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Monday, 6 October 2014

Fundamentally Biennale

(2014 International Architecture Biennale, Venice)
By: Eve Russell (PLACE - Invigilator, Venice Biennale 2014)

The Architecture Biennale takes place every two years in Venice, with a range of countries that have permanent pavilions in the Biennale Park designing an exhibition that responds to a common theme. The 2014 Biennale is curated and directed by Rem Koolhaas, an award-winning Dutch architect. The title he has set for this year is “Fundamentals” and the theme is “Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014”. 

Each country that has a pavilion in the Biennale Park has designed an exhibition that responds to the 2014 theme, which is show-cased during the Biennale festival that runs from June-November 2014.
The British Pavilion is being curated by FAT Architecture and Crimson Architectural Historians, who have entitled the British Pavilion Exhibition “A Clockwork Jerusalem”. The exhibition explores modernist architecture within the United Kingdom, documenting the UK’s response to the modernist movement.

This year, the British Council funded a fellowship programme for 50 fellows from various universities and organisations throughout the UK to invigilate the British Pavilion. They have also added a new dimension to the invigilating programme, with a 12-day research programme included as part of the invigilating role. Each fellow has the opportunity to design their own short research project to explore while in Venice. I am PLACE’s representative and will be invigilating at the British Pavilion exhibition for a month this summer.

A training programme took place in April this year, with 45 of the fellows meeting at the Barbican in London to embark on a series of tours, talks and discussions about the Biennale. This was a great opportunity to meet the other invigilators and learn about something we are all passionate about. The training days involved staying at Balfron Tower, a modernist residential tower block designed by Ernő Goldfinger in the 1960s, artists and residents still live in the tower.  We explored many parts of London, including other residential modernist buildings such as Robin Hood Gardens, and public spaces, Crisp Street Market and Festival of Britain Park. Stratford, the Olympic Park was also part of our exploration, seeing how Britain designs in 2014.


The Venice Biennale this year is about “architecture, not architects” according to Rem Koolhaas and will be an investigation into the history of architecture, of what has been built. The biennale not only considers how countries have absorbed modernity, but people and societies, also. Visiting the biennale is an opportunity to “absorb” the architecture and culture of many countries as well as absorbing Venice, a city literally flooded in architectural, artistic and social heritage.

For more information on PLACE's involvement with this year's Venice Biennale, search the Absorbing Modernity programme at the Belfast Festival at Queens


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