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la Biennale di Venezia
Main Visual Entry Page Architettura EN (new)


La presenza del passato

1st International Architecture Exhibition
Director: Paolo PORTOGHESI
27th July – 20th October 1980
Site: Corderie dell’Arsenale
Director appointed by President Giuseppe Galasso
The leitmotiv of the 1st International Architecture Exhibition, directed by Paolo Portoghesi and titled La presenza del passato, is a consideration of the so-called Postmodernist movement. This school of thought questions the Modern, with its almost mythical consideration of future, technology and geometric forms. Since present times do not seem able to offer anything new from the past, Postmodernism suggests a new synchronic vision of History, that ultimately becomes an infinite warehouse for images and suggestions, from which architects can freely draw shapes, styles and decorative elements.

This is the idea on which Portoghesi created his Strada Novissima, the main exhibition set up at the Corderie dell’Arsenale, a striking space opened for the first time thanks to the Biennale. Strada Novissima was made up of twenty façades, designed by an equal number of great architects, and conceived as theatre wings for a hypothetical postmodern “street”. The exhibition offered visitors a direct and tactile experience of architecture: an exhibit, as Portoghesi underlined, “with architecture, not about architecture”. For the realisation of Strada Novissima, which opened a very lively debate on Postmodernism, becoming a symbol of the movement itself, big names were collected, among which we can find Frank O. Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Arata Isozaki, Robert Venturi, Franco Purini, Ricardo Bofil, Christian de Portzamparc. Beyond each façade, every architect presented a monographic display of their works.

Thanks to this exhibition, the Biennale became an influential protagonist within international architectural debates since the very beginning, thanks to its ability to draw the most renowned and high profile tendencies to Venice. The Postmodernist movement asserted itself as a leading, internationally known approach, thanks to Strada Novissima and to the previous episode of Aldo Rossi’s Teatro del Mondo (an ephemeral building anchored to the Punta della Dogana between 1979 and 1980).

La presenza del passato also included three 20th century masters, Philip Johnson, Ignazio Gardella and Mario Ridolfi, who had the courage to follow alternative paths that differed from modernist dictates, a special section devoted to 73 young architects and a retrospect on Ernesto Basile.