The second weekend of November marked the last days of Venice’s 16th annual Architecture Biennale. Having heard rave reviews of this year’s exhibition from our sketchbook studies professor Cynthia Mohr, I had high expectations to start. The Biennale was an incredible display of the talents of architects throughout the world. With this year’s theme “Freespace”, the architects involved were challenged to interpret how to build upon free space, and to break down the concept of what “free” means in the context of space, whether that be through architecture’s ability to provide a sense of freedom within a space, or the ways that architects can fill a free space while also utilizing the free space given to us to work with through the natural world such as light, air, and natural resources.
We split our visit over two days, first starting at the central pavilion at the Giardini. One of my favorite pavilions at the Giardini location included the Australian pavilion, title Repair, which presented the viewer with a room covered by various species of Western Plains Grassland plants from South East Australia. This was one of several pavilions which chose to explore the concept of “Freespace” in relationship to the natural world.
Another one of my favorite pavilions was the Dutch pavilion, titled Work, Body, Leisure.Upon walking into the pavilion we were met with what seemed to be a locker room, with several lockers calling the viewer to peek inside to discover a range of projects presented in different mediums, from simple arrangements of images and text to doors that opened up to reveal installations that filled entire rooms. One room echoed the bedroom from Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s Bed-In for Peace from 1969.
There were many beautifully constructed pavilions at the Giardini location of the Biennale, even dedicating a full day to explore these spaces was barely enough to take in all the incredible ideas the architects had created for ”Freespace”, but as the day came to a close we had to leave and prepare for the final day of the Biennale.
The next day we spent at the Arsenale location of Venice’s Architecture Biennale. This location had a different feel from that of the Giardini, displaying the work of architects in a very large pre-industrial era production center turned into an exhibition site, rather than in many separate pavilions. Just like the Giardini, the Arsenale was a display of incredibly talented architectural installations and we could have easily spent several days wandering through its hallways. I could spend forever talking about all the incredible work I saw that day, but for now here are photos of just a few of the many awe-inspiring pieces from the exhibition.
For more information about the Venice Biennale you can visit labiennale.org
Michelle Wright is studying Art Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a study abroad student with SRISA for the Fall 2018 semester.