Tag: smiljan radic

Chapel by Francesco Magnani and Traudy Pelzel, MAP Studio, Vatican Pavilions, Venice Biennale, photo ©Marianna Wahlsten

Vatican Pavilions on the Island of San Giorgio, Venice Biennale

Scattered across the lagoon-facing parkland behind the great Santa Maria Maggiore church, you will find eleven temporary pavilions commissioned by the Vatican. The pavilions have been designed by renown international architects, including Norman Foster, Smiljan Radic, Edouardo Souto de Mora and Terunobu Fujimori. It is a rare collection of contemporary sacred architecture and the first time Vatican takes part in the Venice Biennale.

Chapel by Flores Prats, Venice Biennale 2018, Vatican Pavilions, photo © Marianna Wahlsten
Details from chapel by Spanish architects Ricardo Flores and Eva Prats, photo © Marianna Wahlsten


Chapel by Flores Prats, Venice Biennale 2018, Vatican Pavilions, photo © Marianna Wahlsten
Open space inspired by constructivism, chapel by Ricardo Flores and Eva Prats, photo © Marianna Wahlsten

The Skogskapellet by Gunnar Asplund was the guiding reference, that architectural historian Francesco Dal Co gave to the eleven invited architects. They have all imagined a small, spiritual space within a forest-like environment, the structure connecting to the site. Away from the tourist crowds of Venice, the whole area indeed is a beautiful place for quiet contemplation, as well as an opportunity to witness some exquisite designs. The concept of the pavilions follows the Serpentine Summer Pavilions format.

Chapel by Smiljan Radic, Vatican pavilions, Venice Biennale, photo ©Marianna Wahlsten
Tapering cylindrical form with reinforced concrete, chapel by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic. photo ©Marianna Wahlsten
Vatican chapel by Norman Foster, photo ©Marianna Wahlsten
A complex tensile structure of struts and cables, chapel by Norman Foster, Venice Biennale 2018, photo ©Marianna Wahlsten

Apart from the size of the plot (seven by ten meters) given to each pavilion, the architects responded to the brief with a range of interpretations of religious iconography. Norman Foster used wooden struts engineered for an airy tent like space where three crosses form the central supporting system for the pavilion. Shrubs planted on the sides of the building will grow over the summer months to slowly transform the atmosphere of the space. Spanish architects Flores Prats and Chilean architect Smiljan Radic (who did the Serpentine Pavilion in 2014) provided spaces with more abstract religious symbolism.

Chapel by Terunobu Fujimori, photo © Marianna Wahlsten
Wooden chapel built with an old Japanese charring technique for improving the durability of cedar tree planks, by Terunobu Fujimori, photo © Marianna Wahlsten

Perhaps the most direct response to Asplund’s forest chapel is Terunobu Fujimori’s pavilion, which from the outside looks like a summer cabin of unusual, childlike proportions. Constructed directly on the ground, its sturdy structural beams form a cross inside in the same way as in Foster’s more open space.

These pavilions provide a great opportunity for observing details, materials and structures, as well as the larger historical and artistic dialogues in which they so clearly take part. The choice of architects presented in the Vatican’s exhibition area demonstrate a will to take part in contemporary cultural and artistic debates. The Vatican’s introductory participation is one of the highlights of this year’s Biennale. It also makes you think how sacred spaces must be hugely inspiring commissions for architects, perhaps anticipating also a new kind of spirituality needed for the planet.

La Biennale, Vatican Chapels

Another view of the Serpentine Pavilion

New Serpentine Pavilion by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic

KENSINGTON GARDENS, LONDON It was a beautiful day once again for the preview of the Serpentine Pavilion, this year designed by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic. And the pavilion itself once again a real surprise, completely different from any previous ones. It’s a fusion of ideas, where Radic’s obsession about forms in nature is expressed in a sturdy composition of a donut shaped space sitting on heavy rocks. The way he has combined a thin fibreglass material against the stone looks futuristic and pre-historic at the same time.
For the relatively unknown Radic it was a challenge to create something for the central London site, which is so charged with history. Radic has a calm, bear-like presence, and he works with a very small team in Chile. “The commission in this symbolic space was a problem first”, Radic said ” I don’t think so fast, and to come up with something in just two months is a short time”. He describes the outcome as “crude architecture”, assembled “a little bit like papier-mâché” aiming for “a handmade look, which is really difficult to do in this scale”.

The pavilion is more like a piece of sculpture and shows the 1960s architectural sensibilities that Radic draws ideas from: “Cedric Price, Superstudio and Archigram”. He created several models before deciding on the final form “I created maybe five models, it’s not a linear process” he described the design stage before he found the right form.

More on the Serpentine Pavilion the next issue