Architecture isn’t about buildings. That was the first lesson. From multimedia lightening-speed film installations to Jenga constructions; sarcastic photocopiers to twelve grannies in matching coats, the architecture on show was about social observation, the architecture of life, of people and of style. Here you saw a skyline in a mohawk haircut and beauty in the aftermath of a natural disaster, a world called architecture that wasn’t intricate line drawings of perfect symmetry and proportion on a flat piece of paper. Wandering through wide-eyed, I came out the other side with opinions and even ill-informed snobberies about exactly what constitutes modern architecture. Here are some of the best bits, in order of appearance…
1. Norman Foster, Charles Sandison and Carlos Carcas
The first room was an all-consuming video installation project by Norman Foster in collaboration with the artist Charles Sandison and film director Carlos Carcas. As the names of great architects moved over your shoes, swirling around the floor, the huge video projections on the walls threw up tens of images, flicked through at speed to rest on one: a football stadium, a theatre auditorium, the Guggenheim spirals, devastated cities post-natural disaster, tribes standing in a line or a series of purple chairs. It was architecture for the modern brain, attuned to fast-paced consumption.
2. Zaha Hadid
A giant silver lily shape entitled ‘Arum’ was Zaha Hadid’s offering, like something the Wizard of Oz would appear from. Surrounded by smaller pieces in her signature abstract curves and sculptural shapes, Arum was a contextual piece about the lineage of architecture, paying homage to great masters Felix Candela and Heinz Isler… so the caption said. We just like the silver leaf shapes.
3. Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey
The ultimate Jenga game, this wood block structure by the Irish design duo was like walking through Escher’s steps, one bit led to another but it never seemed clear how. Inspired by the brick walls of Arsenale, the area of Italy that the show was located in, the piece was site specific and very tall (see pretty girl in green for scale).
4-8. Cino Zucchi
Italian architect Zucchi called “copycat” by identifying striking similarities in subcultures, blocks of flats and random cooking appliances that lose their randomness when viewed next to 50 other only slightly different variants. The photocopier was surrounded by stacks of A4 paper that emphasised the point of an idea being replicated over and over again through time.
9. Kenneth Frampton
A very complicated sentence that either said something very deep and philosophical about typography or was nonsense just written in nice typography. An architecture critic, Frampton occupied several white booths with sentences written in a neat line, some about light, some about perspective and this one about typography, which was empty so better for filming.
10. Venice from the boat bus
Not even four cranes could distract.
The Architecture Biennale runs until 25th November 2012.
Text: Sarah Raphael