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First look inside the Venice Biennale's British Pavilion

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The AJ can reveal the first pictures from inside FAT and Crimson Architectural Historians’ British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

The long-awaited contents of the exhibition entitled, A Clockwork Jerusalem, have now been revealed ahead of its official opening to the public on Friday (6 June).

Responding to Rem Koolhaas’ theme for the Biennale of Absorbing Modernity, the exhibition explores the origins, projects and experience of British modernity, the culture that post-war architecture and planning emerged from, and the worlds that it created.

The exhibition argues that today’s planning challenges should be tackled with ‘the same imagination and ambition that has long characterised Britain’s attempts to build its New Jerusalems’.

Visitors to the British Pavilion are greeted by a pair of concrete cows on loan from Milton Keynes. The cows were originally produced by the artist Liz Leyh shortly after the post-war town was created in the late-seventies.

The main room features a 7-metre diameter earth mound and a panoramic image telling the story of British modernism. The mound has been conceived to symbolise the both the beginning and the end of modernism – from construction to demolition.

Vicky Richardson, director of architecture, design, and fashion at the British Council, which commissioned the British Pavilion, said: ‘A Clockwork Jerusalem is a witty and insightful exhibition that we hope will provoke debate about British architecture.

‘The exhibition uses images and language brilliantly to link a series of complex issues that we hope will lead to a new debate about the UK’s plans for housing and New Towns.’

Curator Sam Jacob of FAT Architecture added: ‘A Clockwork Jerusalem describes a world where ruins become utopias, where archaeology and futurism merge, the Picturesque is reimagined as concrete geometry, and where pop culture, history and social ambition are fused into new national futures.

‘It argues for a rebooting of the British tradition of visionary planning that created places as diverse as Cumbernauld and Milton Keynes, proposing that these visions – Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City equation; the anarcho-liberal ‘experiment in freedom’ of Non-Plan; and the sustainability represented by Clifford Harper’s Radical Technology – are not only history but suggestions of possible 21st Century New Jerusalems.

‘As one of FAT Architecture’s final projects, curating this exhibition at the Biennale Architettura 2014 for the British Council brings the opportunity to suggest how the history and culture of British architecture might give new direction to the future, and is a fitting conclusion to the FAT project.’

The British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is open to the public until 23 November 2014.

A Clockwork Jerusalem


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