Rem Koolhaas’ Biennale: Or how the Tempest Swept Venice

Architecture, International, Review
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
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peter-lang-biennale-02

[Editor's Note: The Venice Architecture Biennale is still on through November 23 and it's still proving to be controversial. Professor Peter Lang shares his thoughts on Rem Koolhaas' event here.]

A Tale about the Magician Koolhaas who plays Prospero, lives on an island in the Venetian Laguna, and brings a Tempest to the Venice Biennale.

Miranda:
O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.
—William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I, ll. 203–206[5]
(Aldous Huxley quoted this line from the Tempest for the title of his dystopian novel Brave New World published in 1931)

In choosing to take a different perspective on the 14th edition of the Architecture Biennale in Venice directed by Rem Koolhaas, I decided to skip the standard blow-by-blow critique, and instead confront what I believe is the greatest enigma behind this controversial event. Up till now, the majority of critics taking a look at this year’s exhibition find fault with Koolhaas’ method, not so much with his madness. But the key to the exhibition is not in its studied aloofness, but in its insubordination—Koolhaas is determined to shake up the Biennale institution by any means possible.

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Review> MAXXI Takes To the Highway: Exhibition Explores Energy & Architecture

International, Newsletter
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
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OBR Open Building Research, Right to Energy. (Courtesy OBR Open Building Research)

OBR Open Building Research, Right to Energy. (Courtesy OBR Open Building Research)

One of the most curious artifacts in the current exhibition, Energy: Oil and Post-Oil Architecture and Grids, currently running through November 10, is the one you run into just outside the entrance doors to Rome’s MAXXI museum. It’s one of those ubiquitous mini AGIP filling stations, of the kind you normally would find curbside in any one of Italy’s many town centers. The look is ultra modern, with a cantilevered steel structure sheltering a smartly-constructed metal-and-glass shed designed for the gas station attendant and his stock of replacement windshield wipers and engine oils. Next to one of the pumps is AGIP’s bright yellow icon featuring a black, six-legged, fire-breathing dog. The filling station wouldn’t seem so odd if it were not for where it sits: on the pavement just under one of Zaha Hadid’s flying concrete viaducts. The architecture of Hadid’s MAXXI suggests a series of highway overpasses crashing into one of the remaining buildings preserved on the former barracks site. The miniature service station with all its loaded petro-symbolism seems to fit perfectly under the shadows of this massive Ballardian road wreck.

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