The Australian Institute of Architects’ 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale exhibition, Repair, has opened.
The exhibition is the vision of creative directors Mauro Baracco and Louise Wright of Baracco and Wright Architects and artist Linda Tegg.
It features a multi-sensory living installation, inside and outside the Denton Corker Marshall-designed Australian Pavilion. The main component of the exhibition, Grassland Repair, includes more than 10,000 plants from 65 species of Western Plains grasslands. The plants occupy a total area similar to that of the pavilion’s footprint, which, as the curators pointed out, is smaller than the size of the average Australian house and would only take an hour to bulldoze.
To sustain the living installation, a lighting feature, Skylight, which simulates the sun’s energy, forms the third component of the exhibition.
“Since we’ve been making buildings and cities in Australia, it has mostly been to separate us from the natural environment. Consequences of the disregard of natural systems are now being felt and there is a shift of thinking amongst built environment disciplines towards repairing the natural environment,” said the curators.
“Repair as an approach to architectural thinking – that is, how can architecture play a role in repairing the places it is part of – is set to become a critical strategy of architectural culture.
“Repair […] aims to expand the point of view from the object of architecture, to the way it operates in its context; and to advocate a role for architecture among the many players it takes to repair something.”
Placing the grassland installation inside the pavilion “destabilizes the space that has been designed for the preservation of cultural objects,” said the curators.
It also challenges architects to rethink how the profession values and creates the built environment.
A final component, Ground, is an experimental video series showcasing 15 Australian projects that demonstrate diverse approaches to the theme of repair, focusing on architecture that integrates built and natural systems to repair the environment and improve societal, economic and cultural conditions.
The projects were chosen from 126 submissions from around the country and include examples of adaptive reuse of old buildings, remediation of industrial landscape and the presence of Indigenous culture in Australia’s cities.
“We chose projects that represent a geographic, scale and project-type mix that illustrate different design processes and identify challenges,” said the curators. “Some of the selections may seem modest, however, they all show a trajectory we are keen to provoke and strengthen, one that can be meaningful for the architecture profession, where the ‘thing’ to be repaired pushes back on how the architecture or built form and its relationship to context is conceived and made.”
The Repair exhibition responds to the overall theme of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Dublin-based Grafton Architects: “Freespace.”
It their curatorial statement, Farrell and McNamara asked national participants to “encourage reviewing ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the wellbeing and dignity of each citizen on this fragile planet.”
Australia’s curators said, “Repair will address Farrell and McNamara’s call ‘to stimulate discussion on core architectural values’ and to validate the ‘relevance of architecture on this dynamic planet.’”
The curatorial team led by Baracco and Wright with Linda Tegg also includes architect and anthropologist Paul Memmott, landscape architect Chris Sawyer, landscape architect and urban designer Tim O’Loan, ecologist David Freudenberger, curatorial advisor Catherine Murphy, and architects Lance van Maanen and Jonathan Ware.
The 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale will be open to the public from 26 May to 25 November 2018.