From the 26 May – 25 November 2018 the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia will take place in Venice. Its curators – Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara – who constitute the practice of Grafton Architects, currently celebrating 40 years in business. The title of the event – FREESPACE!
Throughout the exhibition two of the main venues will be ARSENALE and GIARDINI. The former housed the pre-industrial shipyards, depots and workshops of the city. At the peak of its efficiency, the early sixteenth century, the Arsenale employed around 16,000 people who apparently could produce nearly one ship each day. The latter, gardens situated in the east of Venice, have been the traditional venue for the International Art Exhibition since 1895. The area combines the Central Pavilion, together with twenty nine national pavilions, whose spaces are designed by some of the world’s most famous architects.
Farrell and McNamara have defined FREESPACE as a celebration of:
1. The ability of architecture to find “additional and unexpected generosity” in each project, even when working under the most private, defensive, exclusive or commercially restricted conditions
2. Provides the opportunity to emphasize and maximize the free elements of nature – sunlight and moonlight, air, gravity – through the use of natural and manmade resources
3. Encourages a renewal in the ways of spatial thinking, new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions and creating architectural structures that provide and consider the wellbeing and dignity of each citizen
4. Can be a space for opportunity, a democratic space, unprogrammed and free for uses not yet conceived. Inevitably, whether by intention or design,
buildings themselves will find ways of sharing and engaging with people over time – long after the architect has left and finally FREESPACE
5. Permits freedom to imagine within the free space of time and memory. Elements binding past, present and future together, that both further the building on “inherited cultural layers, weaving the archaic with the contemporary”
Such themes, already incorporated in previous editions of Biennale Architettura, have continued the investigation into the relationship between architecture and civil society. Unfortunately, due to the latter’s difficulty in articulating its particular needs and finding appropriate answers, a widening divide has ensued. The result, dramatic urban developments, whose main feature is the marked absence of public spaces.
The themes considered by the two curators of the Biennale are relevant to rediscovery of architecture, and lead to the renewal of a “strong desire for the quality of the spaces where we live.”
The work of Grafton Architects, to mention but a few, includes their spatial installation at the Royal Academy under the theme Sensing Spaces, to being awarded the first-ever RIBA International Prize for designing the new Engineering University in the Peruvian capital of Lima (2016). The latter build being praised by the jury for creating an entirely new way of thinking about public buildings, and likened to a “modern day Machu Picchu” and an exceptional example of civil architecture – a building designed with people at its heart.
Words that fully endorse the choice of Farrell and McNamara as the curators of the Venice Biennale, 2018, whose continuing ethos fully conforms to their consideration of public and private, exterior and interior spaces, created by their architectural builds.