Venice Takeaway: Ideas to Change British Architecture
COMMON GROUND: The 13th International Architecture Biennale, Venice
29th August – 25th November 2012
The Venice Architecture Biennale matures into a more complex and elaborate exposition year by year. This year’s director, Sir David Chipperfield aims to depose an egocentric focus on the architect and promote a return to the heart of practice with his theme of Common Ground – a sweeping title gesturing an egalitarian, anti-elitist rewrite of contemporary architecture. Whilst there is still a considerable “starchitect” presence throughout, from Zaha Hadid to Norman Foster, considerable effort has been made to ensure they do not dominate. Chipperfield has invited over a hundred architects, artists, photographers and academics to contribute in filling the Arsenale alone.
Throughout the 55 national pavilions, none embrace the character of this shared practice more than the British Pavilion. Venice Takeaway is Vicky Richardson and Vanessa Norwood’s thoughtful response to this year’s collaborative theme. Commissioned by the British Council, proceedings began in April with ten teams being sent to ten different countries with a view toward provoking an important discourse within contemporary British architecture.
The British Pavilion presents the work of these ‘Explorers’ – as they have been dubbed by the Council – and exhibits the findings of their creative expeditions to China, Japan, Thailand, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Argentina, Brazil and the USA in order to illuminate “the creative potential of sharing ideas across borders.”
Such an ambitious endeavour appears to embrace Britian’s multicultural pluralism through the increasingly universal language of architecture. Emphasis is on the collective and the increasingly varied, democratic collaboration that the profession demands. The pavilion’s co-curator Vicky Richardson explains, “In a sense this is a reversal of the conventional idea of the national pavilion; instead of presenting British architecture, we’ve tried to show the openness of British architecture to outside ideas.”
These optimistic aspirations must compete with certain political ironies inherent in an event like the Venice Biennale, namely a Eurocentric vision of pseudo-equality or inclusivity that is never totally convincing. However, whether it is naïve or merely hopeful, what we can admire in Sir David Chipperfield is his vision for a brighter architectural future.
For more information see www.venicetakeaway.com