Hit Home with the Biennale

By Francisco G. Zambrano
"Architecture is not only what it looks like, 
but also what it does." 
-Venice Biannale Poster

Fig.1: The entrance to the Architecture Biennale.
            Well where to even begin? For those of you who have not read the other blog posts, the Venice Biennale is an exposition that occurs ever two years with events that show case contemporary art exhibitions ranging from film, dance, art and architecture. The two most popular events are the film and architecture exhibitions. The theme for this years architecture exhibit was “common ground” and was lead by David Chipperfield. The reason for the theme was that David wanted to show how even though architects vary in origin, beliefs, styles and ideology, we, even students, share a common ground. This “common ground” means many things such as the earth, the common goal of an architect, methods of approach, design ideas etc.. Many of the exhibits managed to capture your attention and embrace you in their ideas and designs. Obviously some more than others, yet this is what they all tried to accomplish. Their “common ground” was to cause an effect to their surroundings and visitors.

Fig.2: Norman Foster exhibit at the Biennale.
            The first project to really absorb me and make an impact was the Norman Foster project. After walking through a narrow dark corridor, you turn into a dark room with sound of construction, destruction, accidents, people yelling, protests, all accompanied by large images projected onto the walls that would change at random time intervals. Apart from all of this, there were also moving words projected onto the floor. While being in this room, you are simply overwhelmed with all of imagery and noise that is going on around you. Then, after being in the space for a while and taking it all in, you start making sense of all of the chaos. The photographs, which were all taken by architects, photographers, writers and journalists from around the world, are of historic public spaces from the western world and major growing places in Asia and South America. With all of the chaos going on in the images, you get the idea that we, as well as the names of architects, designers, landscape architects, etc. that are being projected on the floor and yourself, are all responsible for what is going on. Likewise, this is our common ground, and we must all figure out a way to resolve this. I found this exhibit very fitting for the entrance to the exhibition, or as Norman Foster called it, a gateway.   

Fig.4: Objects from the pilgrimage..

Fig.3: Footage from the film
about the pilgrimage.
          One exhibit though that was not as immersive as others but that really hit the whole common ground message to me was that of the Pilgrim’s Route that is based in the mountain range in Jalisco, Mexico where I am from. My mothers’ family has attended this pilgrimage since my mother was four. She would tell me stories of how they would camp out under some tree, and if they were lucky enough, they would stay at a relative’s home and sleep on the floor. She told me about how they would walk through the rough mountain range for a whole week and when they reached the church, their feet would be so sore from so many blisters that they could not go up the stairs to the church entrance. She explained how they would cookout under trees and use the restroom out in the bushes. She would tell stories of some of the people whom they would meet on the way and their stories. These were stories that I could only perceive through my mother since I have never been. Yet now, I was seeing what they experienced on a projection a thousand miles away from where it happened. It blew my mind that I was in Venice, across the Atlantic Ocean, and here was a piece of home. Home being a place in the middle of no-where which no one had ever heard of, yet here in Venice, it was being displayed amongst projects from places of much higher recognition. It made me aware that it does not matter where you are or where you come from, some how we are all connected. Everyone’s problem is some how your problem, and believe it or not you can make a difference.
            The Biennale was a wonderful experience, one that I am grateful to have lived. Not only because of the really cool exhibitions, but because it really got through to me how we all have the responsibility of what happens to others on this world. We must think more of how our projects will not only affect the local area, but also how it will affect those who are not. We must go truly move from a local mentality to a world mentality, because we are now in the twenty-first century.
Fig.5: Clip from the pilgrimage video.
"Why are you here for Chuy?" 
-Pilgrimage Video


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