Curator: Terence Riley
The modern architecture biennale started in 1980, when Paolo Portoghesi organized the first such an event in Venice. Conceived to alternate with the venerable Venice Art Biennale, the first International Architecture Biennale Venice also marked the public opening of the arsenale, the city’s medieval armory and military shipyard. This Biennale, entitled The Presence of the Past, instantly made the recurring event into the place to understand current trends and achievements in the field of architecture.
For the event’s core, Portoghesi devised a street of facades. Called the Strada Novissima, or Newest Street, it occupied the central nave of the arsenale’s corderia, or rope making factory. Each of the twenty invited architects were asked to design a façade, which was constructed by scenic artists from Rome’s Cinecitta studio, behind which they could display models, drawings, and photographs of their work. Behind the facade, the architects designed individual exhibits of their most current work.
The Street is organized in a similar way. Designed by the 12 architects selected by the curator in consultation with leading critics worldwide, the installations and facades create the “street” even as the “street” provides the structural basis of the architecture. Architecture Creates Cities. Cities Create Architecture. Unlike the 1980 Venice exhibition, however, the architects of the Street have been encouraged to design facades – or, as it has turned out, non-facades – that are spatial and material rather than two-dimensional.
Portoghesi successfully identified those architects – then in their 30’s and 40’s – who would become leaders in the coming decades: Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, and Arata Isozaki amongst them. He did so at a time when the world of architectural innovation was spinning on an unusually unified intellectual axis – or, at least, so it seemed in the late 1970’s. Despite a worldwide common emphasis on sustainability, a renewed interest in what might be called the “presence of the future”, and a deeper bond between the practices of architecture, landscape design and urbanism, it is not clear that the work of the 12 architects featured here can be seen as unified – even loosely – under a single theoretical banner today. Nonetheless, it is certain that – like the 1980 Venice Biennale – a future perspective will see our contemporary architecture in ways that we cannot see ourselves today.
Alejandro Aravena, Arquitecto (Santiago, Chile)
Aranda Lasch (New York, US)
Atelier Deshaus (Shanghai, China)
Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (NYC, US and Barcelona, Spain)
Hashim Sarkis Studios (Beirut, Lebanon and Cambridge, US)
J. Mayer H. (Berlin, Germany)
JohnstonMarkLee (Los Angeles, CA)
MAD Architecture (Beijing, China)
Mass Studies (Seoul, Korea)
Open Architecture (Beijing, China)
SO-IL (New York, US)
Spbr (Sao Paolo, Brazil)