by Neometro

Venice Biennale 2018: ‘Grasslands Repair’ at The Australian Pavilion

Architecture - by Open Journal
  • 'Repair' installation in The Australian Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale. Image: Rory Gardiner

The burden of responsibility to leave this world better than how we entered it is an all-encompassing concept. In the first world, frivolity is the biggest culprit of waste and the slow decay of the natural world. As large and daunting as these concepts can be, Australian architects Baracco and Wright, together with artist Linda Tegg, have employed the significant platform of La Biennale di Venezia to harness it in such a way as to cut through the white noise and articulate the essence of where we are at with our world, and what the next step is on the road to a sustainable future – repair. 

In August 2017, creative directors Mauro Baracco and Louise Wright traveled to Italy to quietly sow some seeds in the coastal town of San Remo. Those seeds, and their intended use once grown, were a fitting metaphor for the current state of the developed world. What it was, what it is, and the ultimate compromise between these points that it needs to reach. 

On 26th May 2018, the Australian Pavilion (designed by Denton Corker Marshall in 2015 as the first 21st-century pavilion in the Giardini della Biennale) unveiled their 2018 program for La Biennale di Venezia and inside was a grassland exhibition comprising 10,000 plants representing 65 endangered species from the Victorian Western Plains Grassland plant community. This was the result of that quiet planting which has grown to form one of three components of the Repair exhibition titled Grasslands.

‘Grasslands’ and ‘Skylight’ as part of the Repair exhibition.

The concept this exhibition explores hinges on the fact that architectural projects take up land and therefore have the ability to greatly affect the natural environment. The necessity for new infrastructure to support growing populations is indisputable, and so it falls into the hands of architects, developers and civic bodies to ensure that processes are put in place to secure a future that balances urban development with environmental responsibilities.

Presented by The Australian Institute of Architects, Repair makes a powerful sociological statement to a global audience. It is hoped that this concept will spark a far-reaching conversation about subsequent actions that will mend and improve societal, economic and cultural conditions. 

“This was deliberately not a short process; from the seeding of these plants eight months ago in Sanremo, nurturing them to life, and ultimately realising the installation in Venice, we wanted to demonstrate that by showcasing a deep sense of care in our process – and by being mindful of the land we occupy as architects – we could hopefully invite our profession (and the broader public) to think about the opportunity that lies in doing so also.” – Mauro Baracco

The exhibition encompasses a further two ambitious elements – Skylight and Ground – which combine to illustrate an experience for patrons that sparks questions and the beginning of an inquiry. 

Skylight becomes both relevant and necessary to the exhibition on a number of levels. The custom designed lighting installation simulates the sun’s 24-hour energy cycle, both mimicking the natural order of things whilst simultaneously keeping the plants below alive.

‘Skylight’ is a custom designed lighting installation that simulates the sun’s 24-hour energy cycle.

‘Ground’ cements the concepts and communicates their transience across different scopes and sectors of the built environment, through a video series projected on 5 x 8-metre screens inside the Pavilion. Showcasing 15 architectural projects that unpack diverse iterations of repair, these films represent a geographic, scale and project-type mix that illustrate different design processes and identify challenges.

“Some of the selections may seem modest, however, they all show a trajectory we are keen to provoke and strengthen, one that can be meaningful for the architecture profession, where the ‘thing’ to be repaired pushes back on how the architecture or built form and its relationship to context is conceived and made” – Mauro Baracco

‘Ground’ is a projected video series showcasing architectural projects that illustrate different design processes and identify challenges.

The presentation of a living indigenous grassland in the Australian Pavilion is a poignant tool that brings architecture into an active dialogue within it’s designed environment, cleverly mimicking an overarching global situation. Through Repair, Baracco and Wright and Tegg have gently harnessed an extremely relevant topic and, in collaboration with the Venice Architecture Biennale, have started a conversation in Italy that permeates globally.

The Venice Architecture Biennale runs from May 26 to November 25:

All Repair installation images by Rory Gardiner

Words by Tiffany Jade


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