The British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year will present the work of ten architectural teams who travelled the world in search of imaginative responses to universal issues. The exhibitors include practising architects, curators, academics, filmmakers and writers, who were selected by an advisory panel following an open call for ideas. Elena Collins caught up with World Architecture Day speaker Vicky Richardson, joint curator along with Vanessa Norwood, to get a sneak preview of what to expect from the British Pavilion this year.
How did you devise the theme for the British Pavilion at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale?
Venice Takeaway is not a conventional exhibition - it has involved a process of research and international dialogue that we hope will have a long term effect on British architecture, and open up new connections overseas.
We wanted to make an exhibition that embraced the whole purpose of the Venice Biennale, which is about networking, and about discovering new ways of making architecture in different contexts. At home our focus has very much been on London 2012, so it felt a good time to look outwards, particularly to places and parts of the world that are less familiar. The process of dialogue and research behind Venice Takeaway also goes to the heart of the British Council's remit, which is to open up new connections with the UK overseas and to internationalise culture at home.
Could you talk me through the selection process on how you decided the ten architectural teams.
We began by launching the brief in four cities around the UK in order to get the greatest possible response and to provide a forum for debate about the ideas behind Venice Takeaway. We received 118 responses, and the British Pavilion advisory panel made a selection. There were three main criteria for selection: the originality and success of the project overseas; the techniques by which it would be documented; and the potential of the idea to offer something new and challenging to the UK.
Who are the architects involved?
Aberrant Architecture, Ross Anderson & Anna Gibb, Darryl Chen, dRMM, Forum for Alternative Belfast, Public Works, Urban Porjects Bureau & Owen Pritchard, Elias Redstone, Liam Ross & Tolulope Onabolue, Smouth & Bldgblog and Takero Shimazaki/ Toh Shimazaki
What can expect to see at the pavilion this year?
There will be two main sections: The Research Emporium, where we tell the stories of the ten teams' travels and findings overseas; and the Takeaway proposals. Here, each team has made an installation of a piece of work that encapsulates their ideas and their proposal to change architecture in the UK. In some cases these are provocations to think about the way we make architecture in a new way; and in other examples, the proposals are quite practical - for example, dRMM propose building floating housing at the Royal Docks in London. There should be a few surprises along the way too.
How will the content a of the pavilion support the theme selected by David Chipperfield, 'Common Ground'?
David Chipperfield set out to explore the common culture of architecture - the ideas that are shared by architects and the public. We've responded by asking our exhibitors to look for examples of work overseas that could be pertinent in the UK and to begin a dialogue with the architects, clients and users of those projects to uncover the universal issues.
Is there a particular element of the pavilion that you are excited about showcasing?
We've tried to find a balance between showing the vast quantity of work that has gone into this project, whilst also making some very clear and simple proposals. In doing this we decided to adopt the model of an ‘emporium' rather than a conventional architecture exhibition, in order to capture the variety, depth and informality of the projects along with the straightforward organisation of objects you find in a department store. It should be possible to appreciate the exhibition in a number of ways - as a two-minute visit or a place to spend hours in.
How are you planning on using the legacy of exhibition beyond the life of the biennale?
The exhibition will be at the RIBA in 2013 (26 February to 27 April); so this is a great opportunity for a wider group to see it. In the longer term, we know that many of the projects will have a life of their own and will result in real change. For example, Forum for Alternative Belfast plans to launch an international housing competition inspired by the IBA in Berlin; and Smout Allen with Bldgblog will set up the British Exploratory Land Archive (BELA), following their research at CLUI in Los Angeles. These are just two examples, but all of the exhibitors, will take forward their projects in different ways and demonstrate new ways that architects can be proactive in changing the context in which they practice.
The British Pavilion will be part of La Biennale di Venezia from the 29th August until the 25th November. For more information about The Venice Takeaway please click here.
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