November 4, 2018

Looking at Freespace through the Windows, Part 2

The Arsenale
Rozana Montiel Estudio de Arquitectura

For Mexico-based architect Rozana Montiel, freespace indicates freeing space and actions, or a space for the act of placemaking. She describes architecture as “social construction,” saying: “Beauty is not a luxury, but a basic service that cannot be separated from need and function.”

The installation her studio developed for the Biennale titled Stand Ground is located in the Corderie, or a long colonnaded space that was once used to build ropes for tying up the ships of the Arsenale, which is the ruins of a state-owned shipyard from the Middle Ages. The once-vertical wall of the space is laid on the floor, as if to literally represent Montielʼ s philosophy of design—”change barriers into boundaries.” With the wallʼ s arched window also reproduced and laid on the floor, we view instead a projection showing footage of the outside worldʼ s vibrant everyday life. By breaking the wall vertically separating these spaces, Montiel merges the enclosed exhibition space and the view from its window; the usually vertical window, then, is turned into a flat surface that allows visitors to experience the strange sensation of walking beside it. The full-scale reproduction was built out of recycled Venetian bricks.

Montiel confronts how space changes through the process of creating architecture, and incorporates the following in her practice to create freespace that activates a given place:

1. Search content in context: work with community
2. Convert barriers into horizons: open communication
3. Transform the perception of space: use space creatively
4. Approach the landscape as a prerequisite: recycle existing infrastructure
5. Re-signify the materials: create a sense of place through texture
6. Work with temporality: respond to change in needs over time
7. Believe in beauty as a basic right

  • A live projection of the Venice Canals outside is displayed on the wall / Photo by Sandra Pereznieto
September 7, 2018

Looking at Freespace through the Windows, Part 1

The 16th Venice Architecture Biennale is currently open from Saturday, May 26 to Sunday, November 25, 2018 in Venice, Italy. Appointed Directors Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, who head Grafton Architects based in Dublin, Ireland, selected Freespace as its overarching theme.

Grafton Architects have designed many buildings of a highly public nature, starting with university facilities such as Universita Luigi Bocconiʼs School of Economics, UTEC Limaʼs university campus, and Université Toulouse 1 Capitoleʼs School of Economics, which is currently under construction. They won the Silver Lion at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale for Architecture as New Geography, which exhibited a practice viewing architecture as a “built geography” that takes part in restructuring the landscape, and centers on dialogues with geographical and cultural characteristics particular to the site as their starting points.

For the Biennale, they hope to unravel the diversity, specificity, and trends within architecture by having the national pavilions and participating architects present their own ideas on Freespace.

Of the many exhibited projects, we will introduce works related to windows; perhaps the national pavilions or exhibits themselves can be thought of as windows into their respective “freespaces.”


Central Pavilion

As the title The facade is the window to the soul of architecture indicates, the central pavilion presents an antithesis to the fact that the facade has long been excluded from architectural discourse. It is a statement that rings all the more true when backed by Caruso St John Architectsʼ years of experience. Elevations of their architectural work, as well as photographs of facades that have influenced the architects (Photo by Philip Heckhausen), are displayed one above another on the wall. The exhibition gives a glimpse into Caruso St John Architectsʼ beliefs and architectural methodology, which pay respect to history and arrive at designs that blend with the existing surrounding architecture.

For example, an elevation of Newport Street Gallery, which was completed in London in 2015 and is known as the gallery where artist Damien Hirst displays his personal art collection, is shown above photographs of Via Daniele Manin in Milan and Newport Street in London. At Newport Street Gallery, two newly constructed contemporary buildings at either end flank three Victorian buildings that were built as carpentry and scenery workshops in 1913, during the golden age of theatre. These new buildings are also made with a hard, pale red brick that characterizes Victorian architecture (1837-1901) and connects the facades together. The five buildings maintain both their unique qualities and similarities, and together they create a striking impression as a city block.

The architecture of Victorian warehouses (1837 – 1901) also symbolizes the height of the UKʼs economic development during the Industrial Revolution; Caruso St John Architects says, “Good buildings…can accommodate new uses over time, and while programme can be fleeting, it is the physical presence and the image of these buildings that underpin the formation of great cities..”