The Venice Biennale is currently running until 27th of November 2016
With a total of 61 national pavilions currently being exhibited this year, visitors can expect a variety of innovative design showcases curated in a global forum. Works of architecture have been once again packaged into a singular event in a city at risk of being submerged by the rising tides of nature and globalization, which may not come to a surprise that many works exhibited at the Venice Biennale are socially driven. Inspired by today’s tense socio-economic and political climate, the design showcase aims at improving the quality of life through built form rather than resorting to the mere creation of iconic imageries. While most of the design intent are commendable, time will only tell if their intervention may cause economic consequences by disrupting local industries and its respective workforce.
With the ongoing refugee crisis and destruction of heritage sites across the Middle East, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has taken the initiative to promote built heritage awareness through today’s 3D printing technologies. Famed for their courtyard which showcases Victorian plaster casts of ancient monuments, the V&A’s exhibition at the Biennale showcases how the same concepts of replication have evolved throughout the years. In addition, a refugee shelter in Calais have been replicated through the use of 3D scans and a CNC-milled synthetic stone. These undertakings allow the public to appreciate the benefits of 3D printing through its use in the promotion of alternative preservation of bringing lost works of art and a new form of documenting the present.
One cannot solely discuss the refugee crisis without addressing pre-existing issues of the housing crisis that has occupied the public sphere. RSH+P has exhibited their low cost sustainable housing designs at Giardini through a vibrant and varied display of diagrams and models as well as Kundoo, who designed a quick and easy-to-assemble affordable home made out hollow blocks of ferrocement. Furthermore, young, up and coming architects have also tackled similar issues with projects aimed to “reflect the dreams of many” by promoting progressive urban housing typologies. Sustainable methods of promoting social housing and eco-friendly environments continue to dominate the international architectural scene.
Despite raising awareness on critical issues facing the world today, other exhibitions have been dedicated to memorializing the works of Zaha Hadid, focusing on the evolution of her 3D printed chair. The overwhelming displays of work created by 3D printing can also be seen in the Swiss Pavillion, notably the ethereal cloud-like spatial structure designed by Christian Kerez. The project was also done through the process of hand making, which was praised by Peter Zumthor, architect of the widely appraised Thermes Vals, who believed that the creation of models by hand was the future of architecture. A controversial statement surely to provoke a debate between technophiles and traditionalists.
Are such claims an impediment to the progression and future of architecture? Or is the creation of models by hand-making a timeless and inescapable tool that will stand the test of time? Regardless of the answer, the Venice Biennale, which runs until the 27th of November 2016, will satisfy the curiosity and stimulate the minds of those who visit.