Faculty, Students, and Alumni Exhibit at the 2018 Venice Biennale of Architecture
The 2018 Venice Biennale of Architecture opened on May 26 in Venice, Italy. AAP faculty and alumni — some in collaboration with AAP students — are involved as exhibitors and curators in several of the biennale's international architecture exhibition pavilions and related events.
The biennale theme this year is "Freespace." Among the architectural designers exhibiting in the main exhibition at the Venetian Arsenale is Weiss/Manfredi, the firm of cofounders Marion Weiss and Michael A. Manfredi (M.Arch. '80). "Freespace" is interpreted in their immersive installation in an examination of new terms and conditions for design in the context of limited natural resources and the interconnected issues of climate change and social isolation. Models and films within the curving walls of two monumental crescents illuminate a space between city and garden, art and ecology, and infrastructure and intimacy, creating lasting public settings to consider the impact of architecture, landscape, and infrastructure on daily life.
Dimensions of Citizenship
"Dimensions of Citizenship" is this year's theme for the U.S. Pavilion, curated by Niall Atkinson (Ph.D. HAUD '09), Ann Lok Liu (B.Arch. '11), and Mimi Zeiger (B.Arch. '94). The pavilion delves into the meaning of citizenship as a collection of rights and responsibilities where legal, political, economic, and societal affiliations meet. Seven spatial scales are explored — citizen, civitas, region, nation, globe, network, and how conventional notions of citizenship are undermined with the transnational expansion of capital, digital technologies, and geopolitical transformation. The U.S. Pavilion was commissioned by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago, on behalf of the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the United States Embassy in Rome.
Thrival Geographies (In My Mind I See a Line)
Thrival Geographies (In My Mind I See a Line) is an installation for the U.S. Pavilion courtyard created by lead artists Amanda Williams (B.Arch. '97), a spring 2018 visiting critic in architecture; and Andres L. Hernandez (B.Arch. '97), in collaboration with Shani Crowe. The creators build on the dimensions of the citizenship theme by considering how race shapes notions of identity, shelter, and public space in historically African American communities. Thrival Geographies takes the African American historical figures Harriet Jacobs and Harriet Tubman as muses, and "counters the neoclassical colonial architecture of the pavilion with a material that approximates the materiality and architectonic potential of African American hair," says pavilion cocurator Atkinson. "Hernandez and Williams have developed a uniquely powerful way of dramatizing the politics," he says. "This extraordinary piece in the courtyard of the U.S. Pavilion seems to grab everyone's attention, and just as certainly it will challenge them to contemplate American space as a problem and a possibility — past, present, and future." The work is sponsored by The Joyce Foundation.
Ports and Portals: Finding the Citizen Body
Student work created for the spring 2018 undergraduate architecture option studio The Citizen Body, taught by Williams and Visiting Critic Jonathan Stitelman, comprise the exhibition Ports and Portals: Finding the Citizen Body, curated by Assistant Professor Luben Dimcheff (B.Arch. '99). Works feature overlooked spaces in Venice and present an expanded understanding of what it takes to belong. An opening reception for the exhibition was held on May 25 at Galeria de Arte Spazio Tempo in Venice, as partner programming for the U.S. Pavilion. The exhibition was organized and supported by Cornell AAP and ran from May 25 to June 20.
Sara M. Anwar (B.Arch. '02), Madiha Ahmad, and Ahmed Eltoutngi created Anatomy of Informality, one of four teams to exhibit within the Egypt Pavilion. Andrea Simitch (B.Arch. '79), the Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow and chair of the Department of Architecture, contributed editorial support. In line with the pavilion's theme "Robabecciah: the informal city," the exhibition investigates acts of resilience and survival in informal spaces that have developed in Cairo to keep the city functioning. Egyptian for "junk," roba becchiah has roots in the Italian, roba vechhia, or "old stuff," and represents a metaphor for the modern world. Anwar is the founder and director of the project sponsor, Architectem, a Dubai-based platform promoting architecture, design, and innovation in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. The Egypt Pavilion is commissioned by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.
Edson Cabalfin (Ph.D. HAUD '11) curated the Philippines Pavilion, whose theme is "The City Who Had Two Navels." The theme was inspired by National Artist of the Philippines for Literature Nick Joaquin's 1961 novel The Woman Who Had Two Navels and confronts the tension between "the vicissitudes of the past and the challenges of constructing contemporary subjectivity." The exhibitors addressed this postcolonial anxiety in a think tank composed of future architects, planners, and designers from selected Philippine schools and organizations.
The 2018 Venice Biennale of Architecture is part of the 16th annual Biennale di Venezia, which showcases international works in art, architecture, cinema, dance, music, and theatre.
By Patti Witten