Freespace: Theme of the next architecture biennale of venice
Curtesy of the Architecture Biennale in Venice 2018: Yvonne Farrell und Shelley McNamara (Grafton Architects)
Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, the curators of the 16th architecture biennale, which will open in May 2018, announced the theme of the next exhibition in Venice last week. Next year, it will be all about Freespace. The curators explain their choice of themes as follows: “Freespace describes a generosity of the spirit. Humanity is at the centre of an architecture agenda that concentrates on the quality of the space.” For the two architects, this concerns architecture’s ability to understand space as a gift for future users (this evokes a comparison with the ethnologists who gave natives glass beads and other achievements of western civilization). In Freespace architecture, a spatial generosity becomes visible that goes beyond functional restrictions, and this independently of the actual functions and programs and their limitations, according to Farrell and McNamara.
Furthermore, the founders of Grafton Architects claim that the architecture of Freespace will offer the possibility to make the gifts of nature – the light of the sun and moon, air, gravity, natural and manufactured resources – the focus of its creations. In the spirit of the now grizzled opponents of nuclear power and proponents of flowers of the late 1960s, they are concerned with the welfare of our fragile planet Earth. If concern for ecological balance can be taken seriously even in the face of the USA’s recent (and, we can hope, temporary) withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, the question arises whether the truisms surrounding light, air and the sun might not be a bit hackneyed.
Alejandro Aravena’s last exhibition, entitled Reporting from the Front, showed visitors the meaning of socially responsible architecture. However, in Aravena’s eyes this no longer carries the consequence of a complete renunciation of architectural forms. On the contrary, the last biennale unfolded in the field of tension between spatial design and its political and social impact.
In the – somewhat esoteric – curatorial statement from Farrell and McNamara, the focus shifts from the broad palette of social issues to concepts such as spatial quality and architectural beauty. For the approaching 2018 biennale, visitors have been promised both built and unbuilt projects that, in terms of the chosen theme, will illustrate significant features of architecture, such as the complexity and materiality of surfaces and the quality of architectural representation. Moreover, it will reveal the power and beauty of architecture.