Architecture for crisis times at Venice Biennale

VENICE, Italy, Kelly Velasquez- Global architects like Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster are flying in to Venice for the Biennale show starting on Wednesday where new designs are in tune with the mood of economic crisis.
The theme of the world's largest architecture festival is "Common Ground" and director David Chipperfield from Britain said it was important that today's architects reflect social concerns and not just go for glory projects.

Architecture for crisis times at Venice Biennale
The exhibition aims to "reassert the existence of an architectural culture, made up not just of singular talents but a rich continuity of diverse ideas," said Chipperfield, who redesigned Museum Island in the centre of Berlin.
Among the other star attendees will be Peter Eisenman from the United States, Kazuyo Sejima from Japan, Jose Rafael Moneo from Spain and Alvaro Siza Vieira from Portugal who will receive a lifetime achievement award.
The award's last winner, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, is also expected.
"We began by asking a limited group of architects to develop ideas that might lead to further invitations. Everyone was asked to propose a project along with a dialogue that reacted to theme," Chipperfield said.
"The final list of contributors demonstrates a rich culture of difference rather than a selection of edited and promoted positions," he said.
Chipperfield said it was important for architectural design to be in sync with society, saying this relationship "concerns the very meaning of our work".
"There seems to be little dialogue" between commercial demands of development and the desire for a more humane environment, he said.
The 13th edition of the Biennale, which is held every two years, will run until November 25 and will present a total of 66 projects from 55 countries including several newcomers like Angola, Kosovo, Kuwait and Peru.
The festival is spread out across the 3,000 square metres (32,290 square feet) of Venice's ex-military Arsenal and several national pavilions stand in the Giardini park on the southeastern tip of the island city.
Many of the designs will focus on urban architecture that is more attuned to the needs of city residents as growing rates of urbanisation around the world put increasing strains on infrastructure and generate new conurbations.
"Our cities can be interpreted as the physical form of a dynamic struggle between the individual and the collective," Chipperfield said.
"The radical visions proposed and realised by the modern movement never replaced the conventional images we use to represent our idea of public and private: the street, the square, the arcade, the boulevard."
Among the highlights will be an American installation called "Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good" -- the design of a futuristic city built for the maximum comfort of its inhabitants.
Russia will also present its design for "an intelligent city" -- Skolkovo Innocity outside Moscow which is being planned to house a Russian version of Silicon Valley to bring together new technology pioneers and business.
"It is a space between the physical and the virtual," said Grigory Revzin, curator of the Russian pavilion and a member of Skolkovo's Urban Council.
The French pavilion, which will be inaugurated by Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti, will explore the idea of how to fit grand architectural complexes into existing cities using the eastern side of Paris as an example.
The Italian pavilion will showcase "Made in Italy" products starting with the first-ever Italian computer built by Olivetti in 1959.
Among the most startling exhibitions will be the Chilean pavilion, which has been decked out to look like the inside of a salt mine.
Eleven tons of salt from the Tarapaca mine were imported for the show.
Chipperfield, whose designs include the Figge Art Museum in Iowa and the Turner Contemporary gallery in Britain, is "a personality who cultivates an intense vision of pragmatic architecture", said Biennale head Paolo Baratta.
"We felt it was important to look at architecture with a focus deep inside the discipline itself, to highlight the rich pattern of connections and associations, the intense dialogue between the architects of present and past."

Sunday, August 26th 2012
Kelly Velasquez

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