Asserting itself from its leafy outpost on the edge of a calm Venetian canal, the Australian Pavilion makes its presence felt with its imposing, solid and bold shape. This will be the first 21st century, and only water-facing pavilion in Venice’s Giardini at the 56th Venice biennale, opening on 9 May. The stark and simple building, by Denton Corker Marshall, embodies a distinctly Australian approach to design, and marks the first building to be constructed in Venice in the past two decades.
Standing out against the city’s historical towers and spires, this white box within a black box stands out with its black granite exterior and stark geometric silhouette, contrasting with its simple white interior. Comprised of operable panels, the pavilion can appear as a solid block or a multi-form structure. When the panels are opened natural light is allowed to stream through the galleries. The flexible nature means the space can adapt to the needs of any exhibition layout or function.
The two-level concrete and steel structure attempts to reconcile with its surroundings and the Rio di Giardini canal. Visitors will enter the building via a steel ramp that leads to a floating terrace overlooking the water. The rectangular exhibition gallery features polished concrete floors and plasterboard-over plywood walls, and an acoustic plasterboard ceiling, painted striking white.
The space will be inaugurated by renowned artist and Australia’s artist representative, Fiona Hall, whose immersive, multisensory installation, Wrong Way Time, looks at environmental degradation, capitalism, politics and other global issues.
“The former temporary pavilion, designed by Philip Cox, has served Australia successfully over the past 25 years and was an important statement of Australia, both artistically and architecturally, in the last quarter of the 20th century,’ said Elaine Chia, Director, International Signature Projects, Australia council for the Arts. “As the primary overseer of Australia’s presentations at the Venice Biennale for the past three decades, the Australia Council looks forward to offering a new addition to the Giardini that will be an inspirational and limitless place for art and which celebrates the extraordinary contributions of Australia’s pre-eminent contemporary artists.”