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Riccardo Blumer Explores Architecture in Motion at the Venice Biennale

By Edie Cohen

Wall. Photography by Alberto Canepa.

Full disclosure. For years this confirmed Italophile has said Venice, non più. No more Venice. But lately, I’ve been feeling the distinct pull of La Serenissima. Blame it on or credit the Biennale, especially the wealth of images coming from this year’s 16th International Architectural Exhibition held at the Arsenale. Particularly intriguing were the paired projects presented by Riccardo Blumer, architect and professor of architecture and industrial design at the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio-USI. Under his leadership students in the school’s collaborative workshop, endowed by the American Madworkshop Foundation, created Space and Wall, both explorations of architecture in motion. Ergo the name “Automatic Architectures and Other Exercises.”

Wall. Photography by Paolo Mazzo.

Wall is a structure whose boundaries, i.e. walls, are made from a stretched soapy lamina. They are permeable, fragile, transparent, and ready to break. Solid surfaces they are not. The installation is arranged in 11 segments, each with a with a different “lifespan” due to the nature of the material. Yet each segment is constantly refreshed. Computer programming directs floor-mounted mechanisms, similar to gas-station squeegees, to restore the soapy substance once it disappears. Given attendee interest, this is a wall that brings people together.

Space. Photography by Paolo Mazzo.

Space is a gridded construction of 81 wooden blocks, conceived as mini towers. Each element is in perpetual motion, rising and falling as determined by an algorithmic command. The result is a shifting “landscape” in countless configurations. We liken it to a sophisticated set of building blocks with limitless possibilities.

Wall. Photography by Paolo Mazzo.

We were not the only ones drawn to the exhibit. Artist Mark Bradford, pictured in conversation with Madworkshop director Sofia Borges, appeared captivated, too. The installation is on view until November 25th.

Space. Photography by Alberto Canepa.
Artist Mark Bradford and Madworkshop director Sofia Borges. Photography courtesy of PLANE—SITE.