14th International Architecture Exhibition – Fundamentals

Venice Biennale 2014

A first-rate provocateur, Rem Koolhaas, has been named curator of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition to take place in Venice this year. Known for his conceptual approach to his work, his innovative and challenging ideas, and being instrumental in a number of OMA‘s major works, he has already chosen to break from the traditions of previous biennales to return to the ‘Fundamentals’ of architecture. Having a habit of shaking up convention will serve the festival well, and this year in the hands of Koolhaas, the festival will celebrate architecture rather than the architects.

Rem Koolhaas presenting the guiding principles of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale: Fundamentals via Domus

Rem Koolhaas presenting the guiding principles of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale: Fundamentals via Domus

Through the process of globalisation Koolhaas has noted that local architectural traditions have been sacrificed to modernity. Architecture has become so interchangeable it has lost its history and National identity. Fundamentals will draw on the past to analyse how we have arrived at this position.

Koolhaas stated: “Fundamentals will be a Biennale about architecture, not architects. After several Biennales dedicated to the celebration of the contemporary, Fundamentals will focus on histories – on the inevitable elements of all architecture used by any architect, anywhere, anytime (the door, the floor, the ceiling etc.) and on the evolution of national architectures in the last 100 years. In three complementary manifestations – taking place in the Central Pavilion, the Arsenale, and the National Pavilions – this retrospective will generate a fresh understanding of the richness of architecture’s fundamental repertoire, apparently so exhausted today.

Models of the exhibitions inside the Arsenale

Models of the exhibitions inside the Arsenale

In 1914, it made sense to talk about a “Chinese” architecture, a “Swiss” architecture, an “Indian” architecture. One hundred years later, under the influence of wars, diverse political regimes, different states of development, national and international architectural movements, individual talents, friendships, random personal trajectories and technological developments, architectures that were once specific and local have become interchangeable and global.”

“With Rem Koolhaas, our aim is to create an exceptional, research-centred Architecture Biennale,” Paolo Baratta, chair of the event, states,

“It will be significantly innovative as Rem has conceived a project that involves the entire Biennale, which fully exploits its potential.”

Diagram for the National Pavilions

Diagram for the National Pavilions

The 65 National Participations will be exhibiting in the historic pavilions across the Giardini, the Arsenale, and across the city of Venice. Among these, 11 countries will be participating in the Exhibition for the first time: Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand, and Turkey. Each will address the theme –Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 – and show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in favour of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and homogenised repertoire of typologies.

Venice Biennale 2014, Program for Monditalia exhibition

Venice Biennale 2014, Program for Monditalia exhibition

Rem Koolhaas states:

“Fundamentals is made up of three interlocking exhibitions, Absorbing Modernity 1914 2014, Elements of Architecture and Monditalia –together they will illuminate the past, present and future of our discipline. After several architecture Biennales dedicated to the celebration of the contemporary, Fundamentals will look at histories, attempt to reconstruct how architecture finds itself in its current situation, and speculate on its future.

Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 is an invitation to the national pavilions to show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favour of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and a single repertoire of typologies – a more complex process than we typically recognize, involving significant encounters between cultures, technical inventions, and hidden ways of remaining “national”.

“Elements of Architecture, in the Central Pavilion, will pay close attention to the fundamentals of our buildings, used by any architect, anywhere, anytime: the floor, the wall, the ceiling, the roof, the door, the window, the façade, the balcony, the corridor, the fireplace, the toilet, the stair, the escalator, the elevator, the ramp, etc.

Map suspended inside the Arsenale for the Monditalia

Map suspended inside the Arsenale for the Monditalia

“Monditalia dedicates the Arsenale to a single theme, Italy, with exhibitions, events, and theatrical productions engaging architecture, politics, economics, religion, technology, industry. The other festivals of la Biennale di Venezia – film, dance, theatre, and music will contribute to a comprehensive portrait of the host country.

“The specific goal for the Monditalia section of the Exhibition, at the Corderie, is to gather and illustrate significant dimensions of Italy by means of ad-hoc studies. The result aims to remind us of the complex Italian reality, which is paradigm of not just local but global complexities that must not be denied or concealed. By revealing these realities we are able to access references that are also able to inspire new architecture.”

It sounds like an exciting and challenging program and we’re looking forward to the launch of the events. The 14th International Architecture Exhibition – Fundamentals will be open from 7 June and run until 23 November 2014.

In the following related video Koolhaas is discussing the typology of Hong Kong Villages.