ALEJANDRO ARAVENA ON THE BIENNALE AND THE NON-FUTURISTIC FUTURE OF ARCHITECTURE

09.10.2012, 14:55

It is raining in Venice, airline tickets are cheap and the streets are not as crowded with tourists as they were one month ago. It is the perfect time to visit the 13th Architecture Biennale, walk through the Arsenale and the pavilions at the Giardini, taking your time to think about the future of architecture and how the world is changing. The Biennale closes  in seven weeks, on November 25th, so there is still time.

We asked Alejandro Aravena, an architect from Chile and the creator of a social housing concept that he presented at the Strelka Institute in 2011, to share his impressions of the Biennale and advise us on what to see.


From the little I saw at the Biennale, I liked the shimmering curtains of the Netherlands pavilion.

Also, I very much liked what Valerio Olgiati proposed by asking architects to present the inspiration behind the forms they produce. Architecturally speaking, the increased mass he was able to create by reducing the height was impressive. A room without walls gave a feeling of intimacy that was appropriate for looking at architects’ sources of inspiration. There was not a single vertical element to interrupt the general sense of the installation. It was welcoming and intimate at the same time, quite brilliant. I went there and learned a lot. It is very rare that we can delve deeper into the passions of the architects that we admire.

For me personally, it was also very impressive to see the Ruta Del Peregrino film and documentary.

Even though we had designed these buildings, I have never been to Mexico. It was very impressive to see how our building was being used by the pilgrims. The wonders of the Biennale meant that it was in Italy that we Chileans could finally see what we had built in Mexico.

Speaking of the future of architecture, I think, it will not be very futuristic.

One of the difficulties is actually that the future will hide behind a veil of normality. I am sorry for being self-referential, but I think that our exhibition gave a vision of the future. The growing complexity of cities will require two things: synthesis and participation. Synthesis is needed to organize the information so as to reach a resolution that is simple enough to be achieved without reducing the complexity of reality. By participation I mean the channeling of people’s power, and even discontent, as an agent of change.

I liked both parts of the Russian pavilion exhibition.

I cannot talk in detail about the content because I did not have time to go too much into it. I am only talking about how it captured people’s attention in an event such as the Biennale. The installation itself was powerful and straight to the point, which is what such exhibitions demand. The upper hall introduced an interesting point. If we do not know something, we may look upon it as decoration, like barcodes. If we do know them, then these elements can give us additional information. This is true of a project that we are now working on. After Venice I went to Iran because we won the competition to design the Teheran Stock Exchange building. Persian geometry and calligraphy may appear to be mere decoration if you don’t «speak» the language. But they can be «read» if you know the codes. We may apply this principle in our latest project. This is something I began to think about thanks to the Russian Pavilion, on the plane from Venice to Iran after the Biennale.

Photos: http://www.labiennale.org/en/architecture/