Laboratory for Houses, Homes, and Robots”, 2019; photos © Federica Lusiardi/Inexhibit.
OPAFORM Architects, “Make a space for my body”, 2019-2020; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Achim Menges /ICD University of Stuttgart and Jan Knippers / ITKE University of Stuttgart “Material Culture: Rethinking the Physical Substrate for Living Together”, 2021. Mostly made up of fiberglass and carbon fibers, the installation explores new ways of fibrous construction; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Alison Brooks Architects, “Home Ground”, 2020-2021; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
At the 2021 Biennale Arsenale exhibition, Lina Ghotmeh presents “Stone Garden. Resilient Living: an Archaeology of the Future”, an installation on the Stone Garden residential tower she recently completed in Beirut, Lebanon, comprising material samples of the building peculiar facade cladding and a six-feet tall architectural model which also contains contain small videos, micro-furniture, and photos; images © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
As Emerging Communities – Arsenale
The third part of the exhibition in the Corderie dell’Arsenale, entitled As Emerging Communities, investigates various forms of collectivity, urban development, and experimental housing aimed to address climate change, migration, and the impact of the digital economy. This section includes examples of social infrastructures from all over the world (schools, urban centers, public spaces) that respond to the needs of new models of social communities.
Effekt (Sinus Lynge, Tue Foged) “Ego to Eco, Learning from Nature”, Urban Village, 2019; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Enlace Arquitectura “ The Complete City: La Palomera, Acknowledgement and Celebration”, 2018-2020; photo © Federica Lusiardi/Inexhibit.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (Colin Koop) “Life beyond Earth”, Moon village habitation module, 2020; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Base Studio, “Flocking Tejas”, 2021; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Arsenale – Special installations
Elemental (Alejandro Aravena, Gonzalo Arteaga, Victor Oddo, Diego Torres, Juan Cerda), “Chileans and Mapuche, Building places to get to know each other (KÜNÜ)“. To answer the question “How will we live together?”, Chilean architecture office Elemental created a large installation that reprises the old concept of KÜNÜ, traditional ceremonial places built by the indigenous Mapuche people as a space to meet, settle differences, and discuss terms for an armistice with the Chileans. photos © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Giuseppe Penone, “The Listener”. The work, commissioned by the Vuslat Foundation, consists of an elm tree, cradling a heavy boulder, planted in the water at the Venice Arsenale; photo © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
In the Central Pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale, the main exhibition consists of two parts, Across Borders, and As One Planet.
Across Borders deals with borders; borders between cities and hinterland, between living space and workspace, and between nations. This section presents projects and experimental works that subvert the very concept of border and show us that it is possible to connect territories by opposing exclusion policies and to create lively places by going beyond borders.
As One Planet features projects focused on global policies that so far have addressed only partially key issues such as global warming and the pandemic. During the 19th and 20th centuries, architects coped with major issues, like the impact that technological innovations had on urban space, work, and social behaviors. Today, an effort by architects aimed to design the future of our planet – as a single, interconnected environment where to live together – is more important than ever.
Cave_Bureau, “The Anthropocene Museum: exhibit 3.0 Obsidian Rain”, 2017; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Plan B, Architecture & Urbanism, “The World Turned Inside Out”, 2021; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Daniel Lopez Pérez, and Jesse Reiser, and Nanako Umemoto / Princeton University School of Architecture, “Geoscope 2”, inflatable immersive capsule, 2021. Taking a cue from the work of Buckminster Fuller, Geoscope 2 is a time machine by which to experience centuries of architectural imagination through an ensemble of kaleidoscopic visions on a planetary scale. Photo © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Christina Agapakis, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and Sissel Tolaas, “Resurrecting the Sublime”, 2019. A glass room with three lava boulders on the floor gives us the opportunity to smell the scent of a flower that became extinct because of human activities. Indeed, Hibiscadelphus Wilderianus grew on a volcano on the island of Maui, Hawaii, before livestock farming destroyed its habitat in the colonial period. Photo © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
Angelo Bucci / SPBR Arquitectos, “Satellights: Orbiting the Thin Layer of Human Life”. The thin steel ring represents human life on planet Earth. The ring thickness corresponds to the Earth’s habitable zone, from the highest zone, about 5000 meters above the sea level, to the lowest one. At a 1:5,000,000 scale, the space occupied by humans is about 1 millimeter thick. Photo © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
“Museo Aero Solar for an Aerocene Era” by Tomàs Saraceno is a floating museum made up of plastic bags joined together to tell the personal stories of its visitors. Photo via Avvenire.
Located on the Central Pavilion mezzanine and designed by Studio Other Spaces, “Future Assembly” is a collective exhibition comprising contributions from fifty participants to the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale; © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.
How will we live together? 17th International Architecture Biennale, Venice
How will we live together? 17th International Architecture Biennale, Venice
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