The 16th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, this year titled “Freespace”, is open through November 25th, 2018.

Although a great deal of focus has been on the large section of the now destroyed Robin Hood Gardens built by Team X architects, Alison and Peter Smithson, Edwin Heathcote notes, in an interview for the Art Newspaper Weekly podcast, that this year’s exhibition is different. Rather than emphasize monumental structures designed by star architects, the concern is with “space” including areas for the public or “freespace.”

The idea of architectural “generosity,” or public space, is at the core of the vision articulated by the co-curators, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, and outlined in the exhibition’s Manifesto. The documents opens: “Freespace describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself.” Farrell and McNamara continue by emphasizing the importance of “generosity” in the design of every project, even “the most private, defensive, exclusive or commercially restricted conditions.”

Also of note is the Vatican’s entry into the Biennale. According to Elisabetta Povoledo, visitors experience Francesco Dal Co’s vision by making a “pilgrimage” to and through the garden on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. On this journey, visitors encounter ten chapels by different architects.

References: Ben Luke (host), Julia Michalska & David Clack (producers). “Venice Architecture Biennale, and the Brutalist social housing debate,” Podcast episode 34. Art Newspaper (May 31, 2018); “The Biennale Architettura 2018″. Elisabetta Povoledo. “The Most Surprising Entry in Venice’s Architecture Biennale? The Vatican’s.The New York Times (May 25 2018).

Further reading: Robin Hood Gardens; Eric Paul Mumford. The CIAM Discourses on Urbanism, 1928-1960. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2000.

Posted by Jennifer D. Webb

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