2016 Architecture Biennial | German Pavilion

2016 Architecture Biennial

German Pavilion: Making Heimat.

31. May 2016 | Words: Jasmin Jouhar
Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 50 seconds

A wind of change is sweeping through Germany. As Barbara Hendricks, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, proclaimed at the unveiling of Germany’s entry for the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennial last week, “Germany is a land of inward migration. We are pledged to that now, though that wasn’t always the case.” A gentle breeze wafts through the German Pavilion on the Biennial exhibition site. Four new, gate-sized openings in the walls allow the air to circulate nicely. An open house – that’s what the Commissioner General and head of the German Architecture Museum, Peter Cachola Schmal, his team and the architects at Something Fantastic were after. The Venetian conservation authorities gave their assent.

German Pavilion

The “Making Heimat. Germany, Arrival Country” entry is a powerful, catchy statement. Holes in walls, openness, at last the long yearned-for view out onto the lagoon: the encroachments made on what is an historically charged building are immediately assimilable, both atmospherically and politically. Cheap white plastic chairs are littered about. Piles of shrink-wrapped bricks await being used to block the openings back up once the Biennial has ended. In the meantime they serve as benches and counters. There are no doors or grilles controlling access to the Pavilion for the time being; it’s open round the clock – assuming you’ve negotiated the exhibition turnstiles.

The second tier of the German entry is just as catchy. Drawing on the theses of Canadian author Doug Sanders, the curators have come up with a jazzily couched exhibition about “arrival cities”. What environs do immigrants create for themselves, and what do they need for a good and successful life in their new home? Affordable housing and good schools, of course, but also networks with other immigrants and readily accessible shop premises on the ground floor in which to start up companies. The eight guiding principles are illustrated with examples such as the inner city of Offenbach or the Vietnamese Dong-Xuan-Center hypermarket in Berlin-Lichtenberg.

„In one room of the Pavilion, a selection of refugee homes is shown. These are collected in the data base www.makingheimat.de together with the architectural magazine Bauwelt. It’s not about “Best Practice” but rather an unbiased presentation of prototypes. Here, the input convinces at least. Why should the German Pavilion provide a platform for pragmatic average constructions? Why shouldn’t they use the architectural world public’s attention to show exemplary houses? Architecture, which does not just house people, but which welcomes them. But, there is a second chance: starting in February, Cachola Schmal and his team will show an updated setting of the exhibition in the architectural museum in Frankfurt.”