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Venice preview: FAT Architects

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The fake and the authentic

For some time FAT has been interested in the idea of the copy in architecture. The copy is a foundation of architectural culture, evidenced, for example, by the influence of the Grand Tour on the creation of the English Baroque. Copying and repetition are also embedded in the way architecture is produced, in modularity of components and the keystrokes of digital drawing. Yet the copy also threatens fundamental disciplinary concerns of originality, authorship and authenticity. It’s the schizophrenic nature of the copy as the discipline’s perfect and evil twin - at once fundamental to architecture and its nemesis - that fascinates us in our project, The Museum of Copying.

Centrally placed in the Arsenale is FAT’s large-scale facsimile of Palladio’s Villa Rotunda, titled Villa Rotunda Redux. The Villa Rotunda is perhaps the Ur-example of the architectural copy. It is a building composed out of copies - an assemblage of temple and Pantheon - arranged to produce a radically new architectural typology. It has been the subject of multiple exercises in replication across time and space, from Chiswick House (London), through Monticello (Charlottesville) to contemporary examples including Beit Falasteen in the Palestinian Territories. As both subject and object, the Villa Rotunda presents us with an unfolding narrative of architectural copying. On the occasion of the Venice Biennale, we feel it appropriate to return a version of the Rotunda back to Venice in a state resonant with the condition of the copy Palladio helped to propagate.

The facsimile is fabricated by a process that places reproduction and repetition at its core. A quarter-section of the villa was produced by CNC-ing a large-scale mould. From this, a cast was taken by spraying into the mould with polyurethane foam. The cast and mould are arranged as an installation, displaying the process of fabrication as well as the qualities of positive and negative, of interior and exterior and the abstractions and fidelities of the original villa, set one against the other. Alongside this, FAT has curated four parallel projects. Architectural Doppelgängers explores buildings that might otherwise be described as copies, fakes or replicas. Here, original and double are presented side by side and the unusual stories behind the copy are drawn out.

Ines Weizman explores the relationship of copyright to architecture in Repeat Yourself: Loos, Law and the Culture of the Copy. As Loos’ copyright passed into public domain 75 years after his death, Weizman recalls his architectural imperative to ‘repeat yourself’. The installation examines the place of copyright in architecture by proposing the construction of a facsimile of Loos’ unbuilt House Baker (1928) together with a reconstruction of the legal disputes around the ownership of Loos’ archive and work.

Italian group San Rocco presents The Book of Copies, which addresses the idea of influence and recalls 18th century pattern books. The project comprises volumes prepared by invited architects, each of whom has assembled photocopies relating to a thematic building typology. Readers assemble their own versions of the book.

FAT’s Museum of Copying explores the idea of the copy in relation to the Biennale theme of ‘Common Ground’, arguing that copying is a force that creates common architectural language and is simultaneously the site where radical reinvention occurs.

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