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Koolhaas turns the Venice Biennale into a trade show

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Is architecture more than the sum of its parts?

No, it is not, says Rem Koolhaas, whose cold, empirical, faithless biennale rendered architecture as a composition of banal components, such as windows and doors, corridors and cladding, servicing and staircases. His show, Fundamentals (geddit?), in the main Giardini pavilion, was subdivided into rooms exploring these bits and pieces.

If the lasting impression was ‘Interbuild-on-Sea’, this maybe was Koolhaas’ point: that biennales and trade shows are interchangeable today. Since 2009, for example, the ceramics trade show Cersaie, in Bologna, has run a festival of architecture as part of its delegate programme.

This year, its festival was called, ‘building, dwelling, thinking’. To quote from Cersaie’s website, this title ‘embodies all the essential actions performed by a human being during his stay upon the earth, as expressed by Heidegger, the German philosopher whose essay provided the inspiration for the contents of the programme’.

Closer to home, at this year’s Ecobuild, our own Jay Merrick interviewed RIBA Gold Medallist Joseph Rykwert as part of that trade show’s delegate offer. Perhaps then, Koolhaas is right: trade shows and art biennales, are becoming the same. Still, that doesn’t explain why his Venice show was so incredibly dull.


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