Exhibition Review: 2018 Venice Biennale

The 2018 Venice Biennale of Architecture opened in late May with plenty of Canadian content. An early highlight was the unveiling of the beautifully restored 1958 Canada Pavilion in the Giardini section. The restoration, led by the National Gallery of Canada, with assistance by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and others, was facilitated by the support of La Biennale di Venezia, the Venice Superintendent for Architectural Heritage, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and Global Affairs Canada, especially through the Canadian Embassy in Rome. The ambitious project was carried out by the Milanese architect Alberico Barbiano di Belgiojoso, in collaboration with Venice-based architect Troels Bruun of M+B Studio and Canadian designer Gordon Filewych of onebadant. Canadian landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander and Bryce Gauthier of Enns Gauthier Landscape Architects collaborated with La Biennale di Venezia and the Venice Superintendent for Architectural Heritage on the redesign and replanting of the grounds around the pavilion. Funding for the $3-million restoration and the current exhibition about the Pavilion’s history, curated by Réjean Legault and called Canada Builds/Rebuilds a Pavilion, was provided by the National Gallery’s Distinguished Patron, Reesa Greenberg.

The newly reconstructed Canada Pavilion in the Giardini., Venice Biennale
The newly reconstructed Canada Pavilion in the Giardini. Photo by Andrew Latreille.

Canada’s official representative project at this year’s Biennale is UNCEDED: Voices of the Land, led by Douglas Cardinal, FRAIC and a team of prominent Indigenous architects and artists. Cardinal—along with David Fortin, MRAIC; Patrick Stewart, Wanda Della Costa, Brian Porter and others—were part of the team whose work opened the dramatic video-based installation in the Arsenale with an Indigenous dance performance that complemented the curvilinear installation and projections of Indigenous lands, projects and interviews with architects. The Canada Council for the Arts commissioned the installation.

Douglas Cardinal, FRAIC at the UNCEDED opening., Venice Biennale
Douglas Cardinal, FRAIC at the UNCEDED opening. Photo via UNCEDED / Canada Council for the Arts

UNCEDED, as well as the restoration of the Canada Pavilion, were among the projects fêted at a cocktail party for national pavilion curators, commissioners and VIPs on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. Canadians in attendance included Douglas Cardinal and his wife Idoia Arana-Beobide de Cardinal, Simon Brault (CEO of the Canada Council), Serge Belet (Senior Exhibitions Manager at the National Gallery of Canada) and Sascha Hastings (Toronto architectural consultant, who has served as RAIC Project Manager/Deputy Commissioner/Co-Principal on previous Venice exhibitions). Also in attendance was Venice-based architect Troels Bruun of Studio M+B, a long-time collaborator on Canadian Biennale projects.

Patrick Stewart and Linda Lavallee bask in UNCEDED film projections in the Arsenale. 

Patrick Stewart and Linda Lavallee bask in UNCEDED film projections in the Arsenale.

The Biennale’s opening week concluded with awards selected by an international jury that included Vancouver-based Patricia Patkau, co-founder of Patkau Architects. Patkau’s fellow jurors were Australia’s Kate Goodwin, Italy’s Pier Paolo Tamburelli, Chile’s Sofia von Ellrichshausen and Frank Barkow of the United States. The Golden Lion Award for Best National Participation went to Switzerland’s Svizzera 240: House Tour; Britain’s Island pavilion received a Special Mention. The Golden Lion for Participant went to Portugal’s Eduardo Souto de Moura for his Arsenale installation. The Silver Lion Award for a promising young participant went to Jan de Vylder, Inge Vinck and Jo Taillieu of Belgium. Andra Matin of Indonesia and Rahul Mehrotra of India also received Special Mentions.

The Campos Studio installation, Venice Biennale
The Campos Studio installation. Photo by Andrew Latreille.

Kenneth Frampton received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, awarded by the Biennale’s board of directors.
Other Canadians exhibiting in Venice include Vancouver-based Campos Studio. For Venice Design 2018, they have installed in the Palazzo Michiel a personal reflection of the studio’s work along the west coast of North America. Through a structure containing models of their work from different stages of development and an ambiguous collection of local chachkas, sand, wood, stones and found objects from various sites, they encourage the viewer to make connections between the work and their context, reflecting a slow process by which to experience architecture. This loose arrangement is contrasted with a table holding rows of small images of their work from social media and publications, to facilitate a fast and more superficial consumption of architecture.

Andrew Latreille photo exhibition. Photo by Andrew Latreille.
Andrew Latreille’s photo exhibition. Photo by Andrew Latreille.

Vancouver-based photographer Andrew Latreille’s collection of photographs, titled “Then and Now,” is featured in the exhibition Time Space Existence, organized by the GAA Foundation and hosted by the European Cultural Centre in the Palazzo Mora. The exhibition explores impermanence and memory during the making of architecture.

The 16th international Venice Biennale of Architecture continues until November 25, 2018.