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Worlds Beyond Architecture

The 11th Architecture Biennale, "Beyond Architecture", draws to a close this month. What of it?
News coverage is generally limited to the pavilion of the newspaper's country. So here in Australia
we might read a little about the Australian pavilion, a room painted bright yellow and packed full of
tiny unlabelled models from a bevy of architects. A lot to look at but what is it saying? – “we have a
lot of architects making good models”. The other countries had similar difficulties expressing their
country-ness. Whatever the approach, the appointed curator is bound to run into trouble back home.
It is a time to be reminded that the architectural discussion is international – that certain Sydney
architects might have a closer affinity to work in Tokyo than they do to work in Melbourne.

Poland's effort to express itself was memorable, and won the award for “best national participation”.
"Hotel Polonia: The Afterlife of buildings" developed a simple concept into an impressive result.
What is a hotel, but a place to stay in, then leave and forget, perhaps stealing the shampoo. Hotel
Polonia is entered through its 'reception', which led into a large 'foyer' with photos hung around it.
The photos were in pairs, about a metre high. The before shots were of gleaming recent buildings,
mostly designed by architects staying in hotels (if they even visited Poland). Freed of context by the
photograph, these buildings are grandly generic anywhere buildings - a Foster here, an S.O.M.
there. The curators postulated that these buildings might not be as permanent as they might suggest.

The building might last, but would its function endure? How could the buildings be recycled? Using
exquisite photoshopping, an office building becomes a slum tenement, a church becomes an aquatic
amusement park complete with waterslides, an airport becomes a farm. The buildings are
repossessed in their obsolescence, and made Polish.


everyone is too busy working on this crap. and the other “politics and society”. . This was the heart of the Biennale – over 60 architects given space to express what they made of the brief. This was a who's who pavilion. sitting on a giant chess board (Moscow). the next “very green city”. this is utopian architecture “unshackled from the tomb of building”. a Herzog and de Meuron installation here.The Russians took a similar approach. Between the stars lurked lesser known entities. along with the pavilion-less countries like China and Montenegro. a Koolhaas video there. This freed up the massive Italian Pavilion for an exhibition of “experimental architecture” by practices the world over.The names of the international architects responsible were stencilled around the edge of the room. The Italians had their exhibition over behind the Arsenale. The architects could be very loosely grouped into three fields of design research. To concentrate on the last two interrelated and overlapping areas of experiment. Next was a red room filled with large scale models of the same buildings. without having to sell wares or represent unwieldy countries. One we could call “digital form”. Videos of mediocre but massive developments were accompanied by text stating matter of fact that they had no idea how to respond to the "beyond architecture" brief as ideas are a bit thin on the ground in Russian architecture . As Biennale curator Aaron Betsky writes. with some interesting propositions. a Hadid painting over there.

jdsarchitects.fieldoperations. landscape is privileged over built form.A. we opt for the architect who intervenes with a strategic Husos.: www. a real manager of energy and materials. The Netherlands: www. U. and hardly touching the earth at all. Metabolism is alive and well in these attempts to push the envelope on sustainability. Denmark: Millegomme/Refunc. Spain: Julien de Smedt Architects. Coloco. regenerating.S.ecosistemaurbano. preferring criteria to sensibility when making a .millegomme.: www.husos. damp planter Field Operations.lo-tek. Italy: www. Cows and sheep share urban gardens with locals.A.Very Green City The work of these younger multi-disciplinary practices was literally very green. Colombia: www. Italy: www. Ecosistema Urbano: “Rather than an architect who leaves his indelible stamp on the Lot-ek. It is sometimes hard to spot the buildings for the foliage. frameworks and scaffolds containing mixed uses and spilling with life. U.coloco.” Examples to look up: Avatar Mao/Emmeazero. France: www. We understand that we must act first as citizens and then as architects. The buildings are Ecosistema Urbano.

Peter Johns DSC02858. This is bottom up architecture that engages with a public.A (Parking Day): Urban Think Tank. Italy: www.fantasticnorway. Teddy Cruz: “The work has evolved from the design of buildings or environments as ends in themselves (the normative task of architectural practice) into a more meaningful creative process that transforms them into social systems.decolonizing. Mexico: www. The results are harder to characterise as they doesn't always end up in designed buildings .net Stalker/Osservatorio Nomade.: Hilal. I'm sure there is work of similar interest happening in Africa.Politics and Society While the above examples are often assuming radical changes to society's power structures in order to happen. Estudio Teddy Recetas Urbanas.u-tt.raumlabor-berlin. Peter Johns Rebar Group. these ones look a little closer at how this might Fantastic Norway: www. there was a tendency to show the work of European and American (North and South) architects.seamlessterritory.stalkerlab. or at least observes and learns from it. Well. Venezuala . One Land Two Systems.their similarities are more in process. Palestine and U.fields. 2008 International Festival. in order to attempt urban interventions that might serve as models to us all.S. A Bearded Fiat in a yurt at the Biennale. and Australasia.dueapiup.jpg Mao/Emmeazero. Footprints . Germany: www. questioning assumptions about public and private space. Chile: www.elementalchile. November 2008 ============================= Attached images: Elemental. Asia.recetasurbanas. Sweden: www. These architects are not afraid to get into squabbles with territorial authorities.osservationomade. The Netherlands: www. Petti and Weizman. Or are we thinking too much within architecture not enough beyond it? Peter Johns Architects for Fast.jpg Inside the Australian Pavilion. Italy: www. Spain: www.” Examples to look up: 2A+P Archittetura. Do we just need to find it and tell them.jpg Fast. 2008 The “Beyond Architecture” Biennale was an exhausting but very stimulating three day trek through the ideas of architects from around the planet.

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