Reporting From The Front is the title of this year’s architectural exhibition for the Venice Biennale, and the theme was suggested by a story about an encounter in South America between the travel writer Bruce Chatwin and an old lady he met walking through the desert with an aluminium ladder. She turned out to be the archaeologist Maria Reiche, who was studying the famous Nazca lines, complex markings on the land made from stones, whose patterns are only visible from a height. At ground level they seem just random gravel, but viewed from the ladder the patterns became visible, the stones became a bird, a jaguar, a tree, or a flower.
Exhibition president Paolo Baratta said the story suggested the idea of taking an expanded overview from a new perspective, seeing both the tragic realities and the possibilities for creative renewal in the world and the potential for a re-engagement between architecture and civil society.
This year’s presentation features 88 participants from 37 different countries, 50 of whom are participating for the first time, and 33 of whom are under the age of 40. The national pavilions are laid out in a unitary exhibition sequence from the Central Pavilion at Giardini to the Arsenale, Alongside the main exhibition, the theme of reporting from the frontline of modern conflicts, in every sense, is further explored by three pavilions dedicated to special projects.
The project at Forte Marghera, entitled Reporting from Marghera and Other Waterfronts and curated by the architect Stefano Recalcati, takes the theme of the urban regeneration of industrial ports, considering examples from around the world and stimulating a reflection on the productive reconversion of Porto Marghera itself.
A collaboration between the Biennale and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London takes its first steps in the pavilion of the Arsenale’s Sale d’Armi, dedicated to the decorative arts, entitled A World of Fragile Parts and curated by Brendan Cormier.
Lastly, in view of the approaching world conference of the United Nations – Habitat III – to be held in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016, a pavilion is dedicated to the themes of urbanisation, under the title Report from Cities: Conflicts of an Urban Age, with special interest in the relationship between public and private spaces. It is curated by Ricky Burdett. The annual conference Urban Age will also be held this year within the 15th Exhibition.
Reporting From The Front, Venice Biennale, 15th International Architecture Exhibition until 27 November. Various venues: Giardini and Arsenale in Venice.
1. Studio Marco Piva at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016. Images: Luca Casonato. Courtesy of Studio Marco Piva.