Guardian Review by Jonathan Glancey

Guardian Review by Jonathan Glancey


Greg Lynn

Nude hippies, big blobs, stunning dog pounds – is the 2008 architecture biennale too wacky for its own good?  

…The second part of the biennale, held in the national pavilions dotted through the city’s giardini a few minutes’ walk from the Arsenale, begins to offer some real, adult answers to the question of how we can make warm and lovable buildings for people of all classes, creeds and incomes. The US pavilion takes the theme the most seriously, with displays of radical designs for $20,000 homes executed in some of America’s poorest states by such commendable US practices as the Rural Studio. These designs come as a welcome reality check.

Curiously, one photograph of a real and powerful building by the Rural Studio proves to be unintentionally surreal. This beautiful, shelter-like construction is a dog pound built in one of the poorest areas of Alabama, one of the poorest states in the union. It stands opposite a grim state penitentiary. But while the jail is crammed, the pound is empty. The story is that there are many packs of feral, formerly domesticated dogs in rural Alabama, abandoned by poor and itinerant people. So there was a need for a dog pound. But it is empty because a local judge wants dogs held there to be shot after a short spell in their handsome cages, while US animal rescue groups oppose such trigger-happy ways. So the pound stays empty while the feral packs keep on roaming.

This is a story worth dwelling on. It shows how, with the best will in the world, it is often very hard for architects to design and nurture truly publicly spirited projects. For all the help they get from officialdom, they might as well just dream and play.

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