Venice Biennale 2016: “Reporting From the Front”

Today, August 31st 2015, Paolo Baratta, President of the Vennice Biennale, and Alejandro Aravena, curator of the 2016 edition, announced the title of the 15th international architecture exhibition: “Reporting From the Front”. The theme was revealed at a press conference at Ca’ Giustinian in front of representatives from 48 countries. A press release was also published on the official website of La Biennale di Venezia.

With ongoing international political, economical and social difficulties, curator Alejandro Aravena proposes that the next Biennale should focus on the importance of architecture as means of improving the quality of life, regardless of place or the scale of its success. “REPORTING FROM THE FRONT will be about bringing to a broader audience, what is it like to improve the quality of life while working on the margins, under tough circumstances, facing pressing challenges. Or what does it take to be on the cutting edge trying to conquer new fields”, the curator states.

Alejandro Aravena, Image Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia, Photography: Giorgio Zucchiatti

Alejandro Aravena, Image Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia, Photography: Giorgio Zucchiatti

Aravena continues: “We would like to learn from architectures that despite the scarcity of means intensify what is available instead of complaining about what is missing. We would like to understand what design tools are needed to subvert the forces that privilege the individual gain over the collective benefit, reducing We to just Me. We would like to know about cases that resist reductionism and oversimplification and do not give up architecture’s mission to penetrate the mystery of the human condition. We are interested in how architecture can introduce a broader notion of gain: design as added value instead of an extra cost or architecture as a shortcut towards equality.”

Participation will be a key focus point for the next Venice Biennale edition, as Aravena suggests: “We are very aware that the battle for a better built environment is a collective effort that will require everybody’s force and knowledge. That is why we would like this Biennale to be inclusive, listening to stories, thoughts and experiences coming from different backgrounds: The Architects, The Civil society, The Leaders, The National Pavilions.”

He invites national pavilions to present such projects, in hope of showing how different contexts require different solutions, while simultaneously providing a learning opportunity. Furthermore, Aravena is no stranger to the collective design process, which he also acknowledged during his TED talk at TEDGlobal 2014.

“Alejandro Aravena: My architectural philosophy? Bring the community into the process” – Alejandro Aravena @ TED Global 2014

President Paolo Baratta further underlined the difference between corporate and social approaches to architecture: “For some years now we have been saying that the hallmark of our times is the mismatch between architecture and civil society. On the one hand, architecture seems preoccupied with producing spectacular buildings, celebratory reflections of the power and ambitions of the clients; on the other, society stands by indifferently, shying away from putting questions to Architecture.” He adds: “Architecture is that art where private demands, aspirations and needs intersect with public needs and aspirations”. 

Alejandro Aravena and Paolo Baratta, Image Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia, Photography: Giorgio Zucchiatti

Alejandro Aravena and Paolo Baratta, Image Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia, Photography: Giorgio Zucchiatti

The President concluded today’s conference with a brief retrospect, highlighting the evolution of the Biennale over the past editions and recognizing its role as a learning center for architects. The 15th edition will last 6 months, starting with May 28th and ending on November 27th, 2016, with a preview on May 28th and 27th. As usual, venues will include the Giardini and the Arsenale, along with other venues in Venice.

By: Ana Cosma

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