July 15 2014

The Unbearable Lightness of Argentine Architecture: The Venice Biennale

In line with the proposal by Rem Koolhaas, chief curator of this year’s Venice Biennale of Architecture, the Argentine exhibition aims to reflect on how society incorporated modern ideas from the 20th century, to present, into its built environment.

The Argentine presentation for the biennale, under the direction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ culture department, was curated by Emilio Rivoira and John Fontana, and it answers Koolhaas’ proposal with images and multimedia projections.

Argentine Pavillion before opening, The Venice Biennale

Entitled Ideal / Real –words written the same way in Spanish and English- the projections aim to show how the architecture and urban design of Argentina absorbed modern ideas and how the architects used these ideas to construct Argentine cities.

Rivoira  defined these projections as presentations of “The transposition of ideas into reality,” also claiming that the exposition will be a good example of “architecture without authors;” that is, of existing urban landscapes and not necessarily works of excellence made by famous architects.

Argentine Pavillion from the inside, The Venice Biennale

The Biennial is currently being held and it will close its doors on November 23rd. In terms of content, the sample was structured into eight periods spanning one hundred years in architectural themes and criticism:

  •         Eurocentrism and cities;
  •         Emergence of the Modern Movement;
  •         Growth and social responsibility;
  •         Cultural Boom of the 60’s;
  •         Optimism;
  •         Authoritarian state power and infrastructure;
  •         Postmodern Confusion;
  •         Global City and Real City;
  •         Environmental Discourse;
  •         Inclusive State.

To capture this in pictures, the Argentine curators designed eight convertible device screens, fixed in laminated wood with a metal frame, which are displayed among the eight existing concrete columns in the space, housed in a XVI century brick warehouse.

These screens allude, as Fontana explains, to the work of Bonet, Kurchan and Ferrari Hardoy (with several Butterfly chairs to sit in), and will be the foundation on which images are displayed and projected.

Argentine pavillion on the inside, The Venice Biennale

The Argentine pavilion appears then as an interesting proposal towards understanding the evolution of architecture over the past century and how the developing world copes with the modern movement.

However, it lacks real embracement of locality and architectural traditions that survived the dogmatism of the modern movement, thus not proposing a truly local perspective.

Sadly, Argentinean architecture enters in the cliché of considering anything outside those dogmas as not worth showing, or even shameful, leaving tradition and true attachment to the cultural roots of Argentina out of the debate.

Have you visited the Venice Biennale? Do you think any country is accurately proposing the local architectural themes in its exhibition?

Credits: Images by Nico Saieh ©, published by Clarín Arquitectura. Data linked to sources.

Luis Lozano-Paredes

Luis Lozano-Paredes is currently a student seeking a Diploma of Architecture and Urban Planning at Belgrano University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born in Colombia in 1987, he grew between the cities of Bogotá and Santiago de Cali, and then moved to Argentina in 2006. There, he finished the Common Basic Cycle of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires before pursuing studies in Landscape Design at the same Institution. Inspired by the Urban Transformation of Bogotá in the past decades, his interests evolved from Landscape Architecture to his current passion; Urban Planning, Policy Making, and Sustainable Development. He plans to continue his studies in Urban Planning and Sustainability in Canada, Chile, or the U.S.; but for the moment he currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center of Metropolitan Transport Studies of the University of Buenos Aires and is a Member of the Observatory of Urban Sustainability at Belgrano University. Luis’ main interests lay within the study of Smart Cities, Urban Sustainable Development, and Social Architecture in Latin America.

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