For the occasion of the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale, The Architect’s Newspaper organized an event at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, a 16th century residence restored in the late 1950s by Carlo Scarpa and currently home to a Venetian historical society and cultural center. The events were a collaboration with Stratosferica, an Italian nonprofit that promotes radical thinking about cities.
The event, titled Critically Yours, was at once a 20 year anniversary party for The Architect’s Newspaper, a symposium on the role of criticism in architecture today, and a celebration of the life of founding editor-in-chief William “Bill” Menking.
The event began with Critically Yours, a debate on the art of architectural criticism. Moderated by AN executive editor Jack Murphy, the panel featured some of the most prestigious voices in the contemporary scene: Oliver Wainwright of The Guardian; Inga Saffron of the Philadelphia Inquirer; Davide Tommaso Ferrando of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano; Mohamed Elshahed of Cairobserver; and Erandi de Silva of Loké Journal. The panel was then followed by a cocktail reception in the garden, with a special presentation of some of Menking’s extensive personal art and ephemera collection, which contains pieces by artists such as Dan Graham and Dara Birnbaum, as well as architects including Lebbeus Woods, Archigram, and Superstudio.
The event was a memorial for Menking, who had influenced so many in the crowd, including some of the panelists. Elshahed recalled the support he had gotten from Menking early in his career. Venice was one of Menking’s favorite places, and he had been to every Biennale (as legend goes). Much of his most important work was done at the Biennale, as he could often be found posted up outside Paradiso café, holding court and talking with many of the most important figures in the architecture and urban planning world. Menking curated the 2008 American Pavilion, and hosted annual parties in his Venetian apartment the week of the opening.
“Thank you, Bill for bringing us all together, because many of you in this room know each other because Bill made that possible,” AN cofounder and CEO Diana Darling said in a moving speech. “And thank you Bill for introducing all of us to your vision and love of architecture, cities, and design. I think it is fair to say that we are all far better having known you.”