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From Venice to Bordeaux Thoughts on architecture exhibits

From Venice to Bordeaux Thoughts on architecture exhibits
By Yehuda Safran -

Never in our recent collective memory of architecture has anyone received so many awards and earned so many prizes for such a relatively small body of work as did Alejandro Aravena immediately prior to his selection as Curator of the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale. His title “Reporting From the Front” uses the age-old trick of a military metaphor. The photo poster of the German woman archeologist with her aluminum ladder in search of patterns in the Latin American desert is very convincing. Yes, Aravena is as much media aware as he is the product of a media tsunami. He speaks clearly, directly and engagingly. But from its inception 30 years ago, the Venice Biennale was assigned other criteria that are more difficult to fulfill. As Spinoza pointed out, “excellence is as rare as it is difficult.” Aravena’s Biennale is a great improvement on the last Biennale two years ago curated by Koolhaas, yet he too avoids and side steps the main task of the Biennale, which is to show the best in architecture at a given moment in time. Since 30% of the exhibits of “constellation.s” - opened the following week at Bordeaux’s Arc en Rêve and where Aravena himself is a prime exhibitor - were identical to Aravena’s Biennale choice, one has to conclude that both the broader public and the media have at last recognized the theme of Architecture as the means of ameliorating a deteriorating environment and offsetting the growing housing shortage and poor quality of the built environment. Indeed, disturbing forensic architecture projects like the archaeology of the death camp in Venice and the bombing of Gaza in Bordeaux, are designed to contribute to our growing sense of political and social urgency. Paulo Mendes da Rocha, recipient of the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at this Biennale, believes architecture is the sole means by which we, as a human species, can avert disaster. Toyo Ito believes likewise. True or false, we live in the hope that such a test will...

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