The 15th International Architecture Exhibition, curated by Alejandro Aravena and organised by La Biennale di Venezia, has opened. As anticipated, it is an edition that focuses more on the demand and process of architecture, rather than the aesthetics of its results, aiming to thematise – and eventually also shorten – the gap between architecture and the civil society.
Several notable Japanese architects are featured within the main “Reporting from the Front” exhibition, whilst the Japan Pavilion decided to highlight the works of internationally less-known offices. 
MIRU was in Venice for the two preview days, and here is a summary of what we saw:

 

Reporting from the Front

The curatorial Leitfaden of the current Biennale is definitely narrowing down its contributions to those projects that are able to improve, in one way or the other, the quality of people’s life. Achieving the latter presupposes the readiness of an architect to leave his comfort zone, assuming the position of a negotiator, a researcher, an anthropologist, a utopist, an activist, and so one. An ability to adapt, which also the Japanese architects proofed to be able to cope with and whose work we consequently find between the 88 participants of the Biennale’s international exhibition.

Tadao Ando’s project for Punta della Dogana in Venice is presented as negotiation between heritage, art and mass tourism. The work of Kengo Kuma is presented as “fighting the hegemony of the twentieth-century industrial material” and focuses on four of such researches. The approach of Atelier Bow-Wow is highlighted as trying to capture new living behaviours and phenomena in the built environment by exemplifying their project in the woodlands in the outskirts of Tokyo in collaboration with a local NGO. Shigeru Ban collaborated with installation artist Jae-Eun Choi on a suspended park to overpass the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.

While the above mentioned architects are exposed at the Arsenale, SANAA is featured in the mezzanine of the Central Pavilion (the historical Padiglione Italia) within the Giardini. The series of small pavilions of Kazuyo Sejima on Inujima are presented as a rescue from abandonment of the island, emphasising their “power of delicacy and the confidence in modesty”.

2016 Biennale SANAA
SANAA in Inujima Island, Japan / Photo: MIRU

 

en : art of nexus

The Japan Pavilion decided to focus on projects that have the ability of creating and changing the en. A term translatable in nexus and that Yoshiyuki Yamana, the pavilion’s curator, explains as connections, relation, ties, chance, edge, fringe or rim. Believing that the en has the latent potential to serve as basis for social change, this primary theme of the exhibition is explored through its own varieties: the nexus of people, of things and of locality. The 12 projects that have been chosen to illustrate this concept are the work of a younger generation of architects and where displayed through a variety of formats and scales, including several models and 1:1 mockups.

The Japan Pavilion. Photo by Francesco Galli. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

Amongst this selection, also five projects in Tokyo: House for Seven People by mnm  (2013), Apartments with a Small Restaurant by Naka Architects’ Studio (2014), House at Komazawa Park by miCo (2011), 15A House by Levi Architecture (2016) and House in Chofu by Koji Aoki Architects (2014).

The international Jury of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition has decided to confer a special mention as National Participation to Japan for “bringing the poetry of compactness to alternative forms of collective living in a dense urban setting.”

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