FREESPACE: the next Venice Architecture Biennale curated by Grafton Architects

“FREESPACE” is the title of the next International Architecture Exhibition that will take place in Venice from May 26th to November 25th, 2018.

Image above: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara; photo courtesy Grafton Architects

President Paolo Baratta stated: “As was the case for the previous editions of Biennale Architettura, we continue our investigation into the relationship between architecture and civil society. The divide between architecture and civil society, caused by the latter’s increasing difficulty in expressing its own needs and finding appropriate answers, has led to dramatic urban developments whose main feature is the marked absence of public spaces, or the growth of other areas dominated by indifference in the suburbs and peripheries of our cities”.

The curators, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara – founders of the Dublin-based practice Grafton Architects explained their choice with the following words:

Freespace describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself.
Freespace focuses on architecture’s ability to provide free and additional spatial gifts to those who use it and on its ability to address the unspoken wishes of strangers.
Freespace celebrates architecture’s capacity to find additional and unexpected generosity in each project – even within the most private, defensive, exclusive or commercially restricted conditions.
Freespace provides the opportunity to emphasise nature’s free gifts of light – sunlight and moonlight, air, gravity, materials – natural and man-made resources.
Freespace encourages reviewing ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the well being and dignity of each citizen of this fragile planet.
Freespace can be a space for opportunity, a democratic space, un-programmed and free for uses not yet conceived. There is an exchange between people and buildings that happens, even if not intended or designed, so buildings themselves find ways of sharing and engaging with people over time, long after the architect has left the scene.
Architecture has an active as well as a passive life.
Freespace encompasses freedom to imagine, the free space of time and memory, binding past, present and future together, building on inherited cultural layers, weaving the archaic with the contemporary. With the theme of Freespace, the Biennale Architettura 2018 will present for public scrutiny examples, proposals, elements – built or unbuilt – of work that exemplifies essential qualities of architecture which include the modulation, richness and materiality of surface; the orchestration and sequencing of movement, revealing the embodied power and beauty of architecture. The exhibition will have a spatial, physical presence of a scale and quality, which will impact on the visitor, communicating architecture’s complex spatial nature


Yvonne Farrell, Shelley McNamara, and Paolo Baratta – President of La Biennale di Venezia. Photo Andrea Avezzù, courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

On January 17th, 2017, La Biennale di Venezia announced that Yvonne Farrell (b. 1951) and Shelley McNamara (b. 1952) will curate the next  Venice Architecture Biennale.
Farrell & McNamara are founders and leading partners of the Dublin-based practice Grafton Architects. The practice is recognized for its designs for public buildings, especially schools and institutional centers, both in their home country – Ireland – and internationally.

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara are also known for their academic work: they were appointed adjunct Professors at University College Dublin in 2015; the Kenzo Tange chair at GSD Harvard and the Louis Kahn chair at Yale University, and have been visiting professors at EPFL – École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, and at the Accademia d’Archittettura in Mendrisio, Switzerland, where they were appointed as full professors in 2013.

“The Exhibition curated by Alejandro Aravena offered visitors a critical overview of the worldwide evolution of architecture and underlined how important it is that a qualified demand on the part of individuals and communities be met by an equally effective response, thereby confirming that architecture is one of civil society’s instruments for organizing the space in which it lives and works.
Along these lines, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara will continue to address the same theme but from the point of view of the quality of the public and private space, of urban space, of the territory and of the landscape as the main ends of architecture. The curators, who are well-known for the refinement of their work, are also known for their intense didactic activity and their ability to involve and fascinate new generations.” Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia, commented.

Grafton Architects Bocconi University Milan

Grafton Architects, Bocconi University in Milan, Italy; photo © Paolo Rosselli

Grafton Architects University Limerick

Grafton Architects, University of Limerick Medical School, Ireland; photo © Dennis Gilbert

Grafton Architects Lima UTEC University

Grafton Architects in collaboration with Shell Arquitectos, UTEC University Campus in Lima, Peru; photo © Iwan Baan

Grafton Architects Solstice Arts Centre Navan

Grafton Architects, Solstice Arts Centre in Navan, Ireland; photo © Ros Kavanagh

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

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

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