A grassroots, handmade Venice Architecture Biennale from Alejandro Aravena

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A grassroots, handmade Venice Architecture Biennale from Alejandro Aravena
This manipulated photograph by Filip Dujardin raises questions about architectural blandness. It's at the Belgian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale

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A grassroots, handmade Venice Architecture Biennale from Alejandro Aravena
This manipulated photograph by Filip Dujardin raises questions about architectural blandness. It’s at the Belgian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale

The 48-year-old Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena calls his dense, earnest and grassroots edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale, which opened Saturday to the public and will run through November, “Reporting From the Front.” The show collects work from a range of architects operating on the forward lines of what Aravena calls “battles” against inequality, crushing poverty and environmental crisis and puts it on display with the informality of a journalistic sketch.

An equally good title would be “The Borrowers.” The stars of this biennale — both in Aravena’s main exhibition and the various national pavilions that complement it — are those in debt, in many senses of that word.

They borrow money; running through this biennale is a multifaceted critique of global real-estate speculation and its effects on domestic life.

They borrow ideas from other architects, from pools of collective knowledge or from the past. And they borrow the kinds of spaces common to the sharing economy: the backseat for the Uber ride, the bedroom for the Airbnb stay.

The emphasis is very much, as biennale President Paolo Baratta points out, on the “demand” (as opposed to supply) side of the architectural equation. This biennale shines a spotlight not just on the architects who design buildings but the people who use, buy, rent, build and clean them. […]

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