Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

May 31, 2016

Venice's 15th International Architecture Exhibition is mainly about mindful and sensible architecture. Curated by Pritzker laureate Alejandro Aravena, the exhibition wonderfully succeeds in reminding architects that the social good sector is exciting and worth the pursuit. It equally reminds commissioners that architects can make astounding contributions when it comes to shaping space and managing resources efficiently. 

The 2016 Biennale, titled REPORTING FROM THE FRONT, is a great attempt to engage everyone in the conversation on 'how to shape the places where we live'. While the show's focus is on projects that have addressed social, economic and environmental issues in a creative and bold manner, it also features projects of unusual beauty and interest. 

#1 Beauty and Sensuality
Wonderful the way Portuguese architect Aires Mateus explores space with light and shapes (picture above). His installation Fenda, which means slit, is a dark room where curvy section models carved in the walls are suggestively lit.  

Equality beautiful is Peter Zumthor's installation, a fragment from his future Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) filled with a colour gradation of fabric garment bags by designer Christina Kim. The project description reads: '...taking time as an antidote to homogeneity'. It refers to Zumthor's habit to spend more time than average in every project in order to achieve original work. Funnily enough, comedian John Cleese has exactly the same view on how to deliver original work.
Peter Zumthor and designer Christina Kim 

Sensuous is also how the Australian Pavilion feels. It pays tribute to Australia's pool culture by bringing in a shallow pool, some benches and the possibility to splash around and relax. 

The Pool, Australian Pavilion, by Aileen Sage Architects with Michelle Tabet

#2 Urban Planning
The German Pavilion explores the notion of Heimat and rethinks Germany as a welcoming nation for immigrants. Curated by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in collaboration with Doug Sanders, author of Arrival City, the exhibition identifies eight aspects key to an arrival city.
Making Heimat. Germany, Arrival Country (German Pavilion) by DAM with Something Fantastic

Very interesting the work of Raul Mehrotra and Felipe Vera on the increase and scale of what they call ephemeral urbanism. By this they mean temporary settlements like Kumbh Mela, the religious festival in India visited by 100 million people in 55 days. Or La Piste Camp in Haiti, where in 2010 the US military transformed what was once an airstrip into a temporary settlement for the victims of the flood.

Kumbh Mela tent city in India. 2,000 hectare. Photo: Felipe Vera

The Dutch Pavillion focuses on the legacy of peacekeeping missions and how these could become a catalyst for local development, moving away from being shut off from their direct surroundings and from making no contribution to improving the lives of the inhabitants of the region. 

Design for Legacy by the architecture think tank FAST suggests a four-step strategy to gradually open up these camps and share resources and knowledge with the local community. Step 1 would see the establishment of relationships while the camp is built. In step 2, the periphery of the base can be used as an interface with the local community either by providing there medical treatment or access to water, food and electricity. In step 3, when the political situation has stabilized, a shared space between the city and the base is created where the peacekeepers and the local community can develop projects together. Step 4 presents the post-mission model when the base is handed over to the local community.

 Camp Castor and other UN camps in Gao, Mali. Together they account for a third of the territory of the city. 

Setting up Camp Castor, Gao, Mali. Photo: Dutch Ministry of Defence

Four-step strategy to integrate a military compound to a city by FAST 

#3 Public Space
There were extraordinary examples of new and reclaimed public spaces. The city of Medellin in Colombia, for instance, has created new public spaces in the fenced and dark patches of land surrounding water and energy infrastructure. Through the UVA or Unidades de Vida Articulada (Units of Articulated Life) programme, the city has converted thirty-seven water tanks into 'socio-technical landscapes' while maintaining a fully functional infrastructural network.  The new public spaces are beautifully designed -some with plays of light and jets of water- and include auditoria and open air theatres, picnic areas and cafeterias, playgrounds and sport courts, even launderettes. In some neighbourhoods, the UVA interventions have provided the first and only public space available to the community.  

UVA Versalles, Medellin by EPM Group (public companies of Medellin). Photo: EPM
Architect Francis Kéré envisions a new square in Ouagadougou,  Burkina Faso, that includes the façade of the adjacent building to its public space. The new National Assembly, also by Kéré, is a massive stepped pyramid that people can climb to enjoy unique vistas over the town. The stepped façade allows views into the building and includes balconies for small-scale agriculture.

New Parliament Building in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso by Kéré Architecture

A series of small light pavilions is what SANAA proposes to rescue a Japanese island from abandonment. Once a thriving island thanks to its stone and copper industries, Inujima is now home to an elderly population of just under 50 people. The idea is to turn the island into a creative platform -hosting art and performance workshops for both residents and temporary inhabitants- through small and modest interventions.
Unijima Island Landscape Project, Japan by Sanaa

How should new public squares in rural areas be like? According to the Norman Foster Foundation they should be multifunctional and provide the infrastructure that is missing in the area. Foster's Droneport project proposes a mini airport for drones cargo delivery in areas that lack of transport infrastructure. The buildings are a series of modular vaults made with earth based products by the local community and include a social hub, a clinic, a market and a post office.

Droneport in Rwanda by Foster & Partners

Prototype vault for the droneport by Foster and Partners

#4 Low-Cost Buildings
The Golden Lion for best pavilion has been awarded to Spain for the exhibition Unfinished. It shows the unusual architecture that has emerged in the country in the aftermath of the financial crisis. 

Spanish Dream 2011 by Colectivo Cadelas Verdes

Spanish Dream 2011 by Colectivo Cadelas Verdes

Casa Collage by Bosch Capdeferro Arquitectura

The studio ZAO/standardarchitecture from China has built a mock-up of the two small constructions they've designed for a courtyard refurbishment in BeijingThe constructions pick up the traditional add-on structures of the Hutong courtyards, the public space where families add their home extensions. The constructions are a 9m2 children library made of concrete mixed with Chinese ink and a 6m2 art space made with traditional bricks.

Children's library, Cha'er Hutong courtyard, Beijing by ZAO/standardarchitecture

Mini art space, Cha'er Hutong courtyard, Beijing by ZAO/standararchitecture

The Naga Site Museum, a building with no windows made of in-situ, compressed concrete made from local sands and aggregates. 
Naga Site Museum, Sudan by David Chipperfield Architects

Auburn University Rural Studio has created a space with materials that will later be donated to two Venitian charities: the Assamblea Sociale per la Casa and Cooperativa Caracol who, respectively, renovate vacant social housing and shelter homeless people. Rural Studio asked the local organisations what they needed and used part of what they requested to build the installation. 

The Theatre of the useFULL by Rural Studio

#5 Social Aspects 
The Polish Pavilion addresses with the exhibition Fair Building the ethical issues facing the most underrepresented participants in architecture: the construction workers. 'Labour conditions, lack of respect and site accidents plague the industry but these difficulties are often overlooked in favour of deadlines, budgets and the public demand for new spaces', states curator Dominika Janicka and asks whether a 'fair trade' mark is achievable in the industry.
Full-scale scaffolding structure for Fair Building. Photo: Polish Pavilion

Infographic showing the human cost of an average housing project, Fair Building, Polish Pavilion

Side notes offer extra information about accidents, migrant workers and unpaid overtime

Celebrating Our Human Footprint by Prof. Michael Braungart of EPEA advocates for building like trees, that is, to design buildings that clean water and the air, make oxygen, generate soil and nutrients. 
Celebrating Our Human Footprint by EPEA

Juntos, the exhibition at the Brazilian Pavilion, highlights stories of  change and architectural achievement. One of these stories is the Programa Vivenda, a Sao Paulo programme that helps low-income families with home refurbishments.

Programa Vivenda Sao Paulo

Rebootati, Uruguayan Pavilion

Reporting from the Front Biennale Architettura 2016 | Venice, 28 May - 27 November 2016

#inequality, #segregation, #peripheries, #migration, #informality, #sanitation, #waste, #pollution, #naturaldisasters, #housingshortage

Best of Milan Design Week 2016

May 01, 2016
The Milan Design Week, the world's most extraordinary design event, has seen its 2016 edition shining much brighter than previous ones thanks to great additions from the art and architecture scene. If the 1,100 design events scheduled across town and the 2,400 exhibitors at the Salone del Mobile weren't enough, there are now some thrilling art spaces, beautiful exhibitions and iconic buildings to visit. 

The Milan Design Week is important in many ways. In an ever-increasing digital world where virtual experiences are replacing physical ones, it serves to remind us why it is essential to keep the latter. Physical experiences, like beauty, have the power to be regenerative. Beauty touches us deeply and because it is a real experience, we can trust it, and through trust, we open up and allow our most interesting aspects to emerge. If we are serious about changing the world into a better place, beauty is key. And Milan its best laboratory.
If I were to pick the most beautiful display during the Milan Design Week, this ought to be Anselm Kiefer's permanent installation at the Pirelli HangarBicocca, a former train factory turned art center in 2004. Kiefer's Seven Heavenly Palaces is a site-specific installation of concrete towers in a huge black-painted hangar and it aims to explore architecture and the divine. Equally impressive is Carsten Höller's temporary exhibition Doubt (picture above). 

The Seven Heavenly Palaces (2004-15), Anselm Kiefer | Pirelli HangarBicocca
Interesting to explore were also the Fondazione Prada by Rem Koolhaas and the Nilufar Depot, an outpost of Nina Yashar's Nilufar gallery in central Milan.

Fondazione Prada
Nilufar Depot

Villa Necchi Campiglio, the setting chosen by Austria Design to host their show, has been a wonderful discovery. Set in a lush garden with swimming pool and a tennis court in central Milan, this beautiful 1935 villa is apparently used for the very first time in a Design Week. 

Villa Necchi Campiglio
Other delightful shows around town include the lighting of the Torre Velasca by Ingo Maurer and the silos at the Viabizzuno showroom in via Solferino.

Glow, Velasca Glow! by Ingo Maurer | Photo by Saverio Lombardi or Tom Vack

Solis Silos by Mario Nanni | Viabizzuno showroom

Inside a silo | Viabizzuno showroom
The Salone del Mobile furniture fair, now in its 55th edition, had some interesting product launches. Vitra presented two new products by Jasper Morrison: the Soft Modular Sofa, whose various foams help the cushions return to the original form after use, and the All Plastic Chair. Maruni Wood Industry also launched a new chair by Jasper Morrison made with maple wood and coloured steel. Beautiful the extra-thin, ultra-long (up to 4 meters) Tense Material table by MDF Italia and the Run table and bench by Emeco. The table comes in different lengths and heights and is suitable for use both indoor and outdoors.

The Nicest Stand Award would have to keep falling to Kartell.

Kartell Stand

Soft Modular Sofa (2016) by Jasper Morrison | Vitra

T-chair (2016) by Jasper Morrison | Maruni Wood Industry

All Plastic Chair (2016) by Jasper Morrison for Vitra (left) | Dream'Air Chair (2015) by Eugeni Quitllet for Kartell
Tense Material Table (2016) by Piergiorgio Cazzaniga | MDF Italia
Run Table (2016) Sam Hecht & Kim Colin | Emeco

There were some extraordinary lightings in the showrooms around town like the ball light pendants by Michael Anastassiades for Herman Miller or his IC Lamp at the DePadova showroom. The Artemide and Danese new lighting collection was also impressive, with Mercedes Benz and BIG architects among the designers.
The Double Dream of Spring by Michael Anastassiades at Herman Miller | Photo by Ben Anders
IC Lamp (2013) by Michael Anastassiades for Floss | DePadova showroom

Bespoke fitting for a spa at Viabizzuno showroom

Artemide and Danese showroom

More Fuori Salone events at the Brera district:

Ron Arad exhibition at Moroso

Iperbolica Wood Armchair (2016) by Alessandro Ciffo for Dilmos
Care (2016) by Mario Trimarchi for VitrA
Moment (2016) by Sertan Özbudun for VitrA
Pipe tap by Marcel Wanders for Boffi
Taps by Fantini | Salvatori showroom   
Lastly, the Salone Satellite, the part of the furniture fair dedicated to young emerging designers. This year's edition run under the theme "New Materials, New Designs" and there were some interesting presentations on April 14th by representatives of Europe's leading material research hubs such as the Material Design Lab in Copenhagen, Materfad Barcelona, Het Nieuwe Institute in Rotterdam, Materio Prag and Materialscout in Munich. Prof. Carole Collet from Central Saint Martins held a great talk about the intersection of biology and design (biomimicry) and about materials that don't exist yet (synthetic biology). Prof. Collet discussed Biolace, a project for growing food and fabrics that was part of the 2013
‘Alive, New Design Frontiers’ exhibition in Paris.

The designs at the Salone Satellite are mostly prototypes. The purpose of the Salone Satellite is to help the designers to launch on the market. If you are a manufacturer, feel free to contact the designers. 

Warm Stool  (ceramic and wood) by Bouillon
The Crane Lamp, expandable walnut, concrete and brass desk lamp by Animaro
 Biolace, future bio-synthetics by Prof. Carole Collet
Mangle, a mangrove-inspired tree pot for urban landscapes by Bright Potato

The Heartbeat Table by SHKinetic
The Fondue Light, a light source that raises and lowers to change intensity by Satsuki Ohata
Earthbulb, atmospheric LED bulbs for underground spaces by Void Setup
Foldis, a lunch box that can be adjusted to different sizes by Alexey Donka

55th Salone del Mobile, Milan 12 -17 April 2016 | #SaloneDelMobile
19th Salone Satellite, Milan 12 -17 April 2016 | #SaloneSatellite
Milano Design Week, 12-17 April 2016 | #FuoriSalone2016 #MDW16 #MDW2016
Fuori Salone: Brera Design District 2016 | #BreraDesignDistrict
Fuori Salone: Tortona Design Week | #TortonaDesignWeek

Pictures by PS (unless otherwise stated) and most Salone Satellite photos by the designers.

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