22.06.2021 Jakob Schoof

Die Weltbefragung: Architekturbiennale 2021 in Venedig

Foto: Jakob Schoof

The motto of the 2021 Biennale of Architecture could hardly be more timely. In the second year of the covid pandemic, after months of collective self-isolation, the question How will we live together? is more charged than ever. All the same, curator Hashim Sarkis and his team conceived their international architecture exhibition before covid, and thus show no social post-covid visions of recovery. Their approach is broader, more fundamental and global: by “we” they mean not only us people, but all life on earth. In itself, the term “live” implies more than residential buildings. The phenomena addressed by the Biennale range from bowel movements to climate change and the devices intended to keep them under control, from prostheses to international trade networks.

How can all this possibly fit into a single exhibition? Sarkis has attempted it by orchestrating a sequence of topics from size S − the human body − to XXL − the entire planet, accentuating the main points and enabling dialogue between the individual projects. For example, one space encompasses several contributions devoted to the living space in the Amazon; another features two projects on the Arctic and Antarctic respectively; yet a third focuses on several works that deal with the artificial warming and cooling of natural spaces.

The description gives us a hint: conventional housing, which we know as architecture, plays a minor role in many of the contributions. The message: the entire world is our living space, which must be maintained. The questions the Biennale asks us are the correct ones for our times, but they are all widely known. The contributions open few truly new, unexpected perspectives of our life. This is certainly because the covid pandemic − a great catalyst of social change − is not addressed in the exhibition.

The solutions on offer seem rather conventional and are thin on the ground. This year’s Biennale of Architecture is more analytical and academic than many preceding ones, likely the result of the many teams of researchers and scientists that Sarkis has invited to participate. Some of the presentations are bothersome, particularly in the central Giardini Pavilion, where there is simply not enough time to read all the contributions in the form of posters and wall newspapers.

So, is the Biennale worth a visit this year? It is, despite all its weaknesses, for the Venice Biennale offers an international panorama of architectural creation and thinking about living space that is like no other. This includes fascinating spatial experiences, be they in Achim Menges and Jan Knippers’ delicate, two-storey Maison Fibre, which is of glass and carbon fibre, or in Alejandro Aravena’s installation Kojaüwe, made of peeled logs and located on the outdoor grounds of the Arsenale. The high-tech filament structure from Stuttgart, and the tree-trunk circle modelled on the negotiation arenas of the Mapuche people of Chile, show that there are more, and more diverse, responses to Hashim Sarkis’ question about living together than could ever be accommodated at one Biennale of Architecture. The quest for these answers will surely continue after the covid pandemic, day by day, in thousands of architecture studios around the world.

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

Foto: Jakob Schoof

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