Inside the Dutch Pavilion this summer you will discover a dazzling installation where a huge curtain travels around the room on a rail system, transforming the space, giving it a new identity. The exhibition is being curated by Ole Bouman, Director of the Netherlands Architecture. At the official opening at the Biennale, Elena Collins met up with Ole to learn more about the ideas behind the installation.
How did you devise the theme for this year's pavilion?
The pavilion was built in the 1954. It is empty for most of the time, only used for three months of the year. This vacancy can be seen as a symbol as a global issue in architecture. So many beautiful buildings are vacant due to a number of reasons such as political shifts or shrinking cities so it is a big issue. Last time we raised these issues by presenting the pavilion at the Biennale in 2010 as an empty building but this time we have taken it a step further and show that architecture can play a big role in re-inhabiting and re-animating existing buildings by sheer imagination. We need the imagination and craftsmanship of the architect, to do something proper with the existing space. Of course, you could put a couple of new walls in but that's not what we mean.
Could you explain how the installation works?
There are 12 defaults and there is an installation which goes from one default setting to another and which create 12 spatial configurations where you can imagine things to happen. The installation makes small and big sections whilst using different lighting and different formations so the old building has been multiplied by the intelligence of contemporary architecture. The multiplication is only a quantitative thing. It's also an amplification because the architect, has found so many qualities in the original building which have been captured and framed with the installation.
The installation is fabric on an electric rail system that provides the pattern and it takes 25 minutes for the curtain to travel. Every setting takes 1 and half minutes to get there and then it is static for people to explore it and then it moves on and this is the geometrical shape dividing the room.
We also replaced the windows with transparent glass so it captures a lot more light now and by placing mirrors on the roof we also capture light which create patterns on the walls so it is an aesthetical and emotional experience but it also spatial organisation. It is also analytical as it analysing the building to make it ready for new users but also sense the building and to create new emotions. This is also amplification and multiplications.
It's great how you have encompassed the history into the building with the installation.
I think you can respond to the architect but you can also respond to the vacancy which is a contemporary issue so there is a historical dimension but also a contemporary dimension in the building. We are not doing something in the exsiting building or against the building but something with the building.
Why did you choose Petra Blaisse as the architect for the installation?
This is the latest instalment of the vacancy story and I personally felt that Petra has an incredible subtle approach in dealing with existing buildings and I believe she should be the one to demonstrate that design can still make a big difference.
Do you feel the pavilion fits into this year's theme of common ground?
Yes, at first the pavilion is common ground, it is public space where people meet and continuing the theme of last time of people meeting in architecture. Common ground can be seen as the place where people engage and the spatial experience helps people engage with the building aswell as the people around it which is very much part of the installation. But I was think that there is much more at stake, one is that the language of architecture today, so the way architecture express itself is also common ground. The global dialogue where you can mix different ages, regions, talents backgrounds in the common ground of architecture language. Thirdly there is an emotion thing. Architecture as it is a very slow art, to be a very good architect you are usually over 60 but that is a beautiful thing as it takes a life to become great and it takes much time and patience to keep working. Its team work that is the generosity of architecture and that is the common ground of the discipline.
What's the plan after the biennale? Are you having an exhibition in the Netherlands?
We might reuse the curtains but it has all been designed for here and we have created 12 new buildings out of one and 12 new formations.
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