The Art of Representation Highlights from the Biennale of Architecture in Venice
A tour through this year’s main expedition in the Venice Arsenale conveys not only an impression of the diversity with which the Freespace idea can be interpreted today, but also an overview of contemporary model-building techniques and concepts. Diller Scofidio + Renfro set the stage with their impressive, if relatively conventional, two-metre model of the Vagelos Education Centre, which they completed two years ago for the Faculty of Medicine at Columbia University in New York. Across the way from Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Japan’s Tezuka Architects combine high tech with humour. Onto the roof of a large-format model of their Fuji day-care centre in Tokyo, a data projector beams the commotion and clamour of the children running around on the roof.
The coloured cardboard models built by Flores & Prats of individual rooms in Barcelona’s Sala Beckett theatre centre are certainly hyper-realistic. These small artworks are exhibited in a section of the building that once housed a workers’ cooperative.
The exhibition is also showing extremely abstract conceptual models: Alison Brooks of the UK has attempted to recreate the spatial impression of selected free spaces in her own apartment as large-format “totems”. On the other hand, Slovenia’s Maruša Zorec is showing layout reliefs that call to mind the results of archaeological digs. With their models of MDF and white plastic, Paredes Pedrosa from Spain concentrate on the sectional figures and hollow spaces inside their own buildings. Hall McKnight’s contribution is puzzling at first glance; a closer look reveals how impressive it is. Inside large-format peep boxes, they have recreated selected interior spaces from their buildings. These have been tipped vertically by 90⁰ and are observed via a mirror.
Laura Peretti also uses mirrors in order to recreate one of the longest structures in the history of architecture. She won the competition to restore the kilometre-long Corviale apartment house on the outskirts of Rome. Her Biennale installation gives a good impression of the monotony and overwhelming size of that architecture.
The models display a great diversity of materials: stretched woollen threads in Francesca Torzo’s model for the Z33 Museum in Hasselt, steel sheeting for the roof over a source of drinking water in China by Jensen & Skodvin and corrugated cardboard, Iceland moss and brass for Gumuchdijan Architects. This Armenian office conceptualized a 750-kilometre hiking trail though their Caucasian country; it is intended to attract tourists to the more isolated regions of Armenia. The architects have portrayed some of the highlights along the route as circular, three-dimensional landscape tondi.
The architectural models in the walkable spatial installation by Andra Matin could easily be overlooked, but they play the starring role here. The Indonesian architect examined the traditional architecture for dwellings in his country and investigated how it responds to the constant risk of flooding. Here it is: the higher the platform won which the model stands in the exhibition, the higher the corresponding house stands above sea level, and the better it is protected.
Even fiction can be a good source of inspiration for architectural models. This is shown by the Swedish architects Krupinski/Krupinska in their contribution Naturalis Brutalis, which can be seen directly outside the actual Biennale grounds in the old conservatory known as the Serra dei Giardini. According to their portrayal, Naturalis Brutalis is a hitherto unknown creature, apparently related to the beaver, that inhabits the northern forests, where it stands out for its equal measures of destructive rage and artistic sensibilities. The architects have brought to Venice three of their creations in the form of iconic architectural models carved from tree trunks in a transport crate that is mirrored on the inside. They are now on presentation to an amazed international audience.