[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.
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
(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.
At the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, Rem Koolhaas set the theme “Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014” for the national pavilions, and many countries took it up through the lens of domesticity. The Taiwanese American architect Jimenez Lai examined the spaces and rituals of Taiwanese life with his exhibition Township of Domestic Parts. Lai created “superfurniture,” overscaled, Memphis-inflected installations that interpreted ideas such as museum-like living rooms—part shrine, part show place, reserved only for guests. The result is a fantasy hangout space, which conjures up memories of childhood.
When Rem Koolhaas gave the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale the theme Fundamentals, he promised to create a research-based exhibition that would consider both the universal and place-specific aspects of the discipline. Serving as a counterweight to the multidisciplinary but single-country-focus of Monditalia, which fills the Arsenale at the Venice Biennale, the Central Pavilion in the Giardini is hosting The Elements of Architecture, which looks at the basic components of building around the world: the floor, walls, windows, stairs, elevators, etc. Based on a book of the same name, the exhibition juxtaposes the mundane and the cutting edge, building science with artistic interpretations, historical facts with speculative futures.
The Seattle Central Library celebrated its 10th anniversary this year on May 23rd with live music, free treats and refreshments, and guest appearances from some of the chief architects and minds behind the construction of the building. Regarded as the prize library of Seattle’s library system, the Seattle Central Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas’ OMA, has also garnered criticism and acclaim for its unique architectural design. To celebrate the decade, AN has compiled a collection of ten great photos that will give the online viewer a virtual tour of Seattle’s unique cathedral of reading.