The perspectives… of Architecture

logo arch16 nolettAn elderly lady on a ladder in the middle of nowhere in a desert… in Venice.

Someone, who is not particularly informed on the latest news, may ask how this relates to our city. Others, however, will understand at once. It is the symbolic image of the fifteenth edition of the International Architecture Exhibition, an event which ranks amongst the top ones, at least as regards our continent, devoted to what we might call, perhaps in a rather generic manner, the art and techniques of conceiving and constructing a building or other great works. Promoted by the Venice Biennale, which launched it in 1980 with Paolo Portoghesi at its helm, it has opened recently to the traditional buzz of its three-day preview dedicated to the press and professionals. From this month until November 27 instead, it will be visible for everyone in its manifold illustrations, which do not only include exhibitions but also meetings (the Architecture Saturdays), conferences, special sessions for universities, educational events with guided tours and laboratory activities. The Reporting from the Front international Exhibition, directed by Alejandro Aravena, will be the crux of the event, also providing the title and the inspiration for this edition. Set up over a single circuit winding from the Central Pavilion areas at the Giardini to the Arsenale, it includes 88 participants, of which 50, from 37 countries, are present for the first time. Exhibitions by the so-called National Participations will flank it, laid out in the historic pavilions located in the Giardini, at the Arsenale and within buildings in the historic centre in town. Overall, they will represent a good 61 countries, including first timers like the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Nigeria and Yemen. The so-called Collateral exhibitions, presented by public and private international institutions, and spread throughout areas located around the exhibition and within the weft of the city, will moreover “act” as a corollary. Three special projects are also being presented as a par of this large exhibition, including Reporting from Marghera and other waterfronts, proposing a research into the urban regeneration of industrial ports at the Forte Marghera venue. But… what about the lady on the ladder in the desert? It is soon explained. During one of his walkabouts in Latin America, the great traveller Bruce Chatwin met this lady crossing the desert with an aluminium ladder on her shoulders. She was the German archaeologist Maria Reiche, who was studying the Nazca lines. Viewed from the ground they were just an expanse of stones, but from that ladder, their wonders stood out: a bird, a jaguar, a flower… Thus the Biennale President Paolo Baratta and curator Aravena have presented this exhibition, which intends to act as a listening hub for all those who have been capable of seeking a different perspective within the great challenge that architecture poses today. A metaphor which we should like to use too, in order to remind those who really want to discover our town to seek different, or at least unusual, perspectives. Some advice? Easy. Climb up an old bell tower and admire the city from its rooftops, or get on, or rather, down into a gondola or a simple boat-ferry, like the ones shuttling across the Grand Canal to observe the city at “water level” or, even more simply, stroll until you get lost in the maze of streets and squares in the most decentralised districts in town such as Castello, Cannaregio, Santa Croce, or the Giudecca.

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