Zaha 'Out There' in Venice

Niki May Young
Friday 12 Sep 2008

Venice plays host to world's greatest talent at 11th International Architecture Exhibition

A combination of bright sunshine and romantic setting helped to ensure the preview to the 11th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale this week was a serene affair. The historical city of Venice is now playing host to 23 installations and 55 experimental works from 48 countries, flooding the labyrinthine city with modern international architecture for the next two and a half months.

"The unstoppable Zaha Hadid", so named by the exhibition's director Aaron Betsky, featured as the inaugural Masters Lecturer and had no problem maintaining the laid-back atmosphere. The Pritker Prize winning architect, who rather embodies the festival’s tag line – Out There, Architecture Beyond Building - floated on to stage without so much as an introduction: “I imagine you don’t need an introduction to my name,” she said before announcing that her next venture would be to find an alternative mode of transport for Venice, apparently not a fan of boats.

The lecture continued in the same light-hearted vein as she exhibited projections of her portfolio of past, present and future works – whilst sweltering under the stage lights she was offered two fans before finally settling on a traditional hand fan generously offered up by an audience member.

The Architecture Exhibition is particularly relevant for Venice this year given the controversial completion of the Calatrava Bridge, one of very few modern injections spanning the river at one of its busiest folds. The exhibition encourages participants to stroll through the spectacular rustic surroundings of the Arsenale and the Giardini, the two core venues, offering a healthy contrast to the sheen of many of the modern exhibits. There you will find works by a prestigious variety of architects including Massimiliano Fuksas, Herzog & de Meuron and Frank Gehry, who featured as man of the hour winning the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the official awards ceremony.

The exhibition’s other award ceremony celebrated 10 winning projects submitted among 782 in the online ‘Everyville’ competition. Young architects were encouraged to design an imaginary city that was real at the same time, focusing on community beyond physical space and integrating technology and communication.

Many of the exhibits featured work as collaborations. Bornhouse is a collaboration of 27 architects, half international and half from Moscow who created the exhibition which features at San Stae church. The construction, according to curator Yuri Avvakumov, is "form that gives birth to new form, and here, in Venice, in the midst of an architectural exhibition, in the space of the classical art, in Christian Church."

A12's Deep Garden uses the location to its best potential featuring a sunken 'garden' in Venice's lagoon. "It's always a big honour to be here and also to get the possibility to do these kind of projects," said Andrea, one of the project architects. Advising of the meaning behind their exhibit Andrea advised that the Garden is created to "confront with the energy of nature."

Gareth Hoskins’ brings the exhibition straight to the heart of the city offering a platform for both Hadid and Gehry among others at his prize-winning A Gathering Space, situated at the entrance to Santa Lucia rail station on the river-side. The pavilion’s central location and welcoming design help to ensure its prominence in the festivities. WAN caught up with Hoskins to discuss the importance and relevance of delivering architecture to an international audience. Hear the podcast here.

Niki May Young
News Editor

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