How Real is Real?

How Real is Real?

Japanese engineers Transsolar and Tetsu Kondo Architects collaborated on two metal ramps that disappear into the mist.
Marco Zanta

“People meet in architecture”—the theme of this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale—is perhaps a too-literal translation from Japanese into English. Put forward by exhibition director Kazuyo Sejima, the idea is to “provide a greater connection between the viewer and the exhibition itself.” The emphasis here is clearly on experience rather than exchange. “You can see nice photographs of models on the Internet,” Sejima said. “At the Biennale, you should be able to see the real thing.” Of course, the real thing is always a question in any exhibition on architecture, and Sejima seems to have strong ideas about that in guiding her choices for this year’s show.

For this Biennale, open through November 21, Sejima selected 47 practices (only two are American) and gave each its own space and the power, she said, to be “his or her own curator.” One feels Sejima’s knowing design hand in the selection process, which introduces several relatively new voices to this most important international stage. It is also clear from the clever curatorial ebb and flow of the various installation placements in the two main Biennale venues—the Arsenale and the Palazzo delle Esposizioni—that she carefully considered which architects would be placed next to each other. It was Sejima’s intention in the show, she said, that it be a “chance for less information and more feeling.”

The non-supporting giant I-beam made of wood and plaster by Spanish architects Anton Garcia-Abril and Ensamble Studio play counterpoint to the centuries-old brick columns that hold up the roof.

Roland Halbe

Mirko Zardini, director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, believes that Sejima’s Biennale introduces a new approach to architecture, one that focuses not on style but on “the atmosphere and the character of things,” and that it emphasizes ambience and space in a way that puts “experience at the front of design.”


Architect Junya Ishigami’s Architecture as Air: Study for Chateau La Coste, a 3-D sketch in thread, existed for barely a day before a cat destroyed it.

COURTESY featuring a selection of national pavilions from around the world.