How is the idea of ‘Freespace’ interpreted in the national exhibitions of the Giardini –
Curated by Dublin-based architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, the 2018 Architecture Biennale offers a broad view into the complexities of contemporary environments. With emphasis on details instead of the grand concepts of the previous Biennales, it’s a fresh look onto the multiple layers of meaning in architecture.
The proposed theme ’Freespace’ leaves plenty of space for interpretation. Responses in the national pavilions were ecological, futuristic, social, poetic and conceptual, reflecting on the idea of architecture as a language within society. Farrell and McNamara seem to challenge architecture as purely technical or political, but instead looking at the complex systems where both the smallest details and the long history need to be understood simultaneously in order to make great environments.
What is a great city in the future? How can we make sustainable environments? How can architecture generate wellbeing to individuals and the planet? Social spaces and infrastructure were explored in several exhibitions, some with historical outlooks and others with futuristic proposals. Some offered intensely researched, multilayered shows such as the US Pavilion on ecology and individual responsibility, while the UK Pavilion was more restrained, and rather bleak, but poetic – created by the leading contemporary architects Caruso St John in collaboration with conceptual artist Marcus Taylor. Both countries responded to their own political crisis in very different ways. UK was awarded a special mention by the jury.
The ’free gifts’ provided by nature (as also suggested in the overall curatorial proposal) is an elusive topic in the Nordic Pavilion, presented in a rather mysterious manner by young architect Eero Lunden, and nicely taking over the Sverre Fehn designed space. Ecology is equally beautifully evoked at the Australian Pavilion, where it was a collaboration between artist Linda Tegg and Baracco+Wright Architects.
Materiality and the presentation of architecture was a topic explored by the Swiss team, which was awarded the Best Pavilion Golden Lion. It’s a fun environment, showcasing the neutral minimalism of the domestic space, the utmost functionality as opposed to the poetic, unexpected and crafted environments imagined as ideal spaces. It was also the total opposite of the tense programs that could be found at the Korean Pavilion, the Spanish Pavilion (experimental and performative) and the French Pavilion. The Pavilions with plain statements won over the jury this year.