The theme for this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale is ‘Freespace’, a neologism that was read in vastly different ways by the curators of national pavilions.
For Germany, it was an opportunity for reflection on the wall which once divided the nation. In ‘Unbuilding Walls’ they looked at not only the inner German wall but also places of similar tension around the world, prompting conversation on the dangers of division and populism. The Australian Pavilion features wild grass instead of a man-made structure. In ‘Repair’ thousands of temperate grassland species from Australia cover the floor space, to “remind us of what is at stake when we occupy land.” The concept of “freespace” was challenged in the churches and chapels of the Vatican City’s first ever show at the Architecture Biennale — can a denominational space ever be a “freespace”? The Nordic Pavilion explored the relationship between nature and the built environment through a spatial installation that looked straight out of a sci-fi film. As always, it seems that the work curated within the pavilions and individual exhibitions were speaking about issues beyond architecture: divisions of place and people, global warming and natural order, and the dangers we face when we ignore these conversations.
All images © Alexandra Polyakova