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Revealed: FAT's plans for British Pavilion

FAT has revealed its ideas for the British Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale

The UK’s Pavilion entitled ‘A Clockwork Jerusalem’ is being curated by FAT Architecture and Crimson Architectural Historians, and responds to the theme ‘Absorbing Modernity’ set by Dutch architect and Biennale director Rem Koolhaas.

The exhibition will explore the diverse cultural influences that shaped and were shaped by British Modernism in the post war era and over the last 100 years.

Outlining its plans, the FAT-led team, said: ‘A Clockwork Jerusalem explores how a specifically British form of Modernism emerged from a modernity that combined traditions of the romantic, sublime and pastoral with a fascination and fear of the industrial, technology and science fiction to create new visions of society. 

‘Taking the large scale projects of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as a point of departure, the exhibition explores the mature flowering of British Modernism, the moment it was at its most socially, politically and architecturally ambitious but also the moment that witnessed its collapse. 

‘The exhibition tells the story of how British modernity emerged out of an unlikely combination of interests and how these modern visions continue to create our physical and imaginative landscapes. From Stonehenge to council estates, from Ebenezer Howard to Cliff Richard, from ruins and destruction to back-to-the-land rural fantasies, through architecture, records, books and adverts, A Clockwork Jerusalem explores the culture and products of British modernity as an architectural project and as a wider cultural experience.’

In a press conference, held this morning (11 March), Koolhaas said that the extra time spent on this year’s Biennale, which has been in planning since January last year, had allowed them to create ‘a degree of coordination and coherence among the National Pavilions’.

The fourteenth international Venice Biennale entitled ‘Fundamentals’ will feature three ‘interlocking’ exhibitions – ‘Absorbing Modernity’, ‘Elements of Architecture’ and ‘Monditalia’. These topics have been assigned to each of the participating countries as a theme for their individual exhibitions and pavilions.

Among the 65 nations, participating in this year’s Biennale are eleven countries which have not had a presence before: Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand and Turkey.

In a change to tradition, Koolhaas’ biennale will start on 7 June instead of at the end of August, making the event run at least 12 weeks longer than usual, running through until 23 November.

Rem Koolhaas on the Venice Biennale

‘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. The 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, the 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.’

Previous story (AJ 25.1.13)

Koolhaas: next Venice Biennale about ‘architecture not architects’

OMA-founder Rem Koolhaas has unveiled the theme for the next Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014 - ‘Fundamentals

The 68-year-old Dutch architect, who is curating next year’s festival, said: ‘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.

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

Koolhaas superseded previous biennale figurehead David Chipperfield who curated last year’s global architecture festival - the 13th in its history.

Venice_Biennale_Inhabitable_Models_Photographs_by_Grant_Smith_Contact_Sheet

‘For this reason over the past few years our choices of curators and themes have been based on the awareness of the gap between the “spectacularization” of architecture on the one hand, and the waning capacity of society to express its demands and its needs on the other hand.

‘The architects are called upon prevalently to create awe-inspiring buildings and the “ordinary” is going astray, towards banality if not squalor: a modernity lived bad.’

In a change to tradition, Koolhaas’ beinnale will start on 7 June instead of at the end of August, making the event run at least 12 weeks longer.

Previous story (AJ 8.1.13)

It’s official: Rem Koolhaas to curate Venice Biennale

OMA-founder Rem Koolhaas has been officially named as the next curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale

The 68-year-old Dutch architect supersedes David Chipperfield who curated last year’s global architecture festival.The appointment comes four months after AJ reported Koolhaas was tipped for the top job in the weeks following the opening of the last biennale.

In a change to tradition, Koolhaas’ beinnale will start on 7 June instead of at the end of August, making the event run at least 12 weeks longer.

Indicating his ambitions for the next showcase in 2014, Koolhaas said he planned to ‘give a new look’ to architecture’s basic elements ‘to see if we can discover something new about architecture.’

The festival’s board, chaired by Paolo Baratta, formally appointed the star architect to the role today.

Baratta praised Koolhaas as one of the most important architects practising today.

He said: ‘The Architecture Exhibitions of the Biennale have gradually grown in importance internationally.

‘Rem Koolhaas, one of the most significant personalities among the architects of our time - who has based all his work on intense research, now renowned celebrity - has accepted to engage himself in yet another research and, why not, rethinking.’

The high-profile architect won the biennale’s Golden Lion for lifetime achievement in 2010.

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