Preview: Americans in Venice

By Jayne Merkel
June 19, 2012
Photo courtesy Venice Architecture Biennale
The Venice Architecture Biennale opens on August 29.

“The emphasis of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale will be on what we have in common,” explained British architect David Chipperfield, who is directing the main exhibition at this year’s Biennale, via satellite television to a group of press assembled in New York last month. “The ambition is to reassert the existence of an architectural culture made up not just of singular talents, but a rich continuity of diverse ideas united in a common history,” he said.

David Chipperfield
Photo © Francesco Galli
David Chipperfield
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Along those lines Chipperfield titled the show Common Ground. It will showcase 63 projects in the central exhibition space among the national pavilions in Venice’s Giardini and sprawl through the city’s gargantuan 540,000-square-foot Arsenale from August 29 through November 25. It will be only the 13th devoted to architecture in the Biennale’s 120-year history—the design exhibition is held in years that do not host the much older visual art Biennale. Chipperfield started planning the expansive show by inviting a group of architects to propose a project that “showed architecture in its context of influence and affinity, history and language, city and culture,” he said. “The final list of contributors demonstrates a rich culture of difference.”

The list of American architects participating in the exhibition does include several big names and “singular talents,” but the show will group many of them in clusters hosted by Chipperfield’s advisors. Kenneth Frampton will host Steven Holl, Rick Joy, John
and Patricia Patkau, Stanley Saitowitz, and Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe. A group named “Chicago: City Works” will include David Brown, Alexander Eisenschmidt, Jeanne Gang, Stanley Tigerman, and Sarah Dunn and Martin Felsen of Urban Lab, while “13178 Moran Street” will draw together seven designers working in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan. Peter Eisenman will match groups from Ohio State and Yale Universities with the firm Dogma from Rotterdam. Toshiko Mori and Tod Williams Billie Tsien will fly solo in the exhibition.

The Institute of Urban Design is organizing the Biennale’s American pavilion on the related theme Spontaneous Interventions. Cathy Lang Ho is Commissioner and curator along with Ned Cramer, editor of Architect magazine, and David van der Leer of the Guggenheim Museum. Selections, made from an open competition, will consist of “actionable strategies from urban farms to guerilla bike lanes, temporary architecture to poster campaigns, urban navigation apps to crowdsourced city planning.”


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