La Biennale di Venezia

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Introduction by

PAOLO BARATTA

President of La Biennale di Venezia

The Biennale Architettura:
the origins

In the history of La Biennale di Venezia, architecture as a department emerged after slipping into the Art Exhibition with Vittorio Gregotti in 1975 and then into the Theatre department with Aldo Rossi, who in 1979 created the Teatro del Mondo. In 1980, an independent section was set up, even though Paolo Portoghesi’s exhibition on the “Strada Novissima” was still part of the International Art Exhibition of that year. Various exhibitions followed one another, curated by Portoghesi himself, including “The architecture of Islamic countries” (20 November 1982 – 6 January 1983), and “Progetto Venezia”, curated by Aldo Rossi (20 July – 29 September 1985). In 1986, Aldo Rossi curated an exhibition dedicated to Hendrik Petrus Berlage during the year of the Art Exhibition. In 1991, with Francesco Dal Co, La Biennale organised the first exhibition to include the added contributions of the pavilions of the participating countries (but the exhibition lasted less than thirty days). Architecture was confirmed as a self-standing department in the Biennale di Venezia’s statute of 1998, when the institution was reformed.

Our guidelines, Our goals

Except for a few cases, these exhibitions lasted around four weeks. All created important events and meetings between architects, and between them and the public. It has been our deliberate choice in more recent years to give firm added impetus to the Architecture department. The duration of the exhibition was initially extended to about three months, and since 2014, has lasted approximately six months. There has been an implicit aim in this choice: to address the public and to draw it into this most political of arts. Showing how “it can be done differently”is in itself a gesture against passive acceptance and conformity.

Architecture as a Source of Public Goods

With architecture, whatever we create for private use becomes a structure in public space. Architecture offers itself as a tool to characterise better every human being as a citizen. Architecture gives rise to public goods. Let us once again recall that public goods by their nature can either be the result of public action or be born as a gift; architecture can therefore be both an instrument of awareness and of the political capacity of a community, as well as an instrument of the generosity of an individual. One thing is certain: without architecture we are all of us the poorer. The goal thus becomes to promote a “desire” for architecture.

A chain of Biennales

The numerous editions of the Biennale that have so far succeeded each other are the result of reflections and choices developed from different starting points and based on different personal experiences. Every Biennale can make bold choices. While in its themes, the previous Biennale Architettura stressed the importance of a high quality encounter between supply and demand in order for architecture to be able to make good its contribution, this edition curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara focuses on the question of free space, the free space that can be generated when a project is inspired by generosity. Our desire to create freespace can be, specifically, a characteristic of individual projects. But free space also becomes a paradigm, in that it reveals the presence or absence in general of architecture, if we mean by architecture thinking applied to the space in which we live and reside. Free space is a sign of a higher civilisation of living, an expression of the will to welcome. Of course, generosity cannot only be hoped for: the cultural and institutional framework of a community must know how to recognise it and must want to stimulate and promote it. The Exhibition is enriched by two examples of research, one dedicated to a review of the contribution of architects of the past undertaken by architects of the present, and the second to works resulting from a collaboration between teachers and young people. The Exhibition will give us examples, and motive for discussion. We are grateful to Farrell and McNamara for accepting our invitation and for the bold approach they have adopted for the Exhibition, which adds substance to all those held over these years, and which itself provides an important link, almost a goal.

The Exhibition
 

The numerous editions of the Biennale that have so far succeeded each other are the result of reflections and choices developed from different starting points and based on different personal experiences. Every Biennale can make bold choices. While in its themes, the previous Biennale Architettura stressed the importance of a high quality encounter between supply and demand in order for architecture to be able to make good its contribution, this edition curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara focuses on the question of free space, the free space that can be generated when a project is inspired by generosity. Our desire to create freespace can be, specifically, a characteristic of individual projects. But free space also becomes a paradigm, in that it reveals the presence or absence in general of architecture, if we mean by architecture thinking applied to the space in which we live and reside. Free space is a sign of a higher civilisation of living, an expression of the will to welcome. Of course, generosity cannot only be hoped for: the cultural and institutional framework of a community must know how to recognise it and must want to stimulate and promote it. The Exhibition is enriched by two examples of research, one dedicated to a review of the contribution of architects of the past undertaken by architects of the present, and the second to works resulting from a collaboration between teachers and young people. The Exhibition will give us examples, and motive for discussion. We are grateful to Farrell and McNamara for accepting our invitation and for the bold approach they have adopted for the Exhibition, which adds substance to all those held over these years, and which itself provides an important link, almost a goal.

Beyond the Biennale Architettura

I wish to recall that during the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale is organising the International Contemporary Dance Festival with associated College from 22 June to 1 July (Director Marie Chouinard); the International Theatre Festival with its College from 20 July to 5 August (Director Antonio Latella); the Film Festival from 29 August to 8 September with its College (Director Alberto Barbera); the International Festival of Contemporary Music from 28 September to 7 October, also with a College (Director Ivan Fedele). The spirit of research that inspires La Biennale is prompted in part by its being active in many different sectors.

 

I wish, first of all, to thank the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo (Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism), the local institutions that support La Biennale di Venezia in various ways, the City of Venice, the Veneto Region, the Soprintendenza Archeologia, belle arti e paesaggio per il Comune di Venezia e Laguna (Department of archaeology, fine arts and landscape for the territories of Venice and the Lagoon), and the Italian Navy.

Our thanks go to our Rolex Partner.

We thank the Sponsors who support and help us, and the Donors, who have been important for the realisation of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition.

In particular, our thanks go to Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara and to all their team.

Thanks, finally, to the great professionalism of my colleagues at La Biennale who all work with great dedication in the realization and management of the Exhibition during its six months’ duration.

 

Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia

 

Biennale Architettura
Biennale Architettura