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Arcipelago Italia – Italian pavilion | 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale

By FEDERICA LUSIARDI - June 12, 2018

Italy pavilion 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 08 Inexhibit

To unveil the less known parts of Italy, and reveal the richness and potentiality of territories which, overall, constitute 60% of the country’s area, comprise about 4,000 medium to small municipalities, and are home to the 25% of the Italian population.

This is the main theme developed by Mario Cucinella, curator of ARCIPELAGO ITALIA. Projects for the future of the country’s interior territories”, the Italian Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale (running from May 26 through November 25, 2018). From the Alps down to the Mediterranean coastline, smaller urban areas distributed along the Apennine Mountains, the backbone of the Italian Peninsula, are in danger of marginalization, also because the country’s biggest development projects are predominantly for large metropolitan areas.

Cover image: Arcipelago Italia exhibition, Italian Pavilion, 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, Arcipelago Room; installation view; photo © Inexhibit

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Sketch and axonometric view of the Padiglione Italia; Mario Cucinella Studio 

The Italian Pavilion curated by architect Mario Cucinella for the 16th Venice International Architecture Exhibition offers an interesting opportunity. Italy is a composite reality, not characterized by large metropolises, but by archipelagos of places of varying sizes and densities, historical centers, big cities, peripheries, agricultural regions, minor cities, villages, a fabric of distinct entities but a continuous one, which asks loudly to be considered as a varied terrain, on which our ability to enliven is manifest without hierarchies. It fits well in the context of the International Exhibition, which has the title “Freespace”, as it does not simply represent a new reason for complacency over the legacy of the past, but because it helps to better frame the characteristics of our inhabited space, on which we see architecture at work for necessary and
continuous regeneration, a real concrete ground for our present civilization, an unavoidable theme of our immediate future” comments Paolo Baratta, President of the Venice Biennale.


The Itinerary and the Arcipelago rooms

The exhibition begins with an introductory docufilm produced by RAI cinema.
The second part of the exhibition conceived by Mario Cucinella features an itinerary made of recently-built small architectural and urban redevelopment designs, he selected from over 500 projects submitted after a public call; a journey which explores the future by investigating current issues, such as environmental protection, suburbs, post-earthquake rehabilitation, brownfield sites, disused train stations, and sustainable mobility. Entitled Itinerary Room, this part presents eight installations shaped as a giant book, each focused on a different mountainous area of Italy: Western Alps, Eastern Alps, Northern Apennines, Central Appennines, Campania’s Appennines, Puglia’s Appennines, Sicilian-Calabrian Appennines, and Sardinia.

Italy pavilion 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 02 Inexhibit

The video room at the beginning of the exhibition; photo © Inexhibit

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Itinerary Room, the installations focused on Sardinia (left) and on Sicilian-Calabrian Appennines (right); photo © Inexhibit

Italy pavilion 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 05 Inexhibit

Itinerary Room, the installations focused on Central Italy’s (left) and Northern Italy’s Appennines (right); photo © Inexhibit

Italy pavilion 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 01 Inexhibit

The Central Italian Appennines section, the picture crearly shows the metaphor of book upon which each installation in the Itinerary Room section is based; © Inexhibit


Arcipelago Italia also features five experimental projects for five areas, developed by a multidisciplinary collective composed of architects, urban planners, scholars, experts in participatory planning, and photographers. The five areas are: the Barbagia with the Ottana plain, an area in the central part of Sardinia flanked by the Gennargentu massif; the Valle del Belice and the town of Gibellina in the province of Trapani, western Sicily; Matera in its relationship with the Valle del Basento; the so-called “crater” and Camerino with the area of Central Italy hit by the 2016 earthquake; and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines with a focus on the Casentinesi Forest Park. For these areas, the team is working on five hybrid-buildings that can in some way solve the problems of depopulation and the reduction of services in those territories, Cucinella explains.

The collective is composed by:
Architects: AM3 Architettura, BDR Bureau, Diverserighe Studio, Gravalos Di Monte Arquitectos, Modus Architects, Solinas Serra Architetti.
Scholars: University of Basilicata – Prof. Chiara Rizzi, University of Bologna – Prof. Andrea Boeri e Prof. Ernesto Antonini, University of Cagliari – Prof. Giorgio Peghin, University of Camerino – Prof. Maria Federica Ottone, University of Palermo – Prof. Maurizio Carta.
Scientific committee: Massimo Alvisi, Antonella Agnoli, Michele Bondanelli, Andreas Kipar, Matteo Pedaso e Roberta Filippini (LAND), Matteo Marsilio (Domus Gaia), Federico Parolotto, and Francesca Arcuri (MIC), Enzo Rizzato.
Other experts: Giuseppe Zummo (artist), Vincenzo Messina (architect), Emmanuele Curti (archaeologist), Sardarch (architectural research collective).
Participation process support team: Ascolto Attivo, with Marianella Sclavi, Agnese Bertello, and Stefania Lattuille.
Photographers: Urban Reports.
Mario Cucinella and his staff.

The projects are presented by the means of drawings and models placed on five “island-like” tables made in laminated wood, as well as through videos and large description panels hanging on the side walls and from the ceiling.

During the 2018 Biennale, the italian pavilion will also feature a program of four theme-based events with debates, conferences, and workshops, involving part of the curatorial team with students from schools and universities.

Italy pavilion 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 03 Inexhibit

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Arcipelago Italia, Arcipelago room, general views; photos © Inexhibit

Italy pavilion 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 10 Inexhibit

The projects on view in the Arcipelago Room are also presented with drawings, documents and models placed on top of large laminated wood tables; Arcipelago Italia, Arcipelago room, general views; photo © Inexhibit

Italy pavilion 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale 13 Inexhibit

The “table” preseting the project for the Belice valley in Sicily; photo © Inexhibit


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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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