fbpx Biennale Architettura 2018 | Introduction by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara
La Biennale di Venezia

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Introduction by


Curators of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition


We have used the Manifesto FREESPACE, issued in June 2017 (see the next document), as a tool and as a reference point for putting this Exhibition together. We have found it to be a robust tool. It has acted as a measure and a guide to finding cohesion within the diversity of an Exhibition of this enormous scale.

More importantly, the response we have received from every invited participant has been enthusiastic. The FREESPACE Manifesto has been interrogated, dissected and interpreted by the intelligence and creativity of architects from all over the world.

We have become even more acutely aware, during these last months, of the unique location of La Biennale in the city of Venice. Our intention is that the Exhibition will make a connection with this unique city. Not in a direct way, but in terms of heightening awareness. In other words, our approach is that the context and atmosphere of Venice will be present within the atmosphere of the Exhibition.

We have approached this Exhibition as architects. We have considered the given buildings as specific sites, as our context. The Exhibition is designed to reveal the qualities of the Corderie and of the Central Pavilion. The heroic dimension of the Corderie with its repeated brick structure and its moody light contrasts with the luminous quality of the zenithal light in the Central Pavilion.

We have heightened the awareness of these contrasting atmospheres within the two buildings and this has informed and enriched our curatorial strategy. By responding to these qualities we have enjoyed the effect it has had on our choices and placements of participants.

This is the time when the list of participants is revealed.

It is wonderful to think that for months, architects around the globe are thinking and making responses to the FREESPACE Manifesto, in order to try to convey the meaning of their work, trying to dig deeply so as to reveal, to lay bare, the FREESPACE ingredient embedded in their work. 

We have included participants from all around the world.

To those who have not been invited, who are also our respected colleagues, we would like to say that we have chosen ‘samples’ that hopefully express architectural values shared with you and to which you have contributed.

We believe that the practice of architecture is about contributing, engaging and refreshing the continuity of architectural culture. We need to tend to culture, like tending to a garden. In architecture time is not linear. Architecture brings past, present and future together. This is represented as a special focus within the overall Exhibition where the past is reinvigorated from the viewpoint of contemporary architects.

A key component in attending to the continuity of tradition in architecture is the practice of teaching. Many of the invited practitioners are actively engaged in teaching. The world of making and building merges with the imaginative world is highlighted within the Exhibition.

We have discovered invention and creativity at the micro and macro scales:

historic buildings liberated by the intelligence of the architects; forgotten buildings re-visited and brought to life; transformative typologies of habitation; infrastructural needs translated into public and civic facilities.

We are hugely appreciative of the enormous dedication and passion invested by the participants. It has been a revelation to witness the variety of architectural responses to the vast differences in culture, climatic conditions, economies, construction techniques, received from architects throughout the world. At the same time it is important to note that at the core of the variety of  individual architects’ work is the shared respect of the ‘Earth as client’, a key component of our Manifesto.

In relation to the meaning of the word: FREESPACE, we are delighted with the global engagement of participants and participating counties in the process of its translation. When we were writing the Manifesto, we wanted primarily to include the word space. We also wanted a new use of everyday words, which could somehow cause us all to re-frame the additional component that we as a profession can contribute to humanity. We see architecture as the translation of need in its widest sense into meaningful space. In the effort to translate FREESPACE into the many wonderful languages of the world, we hope that it prises open the ‘gift’ which architectural invention has the potential to contribute with each project. Translation allows us all to map and rename intellectual as well as actual territory. It is our hope that the word FREESPACE allows us to burrow into the aspirations, ambitions and generosity of architecture.


Manifesto by Yvonne Farrell AND Shelley McNamara



FREESPACE describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture's agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself.

FREESPACE focuses on architecture’s ability to provide free and additional spatial gifts to those who use it and on its ability to address the unspoken wishes of strangers.

FREESPACE celebrates architecture’s capacity to find additional and unexpected generosity in each project - even within the most private, defensive, exclusive or commercially restricted conditions.

FREESPACE provides the opportunity to emphasise nature’s free gifts of light - sunlight and moonlight, air, gravity, materials -  natural and man-made resources.

FREESPACE encourages reviewing ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the well being and dignity of  each citizen of this fragile planet.

FREESPACE can be a space for opportunity, a democratic space, un-programmed and free for uses not yet conceived. There is an exchange between people and buildings that happens, even if not intended or designed, so buildings themselves find ways of sharing and engaging with people over time, long after the architect has left the scene. Architecture has an active as well as a passive life.

FREESPACE encompasses freedom to imagine, the free space of time and memory, binding past, present and future together, building on inherited cultural layers, weaving the archaic with the contemporary.

With the theme of Freespace, the Biennale Architettura 2018 will present for public scrutiny examples, proposals, elements - built or unbuilt - of work that exemplifies essential qualities of architecture which include the modulation, richness and materiality of surface; the orchestration and sequencing of movement, revealing the embodied power and beauty of architecture.

The Exhibition will have a spatial, physical presence of a scale and quality, which will impact on the visitor, communicating architecture’s complex spatial nature.

The Exhibition invites emotional and intellectual engagement of the many who come to the Biennale in order to understand architecture more fully, to stimulate discussion on core architectural values and to celebrate architecture’s proven and enduring contribution to humanity.

When Jørn Utzon thinks about a concrete and tiled seat at the entrance of Can Lis, Majorca, it is moulded perfectly to the human body for comfort and pleasure. Spatially, it is a ‘word’ of greeting, of welcome.

Angelo Mangiarotti and Bruno Morassutti ‘say’ the same thing at the entrance to 24 Via Quadronno, Milan where a gently sloping path, with a seat at the entrance threshold ‘holds’ you and welcomes you home from the city.

Lina Bo Bardi raised the museum of modern art in Sao Paolo in order to make a ‘belvedere’ for the citizens to overlook the city.

The Medici Palace in Florence represents power and wealth but the stone seat which forms part of the solid façade almost turns the building inside out. The solid wall becomes the enclosing wall of the public space. What is solid seems outward looking and generous.

We believe that everyone has the right to benefit from architecture. The role of architecture is to give shelter to our bodies and to lift our spirits. A beautiful wall forming a street edge gives pleasure to the passer-by, even if they never go inside. So too does a glimpse into a courtyard through an archway; or a place to lean against in the shade or a recess which offers protection from the wind and rain.

We are interested in going beyond the visual, emphasizing the role of architecture in the choreography of daily life.

We see the earth as Client. This brings with it long-lasting responsibilities. Architecture is the play of light, sun, shade, moon, air, wind, gravity in ways that reveal the mysteries of the world. All of these resources are free.

It is examples of generosity and thoughtfulness in architecture throughout the world that will be celebrated in the 16th International Architecture Exhibition. We believe these qualities sustain the fundamental capacity of architecture to nurture and support meaningful contact between people and place. We focus our attention on these qualities because we consider that intrinsic to them are optimism and continuity. Architecture that embodies these qualities and does so with generosity and a desire for exchange is what we call Freespace.

We invite all participants and every national pavilion to bring to Venice their Freespace, so together we may reveal the diversity, specificity and continuity in architecture based on people, place, time, history, to sustain the culture and relevance of architecture on this dynamic planet.»

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”, Greek Proverb.

Biennale Architettura
Biennale Architettura