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British Council seeks proposals from architects for Venice 2014

Ideas on the retrospective theme of ‘fundamentals’ are sought to exhibit at next year’s Rem Koolhaas-curated global architecture summit

The British Council has launched an open call for proposals in line with the high-profile Dutch architects’ ambition for a ‘major exhibition-research project’ in which the national pavilions reflect ‘coordination and coherence’.

Koolhaas’ biennale title ‘Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014’ takes the first world war as a starting point to discuss the impact of modernism up to the present day.

In a statement announcing the festival theme, Koolhaas said: ‘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.

He added: ‘This retrospective will generate a fresh understanding of the richness of architecture’s fundamental repertoire, apparently so exhausted today.

The call for ideas has been made a year early to allow extra time to prepare for the festival which will run longer than previous biennales – from 7 June to 23 November 2014.

British Pavilion commissioner Vicky Richardson said: ‘We’re excited about the opportunity to contribute to a major research exhibition. We want to take Rem Koolhaas’s theme as the starting point for an exhibition that looks at British architecture from the past 100 years in a new light.’

The deadline for submissions is 21 June. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on 5 July with the winner announced on 10 July.

The British Council will work with the appointed ‘research and curatorial unit’ to develop the exhibition, taking responsibility for managing the show, publication and events programme.

Rem Koolhaas’ statement

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.

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. National identity has seemingly been sacrificed to modernity.

Having the decisive advantage of starting work a year earlier than the Biennale’s typical schedule, we hope to use this extra time to introduce a degree of coordination and coherence among the National Pavilions. Ideally, we would want the represented countries to engage a single theme – Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 – and to 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 in a single repertoire of typologies.

The First World War – the beginning of modern globalization – serves a starting point for the range of narratives. He transition to what seems like a universal architectural language is a more complex process than we typically recognize, involving significant encounters between cultures, technical inventions and imperceptible ways of remaining “national.” In a time of ubiquitous google research and the flattening of cultural memory, it is crucial for the future of architecture to resurrect and expose these narratives.

By telling the history of the last 100 years cumulatively, these exhibitions in the National Pavilions will generate a global overview of architecture’s evolution into a single, modern aesthetic, and at the same time uncover within globalization the survival of unique national features and mentalities that continue to exist and flourish even as international collaboration and exchange intensify…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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