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Riccardo Blumer’s Wall and Space featured in Azure Magazine!

Highlights of the Arsenale at the 2018 Venice Biennale

By Nelda Rodger

Highlights of the Arsenale at the 2018 Venice Biennale

The 16th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale, curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, is called FREESPACE. Here are a few highlights from the Arsenale’s 50,000-square-metre exhibition space, displaying installations by top architects from around the world. Pack your walking shoes – this is the biggest architecture show on the planet.

Under a cloudless Venetian sky, La Biennale Architettura opened to the public on May 26. The following are some of the highlights of the installations in the Arsenale – one of the two venues, along with the Giardini, in the eastern part of Venice where the exhibition takes place. Once the largest ship-building centre in the world, the Arsenale now provides some 50,000 square meters of extraordinary exhibition space. The scale is mammoth – the Corderie, the 317-metre-long hall that the exhibition kicks off in, is supported by a series of massive columns that rise six metres high. Even empty the venue is a stunning architectural display.

This year’s appointed curators, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Ireland’s Grafton Architects, entitled the 16th International Architecture Exhibition FREESPACE. Farrell and McNamara define the concept of free space as spaces which testify to the generosity and humanity at the roots of architectural practice. “We see architecture as the translation of need in its widest sense into meaningful space,” say Farrell and McNamara.

There can be no argument with the concept and the sincerity of intent: who doesn’t want an architecture that steps outside itself to accommodate human need and interaction, intended or not? But in the context of the exhibition, it’s sometimes difficult to find the through-line. Interaction sometimes feels trivializing. There is no lack of things to climb up on in the Arsenale, to peer into and to ponder. The sheer magnitude of the exhibition – with 64 firms participating in the Arsenale along with a couple of dozen national pavilions – makes it physically challenging to “see” the exhibition, without ever actually de-coding it. But perhaps that is the reality of free space, a space that the user brings intention to, or not.

Organized by La Biennale di Venezia, the architecture exhibition takes place every two years, alternating with the Art Biennale. In addition to the Arsenale, the Giardini, a parkland area, houses the Central Pavilion, where the FREESPACE exhibition curated by Farrell and McNamara continues, along with 29 national pavilions that each showcase particular countries or regions. If you are thinking of catching it before it closes on November 25, pack your walking shoes, this is the biggest architecture show on the planet.

Riccardo Blumer’s students – Lorela Arapi, Stefano Clerici and Andrea Cappellaro –concocted Wall, a machine that continually builds minimal surfaces composed of water and soap that last only a few seconds. The project derives from a collaborative workshop at the Academy of Architecture, supported by the MADWORKSHOP Foundation.