More must-see exhibits at La Biennale di Venezia 2016

by Sophie Cullen on May 23, 2016 in Architecture
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on Sina WeiboShare on Tencent WeiboEmail this to someone
Curator of La Biennale di Venezia - Alejandro Aravena 
(Photo by Cristobal Palma)

Curator of La Biennale di Venezia - Alejandro Aravena (Photo by Cristobal Palma)

Here’s part two of our roundup of must-see pavilions, exhibits and exhibitions at this year’s La Biennale di Venezia (You can find part one here)

Not long now until the international architecture community will descend on the city of Venice to celebrate the 15th edition of the Biennale's Architecture Exhibition. Pritzker Prize-winner Alejandro Aravena is the curator of the event, and last year called for exhibits under the theme of "Reporting from the Front". The theme was chosen to encourage international exhibitors to share constraints and challenges, believing that collective wisdom could spark fresh imagination and break new grounds.

Here’s a selection of exhibits to add to your must-see list.


Stratagems in Architecture: Hong Kong in Venice

Tse Kam Wing's exhibit on the Blue House tells of not only the architectural renovation of the historic residential buildings, but more importantly, the public engagement in the process to keep the building standing

Tse Kam Wing's exhibit on the Blue House tells of not only the architectural renovation of the historic residential buildings, but more importantly, the public engagement in the process to keep the building standing

Top of our list (again!) is the exhibit from our hometown, Hong Kong. Young architect Stanley Siu was chosen by Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA) to curate the Hong Kong exhibit: Stratagems in Architecture: Hong Kong in Venice. His vision employs the classical Chinese essay Thirty-Six Stratagems – a collection of military tactics applied during wars in ancient China. Siu and his curatorial team aim to show the world how young Hong Kong architects and artists break the norms and test the limits of the city to unleash their own unique vitality and imagination.

"In my statement I had identified many regional frontiers or 'battle grounds' in Hong Kong that related to Aravena's call. Hong Kong is driven by economics; it's all about development and making money, but to us – this younger generation – we are more concerned about the minorities and the local community," notes Siu.


28.5 – 27.11

10am – 6pm
(10am – 8pm on Fridays
and Saturdays from 28/5 – 24/9)

Closed on Mondays
(except 30/5, 5/9, 31/10, 21/11)

Campo della Tana
Castello 2126, 30122 Venice
(opposite the main entrance of Arsenale)



As part of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia, Time Space Existence at Palazzo Bembo, Palazzo Mora and Palazzo Rossini presents architects from six continents, brought together in an extraordinary combination by organisers GAA.

The exhibition documents current developments and thoughts in architecture, highlighting fundamental questions by discussing the philosophical concepts: Time, Space and Existence. The event features an international group of architects with different cultural backgrounds and who are in different stages of their careers, but what they have in common is their dedication to architecture in the broadest sense of their profession.


Time Space Existence

Palazzo Bembo, Palazzo Mora, and Palazzo Rossini


One Plus Partnership

Knock it off! at Time Space Existence

Exhibit by One Plus Partnership

Knock it off!

This year, One Plus Partnership from Hong Kong was invited to participate in Time Space Existence along with around 100 architects from across the globe. It is expected that this exhibition alone will receive over 150,000 visitors during its run.

Realising that the history of human civilisation has been documented through the form of written words, the designers, Virginia Lung and Ajax Law, came up with the idea to build an art piece in the form of two Chinese characters. Out of the 50,000 characters that have ever existed in Chinese history, the designers picked two of them which alone means 'collect' (收; pronounced as 'sau1') and 'skin' (皮; pronounced as 'pei4'). However when put together they would produce a combined meaning of 'knock it off!' – walking the fine line between slang and common vernacular, depending on the context.

Metal wire frames have been bent into arched shapes, so, from afar, they look like regular western arch designs. However, when one takes a closer look, it can be seen that they are not composed of regular cylindrical shapes, but rather but in various shapes of Chinese characters. The colour magenta has been used, as it generates a warning for people to rethink their behaviour: to 'knock it off' or 'cut it out'. Magenta has also been used as the designers believe it is an instrument of harmony and balance, which acts as a warm signal, advising people to reflect on themselves. It promotes compassion, kindness and cooperation, and encourages a sense of self respect and contentment.


Palazzo Mora


Chu Chih Kang

Mountains Waters at Time Space Existence

Mountains Waters

Mountains Waters

Taiwanese architect Chu Chih Kang is to unveil his new creation in Venice as an invited artist of Time Space Existence, an official Collateral Event of 2016 Biennale Architettura. Featuring presentations from six continents at three venues in Venice, the architect will stage his new creation Mountains Waters, an exhibition of nature’s transformation in a world of living beings and manmade creations. During the exhibition, the bronze work will gradually reflect the natural impact of Venice‟s air, humidity, and sunlight.

Chu Chih Kang speaks of his work , saying, "My creations have been nurtured by my study of fine arts and traditional Chinese painting during university years. From the confined space inside the Venetian heritage building, I attempted to offer a different perspective of an urban mirage. The organic landscape of mountains and waters represents the idea of “nature” created by humans, as the manmade extension also exhibits nature’s growth. Since human beings are part of the organic Earth, so are our buildings. The perspective encourages conservation of primitive nature that we have
been part of."


Palazzo Mora


Design Haus Liberty and ARTLINER

Dewfall at Time Space Existence



Design Haus Liberty and ARTLINER in collaboration with Harvey & John have partnered to exhibit an experiential art installation at this year’s Time Space Existence event. Dewfall is a unique immersive experience that blurs the disciplinary boundaries between art and architecture in an interactive and engaging space.

The exhibit showcases the specially created Dewlight sculpture. The piece plays with the sensory experience of its visitors, engaging them through interactive elements and immersing them in an environment of dimming and illuminating lights. The design replicates the effect of morning dewdrops descending from a leaf, as the installation surrounds users with the natural ephemeral qualities of condensation and deposition leaving their perception encountered with mist and an element of surprise. Dewfall encases its users within a storm, senses their interaction and engages with their reaction.


Palazzo Bembo


Losing Myself

During the making of Losing Myself

During the making of Losing Myself

Losing Myself  imagines the Alzheimer's Respite Centre in Dublin (designed by Niall McLaughlin Architects) as experiences by its occupants: people with dementia and their carers. Dementia erodes the ability to remember where you have come from and the plan where you would like to go. When an architect draws the plan of a building, they are creating a visual representation of the human need to be situated within an environment that is understandable, that provides orientation. Using time-based projection, this installation will redraw the experience of the plan of the Respite Centre, as collectively witnessed by sixteen people using the building over the course of one day. The coherent, fixed plan developed by the architects can never be fully experienced by the building’s occupants, who can no longer synthesise their experiences to create a stable understanding of their environment.

The installation aims to create a fragmentary experience of the world as experiences by the patients; and because there is still recourse to deep memory, a world that may be filled with a phantasmagoric and unbidden procession of other spaces and times. The overlapping, perhaps conflicting, experiences of the inhabitants challenge the notion of the building as a singular conception, and by extension, those architectural drawings that insist upon buildings as fixed and whole objects.




I Have Left You the Mountain

This year, The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Albania presents I Have Left You the Mountain, curated by Simon Battisti, Leah Whitman-Salkin, and Åbäke. The Albanian Pavilion responds to the theme of “Reporting from the Front” by presenting a condition that has come to define the urban fabric of Albania: the architecture of displacement and migration. Albanian urbanism has developed in step with radical political shifts, but the trend of migration has been steady: in 2013, 45 per cent of Albanian nationals lived abroad.

The curators have collaborated with preeminent international writers, thinkers, and traditional Albanian iso-polyphonic singers to produce a 12-inch vinyl record that will be played continuously in the pavilion as an eight-channel audio installation, filling the pavilion with the voices of Albania.

Ten new texts have been commissioned from world-renowned writers, poets, and thinkers on the architecture of displacement. These authors expand the discourse of displacement to include a diverse range of global and generational perspectives. These texts have been interpreted as song lyrics by the finest Albanian iso-polyphonic singers—a traditional form of Albanian mulitpart folk singing that is today protected by UNESCO as "intangible cultural heritage." Iso-polyphony has historically been used as a collective form processing the emotional impacts of migration, loss, nostalgia, and spaces of unfamiliarity.

The pavilion will be transformed into a space for collective listening. An eight-channel audio installation, produced in partnership with the Berkeley, California-based Meyer Sound Laboratories—recognized globally as a leader in pioneering solutions for artists and professionals—will create an engaging environment in which to listen to the songs. Custom-made furniture by British furniture designer Max Lamb will surround the suspended speakers that project the singers' voices.

Listen to one of the songs here.


Arsenale (Room 5)



Fair Building

 Photo taken during the making of the Fair Building project. Photo Michał Gdak

Photo taken during the making of the Fair Building project. Photo Michał Gdak

The Polish Pavilion will directly respond to this year's theme – Reporting from the Front – by addressing the ethical issues facing one of the most underrepresented participants in architecture: the construction worker. Labour conditions, lack of respect and site accidents plague the industry worldwide, but these difficulties often get overlooked in favour of deadlines, budgets and the public demand for new spaces.

The pavilion will be divided up into two main parts, with the main section being made up of a module scaffolding installation that forms a direct physical connection to the building site. Five documentary videos will be screened simultaneously, featuring stories told by construction workers, each focusing on a key angle to the industry: pride in one's job, lack of respect, labour conditions, danger and accidents. These films also depict the main five stages of the construction process: foundations, structure, carpentry, cranes and finishes.

One third of the exhibition will be taken up by a white space containing two sofas and a specially commissioned film that explores the construction industry in Poland, accompanied by displays on the wall detailing labour statistics and key data revealed as a series of infographic diagrams.


The Giardini



The Architectural Imagination

Biennale_US Pavilion courtyard

The Architectural Imagination

The Architectural Imagination presents twelve new speculative architectural projects produced for four sites in Detroit, Michigan. This unique curatorial project is led by Cynthia Davidson and Mónica Ponce de León, and includes work by 22 American architects comprising some 250 objects, including architectural models, drawings, collages, and videos.

The home of the automobile, the free-span factory floor, Motown and techno music, Detroit once embodied invention. Today the city is coping with dramatic population loss, desolate neighbourhoods, abandoned buildings, and sharp racial divides. In addressing these problems, Detroit has the potential to become a model for other postindustrial cities facing similar practical challenges: repurposing empty industrial buildings, mitigating the effects of global migration on the city, and reinventing previously industrial waterfronts and dormant infrastructure.

Working with a Detroit Advisory Board, the curators selected four sites that exemplify some of these challenges and would benefit from speculative architectural proposals, and in the fall of 2015, the teams walked their project sites and met with community leaders and citizens to discuss each neighbourhood's aspirations before beginning their projects. The architects proposed programs and forms for the sites not as fixes for Detroit alone but as provocations for convening public conversations about the design challenges that face the 21st-century city.


The Giardini



Nouvelles Richesses

Nouvelles Richesses

Nouvelles Richesses

Responding to Aravena’s theme, the Nouvelles Richesses project – or “New Riches” in English – is the fruit of a collaboration between numerous partners, including landscape professionals, photographers, video makers, and national graduate schools of architecture. The exhibition takes on the territories of daily life, in which to experiment with architectural solutions that are signs of hope, of human engagement, and values. Whether they are located in urban perimeters, in rural or industrial contexts, ordinarily banal spaces harbour multiple resources that architecture can bring to light. This project is devoted to these procedures, which are as remarkable as they are diverse and innovative.


The Giardini



Darzanà: Two Arsenals, One Vessel

Istanbul Camialu Shipyard 2016-©IKSV

Istanbul Camialu Shipyard 2016 ©IKSV

The Pavilion of Turkey at La Biennale di Venezia features the project Darzanà, curated by Feride Çiçekoğlu, Mehmet Kütükçüoğlu and Ertuğ Uçar, with curatorial collaborators Cemal Emden and Namık Erkal. Darzanà is a project about frontier infringement and hybridity, and it challenges the increasing confinement within borders of religion, language, race, nationality, ethnicity and gender.

The project highlights the common cultural and architectural heritage shared between the arsenals of Istanbul and Venice. For the Biennale Architettura 2016, a last vessel, Baştarda, has been constructed out of abandoned materials found in the old dockyard of Istanbul and transported to Venice to suggest a new connection in Mediterranean.

“Darzanà” means dockyard in English, and it is a hybrid word, like the Turkish word “tersane” and the Italian word “arsenale”. These words are derived or distorted from the same root, the Arabic “dara's-sina'a” (place of industry). They all originate from the common language that developed in the Mediterranean from the 11th to the 19th century among people such as sailors, travellers, merchants, and warriors. Known as Lingua Franca, this was a shared language when Mediterranean was the main vessel connecting the surrounding cultures, and in the same vein, it is possible to talk of a common architectural language and to define it as Architectura Franca.





Beijing Design Week will be presenting the concepts and the body of research produced for the Chinese chapter of House Vision at Ca' Tron from May 26 to September 26, 2016, titled Across Chinese Cities – China House Vision, as a collateral event of the Architecture Exhibition. House Vision is a Pan-Asian platform of multidisciplinary research and development initiated and co-curated by designer Kenya Hara and Sadao Tsuchiya in Japan since 2013.

Hara explains, “House Vision is not simply a project about the housing industry, but a cross-sectorial programme for envisioning the future. The aim of House Vision is to find out innovative solutions to potential, foreseeable social problems and present those outputs to a wide audience in an easily understandable way.”

China House Vision (concept image by DONTSTOP Architettura)

China House Vision (concept image by DONTSTOP Architettura)

The exhibition is an exploration in ‘applied futurity’ in the realm of domestic habitation exercised by matchmade teams of architecture practices and industry-leading companies from various sectors for the actualisations of visionary conceptions of 'future home and living possibilities' responding to extant urban challenges, lifestyle transformations and human needs.

The Chinese chapter started in 2014 with a joint committee formed by the Nippon Design Center and Beijing Design Week. After more than one year of research and development, the project has gathered the participation of 14 China-based architects and numerous experts from various innovation driven industries, including – Approach Architecture Studio (Liang Jingyu), Atelier Deshaus (Liu Yichun), Atelier FCJZ (Yung Ho Chang), Atelier Fronti (Wang Yun), AZL Architects(Zhang Lei), B.L.U.E. Architecture Studio (Shuhei Aoyama), Crossboundaries Architects (Dong Hao, Binke Lenhardt), MAD Architects (Ma Yansong, Dang Qun, Yosuke Hayano), NEXT Architects (John van de Water, Jiang Xiaofei), Trace Architecture Office (Hua Li), URBANUS (Wang Hui, Meng Yan, Liu Xiaodu), ZAO/standardarchitecture (Zhang Ke), and a special project developed by Beijing Center for the Arts in collaboration with Kengo Kuma, MVRDV (Winy Maas) and Au Yeung Ying Chai.


Ca' Tron




, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recent Posts

  • 13 Manshausen-_DSC5367

    Norwegian Wood

    Architecture in Norway stays true to its traditions of simplicity and respect for its beautiful natural surroundings

    Posted on Jan 10, 2020
  • best_DJI_0244_by1kmStudioKevinMak

    Rise to the challenge

    Steep slopes, difficult access and a remote location were among the challenges for Hong Kong-based practice ALT-254

    Posted on Dec 11, 2019
  • Photo 4 Roger Wu - Chief Curator

    A tale of two cities

    Community engagement will play a key role in the 2019 edition of the biennale architectural event

    Posted on Dec 10, 2019
  • hd_aw18_xmas38_cw

    Holidays by Design

    Hong Kong architects and designers pick their favourite holiday retreats

    Posted on Dec 10, 2019