2016 Architecture Biennial | Making-of: inspirational waste

2016 Architecture Biennial

Making-of: inspirational waste

12. July 2016 | Words: Carmen Wolf
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 10 seconds

The material legacy of the 2015 Art Biennial in Venice: 14 kilometres of steel section, 10,000 square metres of plasterboard, 100 tonnes of waste all told. Waste was given a second chance in 2016, Alejandro Aravena using it to fit out two fantastic entrance spaces for the current Architecture Biennial.

The main “Reporting from the Front” exhibition at the Architecture Biennial constitutes the central statement for the event and is divided between two locations, the Central Pavilion in the Giardini and the former Corderie (“Rope Factory”) on the Arsenale premises. This year’s Biennial curator, the Chilean Alejandro Aravena, and his team designed their own entrance areas at both locations in the form of a “making-of” of their exhibition – I found this part inspirational and deeply impressive. They had the idea – in keeping with their view that architecture needs to be sustainably thought and approached these days – of designing the space with material from the interior fittings for the previous year’s Art Biennial. What they managed to make out of an unbelievable 100 tonnes of waste material comprising 14 kilometres of steel section and 10,000 square metres of plasterboard is simply fantastic.

For the two room installations the plasterboard was broken up into irregular lengths and piled up all the way round the existing brick walls, with the fracture face pointing forward, to a height of approx. 2.20 metres. A short, low, black-panelled corridor leads directly from the entrance into the space in the Arsenale. Several miniature monitors have been integrated into the plasterboard stack on which are shown short films detailing the development of the exhibition as a whole and the genesis of the installation itself. The metal sections were bonded to mesh mats and suspended deep into the interior space over its entire area. Illumination is provided by several light sources fitted close to the ceiling between the metal sections. Those are the material facts. The emotional impact on the public is of a higher order altogether.

Four existing, still partly plastered, solid brick columns stand in the space like thick tree trunks. They merge with the metal crown hanging from the ceiling. The steel foliage gleams slightly in the cold, daylight-quality artificial light, subjecting the area below to a whimsically abstract play of light and shade. You actually seem to see and feel the midday sun come bursting through the dense foliage. The effect is of a large, pleasantly shady garden. You almost feel like spreading out a blanket, sitting down beneath the tall trees and day-dreaming over a glass of temperate wine

Reporting from the front

(photos: Carmen Wolf)

Reporting from the front

Aravena demonstrates to the public just how much rubbish can be generated when making an exhibition, coupled with the question as to how much of it is necessary, tolerable and reasonable, whilst also revealing what wonderful spaces can be created with material that has theoretically become worthless. In the process he manages to tap the entire repertoire of what architecture can and should be. Architecture should be straightforward and self-evident, sensuous and poetically enlivened – this installation does all that for me.

Find out more about Alejandro Aravena, curator of “Reporting from the Front”, in our FSB blog portrait.