GSD faculty and students bring diversity of contributions, dialogues to 2018 Venice Biennale

They are scholars and practitioners, curators and exhibitors, designers from across fields and disciplines—and at this year’s Venice Biennale, these Harvard Graduate School of Design faculty and students will bring a variety of projects, viewpoints, and contributions to one of architecture’s most celebrated global forums.

Every two years, the architecture world descends upon Venice for the Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia) to cross-pollinate through a variety of programming. An International Architecture Exhibition is curated by the respective Biennale’s directors—this year, architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara—while a series of architects and other professionals from around the world curate and present National Pavilions, representing a variety of countries. Lectures, panel events, and other programmatic elements course throughout the Biennale. The 2018 Venice Biennale is open to the public from May 26 to November 25, 2018.

This year’s International Architecture Exhibition—the 16th in the Biennale’s history—is entitled “FREESPACE.”

“When we were writing the Manifesto, we wanted primarily to include the word ‘space,'” write Farrell and McNamara. “We also wanted a new use of everyday words, which could somehow cause us all to reframe the additional component that we as a profession can contribute to humanity. We see architecture as the translation of need in its widest sense into meaningful space. In the effort to translate FREESPACE into the many wonderful languages of the world, we hope that it pries open the ‘gift’ which architectural invention has the potential to contribute with each project. Translation allows us all to map and rename intellectual as well as actual territory.

“It is our hope that the word FREESPACE allows us to burrow into the aspirations, ambitions and generosity of architecture.”

GSD participants are involved across the Biennale’s programming, with GSD presence in the International Architecture Exhibition and National Pavilions in the Arsenale and Giardini staging areas, and participation in exhibitions and events throughout the city. They include:

Jeanne Gang, Design Critic in Architecture, and her firm Studio Gang have been selected as one of seven design teams for the U.S. National Pavilion, entitled “Dimensions of Citizenship.” The U.S. pavilion’s curators Niall Atkinson, Ann Lui, and Mimi Zeiger have themed the U.S. National Pavilion around citizenship in order to engage architecture in questions of citizenship and national identity. Studio Gang is contributing to the National Pavilion a project entitled “Stone Stories,” occupying the first room in the pavilion.

“As part of a longer process to help craft a more inclusive public realm in Memphis, Tennessee,” writes Studio Gang, “‘Stone Stories’ explores the potential of one overlooked yet important public space: Memphis Landing, a cobblestone-paved landing on the Mississippi River that served as the city’s historic port. ‘Stone Stories’ transports hundreds of the Landing’s cobblestones to Venice to investigate how the Landing can become a meaningful site of civic memory—perhaps a new kind of monument—that reflects and elevates many citizen voices, past and present.”

Studio Gang is also among the 71 architects invited to exhibit in FREESPACE. Gang herself will also participate in a Saturday, May 26 workshop on citizenship alongside Amanda Williams, Andres L. Hernandez, Rania Ghosn, El Hadi Jazairy, Elizabeth Diller, Laura Kurgan, Keller Easterling, Kate Orff, and the GSD’s Robert Pietrusko, moderated by Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman.

Robert PietruskoAssistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Architecture, is also among the seven design teams selected to represent the United States in the U.S. National Pavilion. Pietrusko will also participate in the Saturday, May 26 workshop on citizenship.

Rahul MehrotraProfessor of Urban Design and Planning, is among the 71 architects invited to exhibit in FREESPACE.

Toshiko MoriRobert P. Hubbard Professor in the Practice of Architecture, will be participating in the Biennale’s Time-Space-Existence exhibition, an endeavor of the Global Art Affairs Foundation. Mori’s display presents the work of her firm, Toshiko Mori Architect, in Senegal; this work includes Thread Artists’ Residency and Cultural Center, Fass School that is currently in construction, and explorations on how traditional construction techniques along with vernacular architecture can be used to arrive at new design solutions and engineering knowledge. Mori was also filmed to be featured in the Time-Space-Existence interview series that will be posted online.

Tomás dePaor, Design Critic in Architecture, has curated a student-produced contribution to the installation “Close Encounter: Meetings with Remarkable Buildings,” to be staged in the International Architecture Exhibition as a special section of FREESPACE. DePaor was named one of 16 Ireland-based architects and firms to contribute to the “Close Encounter” installation, for which Farrell and McNamara asked participants to present works that “originate in a reflection on well-known buildings of the past.”

DePaor chose to engage GSD students in the project, inviting students to an April 10 event at which they listened to a presentation by Andrew Holder on the building of focus—Giovanni Michelucci’s Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista “dell’Autostrada”—then participated in a drawing exercise, from which 121 drawings were selected for the exhibition. “My time at the GSD has informed my thinking about how to approach this project,” dePaor says. “Rather than the production of a precedent-based object designed by my office, I think it is more relevant to focus on the act of teaching and learning,  and so have invited GSD students and faculty in a collaborative work that is part installation, part performance piece, part collective drawing exercise.” Funding for dePaor’s project was made possible by the generous support of the family of John E. (Jack) Irving.

Andrew Witt, Assistant Professor in Practice of Architecture, has been invited by Sanford Kwinter to participate in a panel on the subject of “Reality Today,” including Manuel DeLanda, Brian Boigon, and others. The event will be held Saturday, May 26, at 2:00 p.m. at Sala F in the Central Pavilion at the Giardini.

Emanuel Christ and Christoph Gantenbein, Design Critics in Architecture, will be exhibited in the Japan National Pavilion. Their contribution synthesized over five years of academic research during which Christ, Gantenbein, and their research team selectively analyzed buildings found in eight major cities around the world: Hong Kong, Rome, New York, Buenos Aires, Athens, Paris, São Paulo, and Delhi. “This inventory of 20th-century metropolitan and essentially ordinary buildings represents a systematic yet subjective survey of recurrent architecture types,” they write. Their work, and the two books it fueled, will be presented in the Japan National Pavilion.

Luis Flores, student in the Master in Landscape Architecture program, and partner Armida Fernandez, an incoming member of the Master in Design Studies program, through their Guadalajara-based studio estudio ALA, were selected from 213 project submissions for exhibition in the Mexico National Pavilion. Their project, Centinela Chapel, will be exhibited alongside 20 other projects in the pavilion.

Steven Handel, Visiting Professor in Landscape Architecture, and his consultancy “Green Shield Ecology” served as ecological lead for Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) winning entry in the New York City “Rebuild By Design” competition. BIG will exhibit this project’s approach at the Biennale.