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Architecture


Statement of Paolo Baratta

Rome, 3rd May 2010
Facoltà di Architettura “Valle Giulia”


Dear Friends,
in the last edition of the Exhibition, two prominent opinions about it stood out among all the analyses centred on its contents, presented in the extensive press review that always accompanies it.
 
"Le Monde" said : La 11e Biennale d’architecture de Venise, la plus importante manifestation du genre.”
(The 11th Architecture Biennale, the most important exhibition in its field)
Grégoire Allix, September 16, 2008
 
From the "Financial Times":The Venice Biennale, the world’s most important architecture festival.”
Edwin Heathcote, September 16, 2008
 
It’s opinions like these that make our commitment even stronger, urging us to keep thinking and renewing ourselves.
 
First question: what does the International Architecture Exhibition mean today? What will it be like in the future?
This is an issue that cannot get an univocal answer, but it does necessarily entail a precise choice.
In art exhibitions, works created by different artists are displayed, but that does not happen here! The real works of art are somewhere else, and their true meaning can only be experienced where they were actually realised.
 
What then? Is the Exhibition a place for indirect information and documentation? That would not mean much in a world where the visual and indirect means of documentation are developing so fast.
 
An Exhibition is not a critical essay. And it is neither a review magazine, nor an ex cathedra class. It is not a contender for other publishing instruments.
 
It speaks its own personal language, a precise and specific one, which is centred on the visitor’s visual emotions, set off by what is exhibited there.
 
It pivots on the images that speak to the fantasy of visitors, images that can evoke creative ideas, thoughts, themes related to architecture and urban interventions, rather than just document them.
 
A philosopher would say that the Exhibition is just a device for aesthetic education, aiming at making one’s spirit to “go beyond” by letting the visitor widen the perspectives of his own actions and thoughts, and leading him towards a more courageous consideration of the potential, we have to effectively shape the space where we live.
 
This applies both to professional visitors and occasional ones. They all have to develop their own imagination of what things could be like.
 
Most importantly, this applies to young visitors, which represent 40% of total audience.
 
It seems to us that this specific purpose is important nowadays, especially in Italy, where we perceive a sort of radical fracture: on one side, we have the ability to express high-toned personal taste for consumption goods (from food to clothes to furnishing) and on the other, we remain silent before the quality of the territory that we inhabit. It seems like consumers’ tastes progress whereas commissioners (private and public) are not able to keep up with it, in sharp contrast with our history.
 
The forms we shape the spaces with and the care for the local environment we live in are the only means we have to make our fractured individual realities become richer and deeper, aspiring to a more qualified social living, a world where we can act as a more independent subjects, free from the poverty caused by both our collective and individual indifference.
 
Let’s think about the title of this Biennale, People meet in architecture, which also means that we become people in architecture.
 
If we really have to provide some hints for creative thinking, organized moments of reflection as such can be well integrated with the Exhibition itself.
 
We therefore thought to invite the directors of the past editions of the Architecture Biennale and give them a chance to teach a seminar or a workshop on a chosen theme, every Saturday for a couple of hours, within the Exhibition schedule.
 
We received some enthusiastic responses to this, and thanks to them we managed to conceive the
Architecture Saturdays programme, attached below. The directors of the past editions of the Biennale were, in chronological order: Gregotti, Portoghesi, Dal Co, Hollein, Fuksas, Sudjic, Forster, Burdett, and Betsky. From each one of them we can expect great contributions. (A small exhibition dedicated to Aldo Rossi, curator of the Biennale in 1985 and 1986, is currently taking place at Ca’ Giustinian, displaying images and documents from his Teatro del Mondo).
 
Moreover, we decided to directly address Universities – not only architecture faculties – urging them to consider the Biennale a meaningful appendix, a place where to integrate their didactics with research. By promoting the Universities meet in Architecture programme, the Biennale offers both students and professors from any faculty that plan to pay an integrated visit to the exhibition a special three-day ticket, the chance to participate in the Architecture Saturdays meetings, discounted meals, help with looking for a cheap stay, an équipe space to hold meetings and seminars during visits, along with logistic and communication assistance on request.
 
We have already got in touch with 30 Italian universities, and 80 different architecture, engineering, design and communication faculties, and received favourable responses from 15 of them, 9 of which are ready to sign this convention.
We have also proposed this initiative to more than 300 Universities and Advanced Training Institutes in different European, American, Asian and African countries, getting back 25 positive responses until today, and the first confirmations are to be formalized in the next few days.
 
A new Biennale is born, an exhibition that hosts foreign pavilions as participants, and different universities as visitors. It’s a new alliance under the name of architecture and its related disciplines, as well as a renewed impulse to see the Architecture Biennale as an International pilgrimage spot for teachers and students alike.
 
Moreover, we have further improved Educational Activities for younger visitors and for groups who request a more thoughtful visit, enriched with moments of reflection.
 
The National Participations are 56 and the Exhibition by Sejima People meet in architecture will present 43 works. The number of architects involved directly and indirectly is very high.
 
Hence, if architecture is the theme of this year’s Biennale, why choosing Kazuyo Sejima as curator?
 
The thoughts on which her work is based all derive from simple questions, that are nonetheless of essential importance to architecture. Sejima believes that designing means to identify uses and purposes in the first place and then to put into question the relationship between them.
Thus the primary question is about what separations are to be stressed and pointed out, or either softened through functional and visual transparencies.
Here we find a concept of architecture as an instrument to promote a more qualified standard relation level between individuals, activities and space, that is to consider it capable of creating a res publica, a dimension where individuals can recognise one another and improve their reciprocal relationships in creatively and imaginatively strengthened spaces. On May 17th, Sejima will be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and I cannot but confess our satisfaction to have anticipated it.