Venice Biennale 2014: A short history of the Biennale
In 1980 the first Biennale di Architettura, which focused on the Postmodernist movement, took place as an exhibition alongside the Venice Art Biennale. There followed exhibitions dedicated to architecture in Islamic countries (1981), the Venice Project (1985) and Dutch architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage (1986), before national pavilions were instituted in 1991 to mount architectural exhibitions.
In the first year that individual nations were invited to participate in the architectural biennale, the British Pavilion exhibited the recent work of six leading architects: Norman Foster, Nicholas Grimshaw, Michael Hopkins, John Outram, Richard Rogers and James Stirling. This year also saw the inauguration of Stirling and Wilford’s permanent pavilion, used as the official bookshop of the Venice Biennale.
Entitled ‘The Architecture of Information’, the British exhibition of 1996 illustrated four buildings designed as libraries or archives at the end of the 20th century: The British Library by Colin St John Wilson and Partners; The Carré d’Art by Foster + Partners; The Ruskin Library by MJP; and The Eden Project by Grimshaw.
Following the abandonment of Will Alsop’s Jubilee Line extension-themed plans, due to funding issues, the British Pavilion was given over to four ‘City Visionaries’. Alsop & Stormer, Nigel Coates and Doug Branson, David Chipperfield, and Zaha Hadid were each given a room to exhibit their work.
Curated by British architecture critic Dejan Sudjic, with the theme ‘Next’, the 2002 Biennale provided a preview of key international projects taking shape in the coming five years. Foreign Office Architects was chosen to represent Britain with a site-specific installation based on its Yokohama Ferry Port Terminal.
Alongside curator Peter Cook, who worked with Gavin Robotham, eight British architectural practices - Future Systems, Ian Ritchie, Kathryn Findlay, Ron Arad, Caruso St John, CJ Lim, Richard Murphy and John Pawson - were chosen to demonstrate the strength and ‘contradictory feel of the British scene’ in an exhibition called ‘Nine Positions’.
With the aim of examining issues specifically facing Britain’s regional cities, rather than the capital, Jeremy Till developed an ‘urban register’ to describe Sheffield at a variety of scales from 1:1 to 1:10 million. The catalogue contained contributions from architects Sauerbruch Hutton, Studio Egret West, Hawkins\Brown, and Mecanoo as well as writer Tim Etchells, photographer Hugo Glendinning and Martyn Ware, founder member of the Human League.
Named ‘Home/Away’ the British exhibition in 2008 focused on how British architects were addressing the question of housing. Five practices chosen by critic Ellis Woodman - dRMM, Maccreanor Lavington, Sergison Bates, Tony Fretton and Witherford Watson Mann - each presented two schemes, one from the UK and one from mainland Europe.
Responding to the brief of the 12th architecture biennale, which was ‘People Meet in Architecture’ , muf turned the British Pavilion into ‘Villa Frankenstein’. The collaboration of artists, scientist and schools was conceived as a stage for an exchange of ideas between Venice and the UK and included a 1:10 model of a section of the Olympic Stadium, and a cartoon puddle (above) in the pavilion grounds.
Following an open call for participation, 10 ‘explorers’ undertook expeditions to a variety of locations around the world to investigate the theme of ‘Common Ground’ set by director David Chipperfield. The 10 research proposals from the group of practising architects; a curator; writers; journalists; teachers and campaigners were exhibited at the Venice Takeaway, curated by Vicky Richardson of the British Council and Vanessa Norwood of the Architectural Association.