The 15th Venice Architecture Biennale explores the future of domestic environments and the politics of architecture.
This year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, open through November 2016, tackles the theme “reporting from the front”—calling on 88 international participants to interpret frontline architectural battles around the world. While some entrants responded with architecture as political commentary, others reflected on changes to everyday domestic space.
The British Pavilion challenges traditional housing typologies, suggesting that a new approach is needed for modern lifestyles in Britain. Titled “Home Economics,” the pavilion is divided into five sections, each representing an amount of time we would spend in a space: hours, days, months, years, and decades.
Each area examines how a space can be maximized. “Days” consists of modular daybeds where the layout can be changed on a daily basis. Created by the art collective åyr, “days” reflects on the short-term encounters with domestic space enabled by Airbnb and similar platforms. Traditional labels for rooms, such as “kitchen” and “bedroom,” may no longer be relevant for how people use space today, the pavilion suggests. “We believe that British architecture is not responding to the challenges of modern living—life is changing; we must design for it,” the curators said.
Dutch architecture firm MVRDV also explored the future of domestic environments with the Infinity Kitchen, a see-through glass kitchen which aims to literally showcase transparency in food, from the ingredients to preparation.
Other entries tackled work and politics. The Polish Pavilion documented the dangerous working conditions on building sites in Poland, using the Biennale as a platform to campaign for “fair building” conditions. The Spanish Pavilion, also a winner of the Golden Lion award, showcased incomplete buildings that were abandoned because of the 2008 financial crash, but later resulted in a new wave of innovative architectural solutions for existing buildings working within financial constraints.
Foster + Partners presented a social-good initiative with the Droneport project, using drones as a delivery service for medical supplies in Africa. While most projects at the Biennale showcase ideas rather than practical innovations, Droneport is expected to become operational by 2020.
From rethinking construction laws in Poland to solving medical transportation in Africa, this year’s Biennale arms architects with the tools to take on controversial topics, reminding us of the importance of architecture in everyday life. How do you solve a problem? Let’s think about asking the architect.