Biennale Opens

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008
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[Editor’s Note: This post was written Sunday.]

It is two days before the opening of the Venice architecture Biennale and as commissioner of the United States pavilion I have been in Venice for a week mounting the exhibition. The Biennale opens on Wednesday for “important media” and the next three days for the rest of the press and anyone else that can find a ticket. This always sets up a huge scrum at the entrance to the grounds between the haves (those with passes) and the have-nots in the media.

But yesterday I was invited to the roof of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to watch the Venice regatta . The regatta is supposed to be a race of gondolas but is really a great Sunday afternoon passeggiata of colorful boats paddling down the Grand Canal.

All photos by William Menking

Back at the U.S. pavilion we are still not quite finished and I decide to walk around the biennale ‘giardini’ grounds to test the stress levels of other curators. Directly on axis with the U.S. pavilion somebody has constructed a nearly a 40 foot high solid steel building out of scaffolding floor slats. It’s just next to the Spanish pavilion but no one seems to be around to explain the amazing structure?

In the “Old Europe” corner of the giardini the Swiss pavilion will include a brick laying robot named R/O/B but he/she is still in a shipping container. The British curator Elias Woodman shows me through his pavilion which features housing designed by architects that Peter Cooks at dinner last night labeled “the Whisperers.” But Elias has created a fantastic catalog on the history of British Housing–compared with similar events in Europe. In the front of the Brit’s pavilion an enormous yellow steel pipe shoots out of the Russian pavilion and makes it way towards the west. It is apparently the creation of the Estonians who mean it to suggest the connection of oil or natural gas from Russia to the rest of Europe.

The Japanese have created a beautiful glass greenhouse in front of their pavilion but it must have cost as much to fabricate and build as the entire U.S. pavilion’s budget? Next to the ours is the most beautiful pavilion in the giardini–the Scandinavian, created by Pritzker winner Sverre Fehn.

Then lunch at Trattoria dai Tosi where a really good 4 course working mans lunch is 15 Euros–well that’s 12 Euros for Venetians and 15 for everyone else. You can try sitting in the far back of the hot Venetian dining rooms to get the better price but then 3 euros is a small price to pay for this perfect little spot.

Back to the Italian pavilion, curated by Aaron Betsky and Emiliano Gondolfi, which is still nearly empty as I walk over the meet ‘Stalker’ Lorezo Romito. Lorenzo is creating an I Ching room to determine the future of architecture. I am supposed to be throwing the I Ching “to determine the future of American architecture.” But Lorenzo is nowhere to be seen, his room empty.

Walking through this enormous pavilion I run into Gondolfi who shows me around the few displays that are in construction. I did come across L.A. architects Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues, alums of last year’s P.S. 1 summer pavilion, up on a scaffold carefully weaving draped string into an inverted baroque dome. The crew in the U.S. pavilion must be missing me, so I head back to the building in the center of the giardini. Back to work on Monday and then maybe a trip to the Arsenale.

One Response to “Biennale Opens”

  1. Hi,
    Nice post.
    The snaps are so good.
    Thanks for sharing.

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