Vatican Pavilion (Holy See Pavilion)
Francesco Dal Co (Architectural Historian, Professor at Istituto Universitario di Architettura Venezia, and Editor-in-Chief of CASABELLA), Micol Forti (Head of Modern and Contemporary Department of Vatican Museum)
Norman Foster (UK), Terunobu Fujimori (Japan), Francesco Cellini (Italy), Andrew Berman (USA), Javier Corvalán Espinola (Paraguay), Flores & Prats (Spain), Carla Juaçaba (Brazil), Smiljan Radic (Chile), Eduardo Souto de Moura (Portugal), Sean Godsell (Australia), MAP Studio: Francesco Magnani and Traudy Pelzel (Italy)
Floating across the canal from St. Markʼs Square is San Giorgio Maggiore Island, the greater part of which consists of a former monastery, as well as Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore, designed by Andrea Palladio.
After Napoleon ordered the monastery to be closed in 806, the island was occupied by the military, lying in ruins until Count Vittorio Cini purchased it in 1951. The Giorgio Cini Foundation, established by the Count, aims to rebuild and restore this island as a cultural base, starting with the former monastery. With the 2012 opening of Le Stanze del Vetro, an exhibition space for glass-related works, and with the presentation of Hiroshi Sugimotoʼs Glass Tea House Mondrian in its front garden in 2014, the island is becoming a familiar destination for Biennale visitors.
Vatican City, which has been participating as one of the national pavilions for the Venice Biennale since 2013, and which joined the International Architecture Exhibition for the first time this year, chose the forest in the back of Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore for this yearʼs location. President of the Pontifical Council for Culture Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi served as commissioner, and Francesco Dal Co and Micol Forti served as curators. Drawing inspiration from Gunnar Asplundʼs Woodland Chapel (1920), which was built inside the Woodland Cemetery (Skogskyrkogården), the show asks the architects to interpret and develop their own chapels. Venice-based MAP Studioʼs Asplund Pavilion, as well as follies by 10 pairs of architects titled Vatican Chapels, are scattered about the abundant forest.
Andrew Bermanʼs chapel follows a triangular plan and features an opening with a porch overlooking Venice’s lagoon that provides seating for a few people. The interior at the backside of the porch is dark, with bright lights shining through incisions at its upper corners: a space allowing for introspection. Since the pre-Christian construction of the Pantheon to this day, the ubiquity of light passing through high windows has been inseparable from the sanctity of religious architecture.
The light of 1,000 years ago, when monks devoted their prayers on this island, is the same light that shines down today from these corners, inviting one to look up at the sky from below.