Biennale: Exploring the Pavilions

by Nick Tafel

Going to the Biennale during our stay in Venice was a very interesting and exciting experience for me as a young student of architecture.  I walked through the doors with no idea as to what was going to be there.  The exhibits for contained as part of the Biennale were fantastic but more so than the exhibits, I enjoyed the pavilions as their own pieces of architecture completely independent of what was inside them.  It was immensely interesting to walk through this small town of architecturally diverse buildings that each had their own charm about them.  I would like to examine a few of these Pavilions and their own architectural charm.  I enjpy that the creators of the Biennale were this sensitive to the work that was being put on display.  This allows the viewer to not only enjoy the work that is on display but also enjoy the space that they are exploring.
The first Pavilion that I noticed to be architecturally appealing to myself was the pavilion that represented the Nordic Areas of Europe.  It consisted of one simple large space for the exhibition and large sliding glass doors for the public to enter through.  The genius in this building came through in the treatment of the light and also the pavilion’s obvious connection to nature.  Immediately upon walking into this pavilion, I was impressed with the space as a space that was conducive to displaying work well.  In my sketch you can the Brie-solel on the top of the building that interact with the normal day lighting of the space and allow for a very soft, easy light to gently cast onto the works that are being displayed.  The connection to nature is very evident as a tree grows directly through the building in the front.  Also, the large sliding glass doors on the sides allow for the exhibition space to feel like it is an indoor/outdoor space.  While it feels similar to an outdoor space, the building still offers the protection of harmful sunlight and the elements. 
Another Pavilion that I was impressed with was the Brazilian pavilion.  The exterior materiality was refreshingly simple and refine and the use of the cantilever over the doorway provided for a nice entry condition.  The exterior consisted of dark wooden panels arranged vertically.  The concrete mass that is cantilevered out over the doorway in the middle allows for the rhythm of the wooden panels to be broken up.  The hollow concrete mass that hovers above the door is quite impressive for the shear fact that it is reinforced concrete rather than steel or something more conventional.  It gives you the feeling that, at any point, the whole building could topple onto its side.
For me, the Biennale was the most interesting when I had the chance to explore the pavilions from different countries.  They were small, architecturally interesting buildings on their own.  In my opinion, many of these little buildings could stand alone with no exhibit and still be interesting enough to stand on their own as an exhibit.  

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