By: Denver Sells
The Venice Biennale is one of those once in a lifetime experiences that for the privileged, can actually happen multiple times in a lifetime. It is a must for any architecture student or professional if for nothing else other than the sheer degree of effort into the architectural exhibits, especially in the main exhibit space. This year the one exhibit in the main space that really struck me was the Gort Scott, Robert McKillop and Renzo Piano Building Workshop exhibit titled “London Streets and Skies.”
In this exhibit, Gort Scott and Robert McKillop critiqued Renzo Piano’s Shard building in London. Gort and Scott focused on its relationship to the urban setting via drawings of London along a path with the Shard being experienced within that, vs Robert and McKillop created a video that showed the Shard from several different locations and perspectives around the city. On the surface, this seems like a very simple project that just analyzes the relationship visually of Piano’s building to London, but as you spend more time there, really diving into what is being said and talked about in the exhibit, you realize that is almost a mockery of the building, at least that is how it seemed to me. To me, both firms saw the Shard as almost this sore on the face of London, instead of something beautiful that is supposed to be there or fits in. For instance, Gort and Scott’s drawings are focusing so much on the small little town blocks, that when you see the Shard, it seems out of place. It is much the same story with Robert and McKillop, where their perspectival photos are beautiful, until you notice the big Piano project ruining the almost “perfect” ambiance and atmosphere that is created in the foreground of the photos.
This just really interested me and I feel it applicable to my future architectural projects because its not just the immediate area that is effected by our buildings, it the surrounding areas, especially if it is a skyscraper. I’m not saying that Renzo Piano’s Shard is ugly, but I feel after this exhibit I have a much different opinion about it and skyscrapers in any setting. I think too often we get caught up just trying to maximize the space in our site, and forget the greater cultural and physical impact of our building. This is something that I want to try to keep in mind as much as possible as I go through school and my career, because I think considering that sort of thing is what separates a good architect from a great one, because you have to be conscious of so many other things about your building, other than just if it looks cool or is environmentally friendly. Maybe Frank Lloyd Wright did have something with his prairie style – low impact on the environment physically and visually. I think this is admirable, and I also think putting that thought should almost be obligatory, not something that is accidentally noticed.