Biennale Architectura 2012: Common Ground

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2012 Venice Biennale: hands have no tears to flow / Austrian Pavilion © photo Günter Wett
Biennale Architectura 2012: Common Ground
Curated by: David Chipperfield

Giardini della Biennale
Viale dei Giardini Pubblici
30122 Venice
August 29th, 2012 - November 25th, 2012

Varies with events

The 13th International Architecture Exhibition titled Common Ground, directed by David Chipperfield and organized by la Biennale di Venezia chaired by Paolo Baratta, is open to the public from Wednesday August 29th until Sunday November 25th  2012, at the Giardini della Biennale and at the Arsenale. The Preview took place on August 27th and 28th, the awards and inauguration ceremony was held on Wednesday August 29th, 2012 at Giardini.
The 13th Exhibition has arisen and developed from the path of research that la Biennale di Venezia carries out in the field of architecture, which in turn has made la Biennale a major event over the years. After a series of editions put in the hands of critics and historians and after the last edition directed by Kazuyo Sejima, the first woman to direct the Architecture Biennale, this year it has been given to the hands of an architect, the English David Chipperfield, “a person - said President Paolo Baratta - who entertains a very intense vision of architecture as practice”.
The Exhibition designed by Chipperfield is spread over 10.000 square meters in a path from the Central Pavilion at the Giardini to the Arsenale. It comprises 69 projects madeby architects, photographers, artists, critics and scholars. Many have responded to the invitation of the Director with original proposals and installations expressly created for this Biennale, involving other colleagues with whom they share a Common Ground in their projects. There are a total of 119 participants.
“With this year’s theme, Common Ground, we go back to talking about architecture– explains Paolo Baratta -to help architects emerge from the crisis of identity they are going through, and at the same time offering the public a chance to look inside architecture, make it familiar and discover that something can be asked of it, that something different is possible, that we are not condemned to passive acceptance.” Civil society is made up of individuals and institutions. These do not always seem capable of identifying the requirements for organizing the space we live in. In order to mend this fracture, la Biennale can make its contribution primarily by posing these as its themes. While not denying that there is a problem in the relationship between architecture and ecology, architecture and technology, and architecture and town planning, the crux is to mend the fracture between architecture and civil society.”
David Chipperfield clarifies that he chose this theme “to encourage my colleagues to react against the prevalent professional and cultural tendencies of our time that place such emphasis on individual and isolated actions. I encouraged them instead to demonstrate the importance of influence and of the continuity of cultural endeavour, to illustrate common and shared ideas that form the basis of an architectural culture“.
“Italy remains the spiritual home of architecture – adds Chipperfield. Here we can fully understand the importance of buildings not as individual spectacles but as the manifestations of collective values and as the settings for daily life. This tangible sense of context and history remind us that our built world is a testament to the continuous evolution of architectural language and critical to our understanding of the world around us. With this in mind, I was inspired to direct this Biennale towards concerns of continuity, context and memory, towards shared influences and expectations, and to address the apparent lack of understanding that exists between the profession and society.”
For President Baratta “Chipperfield’s exhibition is made up of resonances, where the irrevocable relationship between architecture, space, and town planning will re-emerge from the notes of the resonance”. The President invites one to look at “the interest of the architects taking part in the city, with particular attention paid to the recovery of existing buildings and the upgrading of urban spaces; or one looks to those participants who have drawn inspiration from the close link with past masters, remote or recent, or instigated associations with other grand contemporary colleagues.” Baratta suggests to try the “built architecture, from full scale reconstructions of existing buildings to the emerge from intricate balances of structural forces; from the materialization of the concept of architectural and cultural heritage as a basis « for the search for and construction of new realities», through to the structures arising out of the association of Álvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de Moura.”
“This conception of the exhibition is an important innovation in the history of architecture exhibitions – concludes Baratta – because inevitably provokes a modification not only in the relationship between architect and curator, but also a change in the approach of the architects called upon to work out their participation. The exhibition thus becomes a space in which they realize an idea and a system of relations between architecture of both past and present, whereby that which is exhibited is reciprocally valued.”
The 13th Exhibition is complemented by 55 National Participations organized, as usual, in the Pavilions at the Giardini, at the Arsenale and in the city of Venice. Four nations are participating for the first time: Angola, the Republic of Kosovo, Kuwait and Peru. Argentina exhibits for the first time in its own pavilion in the space newly renovated of the Sale d’Armi at the Arsenale.
The Italian Pavilion at the Arsenale is organized by the Ministry for the Cultural Heritage and Activities together with PaBAAC – the General Direction for the Landscape, Fine Arts, Architecture and Contemporary Art, is curated by Luca Zevi. The 13th International Architecture Exhibition also includes 18 Collateral Events presented by national and international subjects and institutions that hold their exhibitions and initiatives in various locations around the city.
For the third consecutive year the two peak appointments organized by la Biennale di Venezia, Biennale Sessions and Meetinngs on Architecture, reinforces the character of la Biennale as a place of research.
- Biennale Sessions is a program for Universities and following the success of the earlier editions, the Biennale presents once again the program, known as the Biennale Sessions, dedicated to Universities. Addressed to Universities, Fine Arts Academies, research and educational institutions in the field of architecture, visual arts and kindred areas. The goal of this initiative is to encourage visits to the exhibition by groups of at least 50 students and teachers who will be assisted in the organization of their journey and stay. They will be able to organize seminars in a space made available to them free of charge by la Biennale. Nowadays, 61international institutions (23 Italian and 38 foreign) have already signed up for Biennale Sessions.
- Meetings on Architecture is a program of performance, conversations and talks dedicated to architecture which will see confront architects, sociologists, curators, artists and philosophers during October and November.
“The evolution of the exhibition is in step with that of the public - underlines Baratta - which not only increases numerically but seems more and more qualitatively demanding. This is also thanks to two initiatives of la Biennale, devised to make the 13th International Architecture Exhibition a reference point for new generations, who must be given room for verification and comparison that is not only habitual communication but a place enriched with new stimuli”.
Also scheduled for the year 2012 is a program of Educational activities addressed to individuals and groups of students from schools of every grade and level, of universities and architecture schools, professionals, companies, experts, amateurs and families. The activities, led by staff members selected and trained by la Biennale di Venezia, encourage the active involvement of participants, and are divided into Guided Tours and Workshops.
The awards and inauguration ceremony of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition was held on Wednesday August 29th at the Giardini, with the conferral of the official awards assigned by the international Jury composed by Wiel Arets (Netherlands), Kristin Feireiss (Germany), Robert A.M. Stern (USA), Benedetta Tagliabue (Italy), and Alan Yentob (Great Britain).
Two online competitions are launched on the social website
Common Ground/ Photography: for the best photo of the Exhibition (this competition is open exclusively to accredited photographers); Common Ground/ Essay: for the best critical essay on the Exhibition.
The official catalogue –published by Marsilio Editori – consists of a single volume of 348 pages devoted to the International Exhibition, National Participations and Collateral Events. The volume is available for the first time also in the e-book version for an interactive and ipertextual reading of the catalogue, with inedited images. There is also a short guide, a useful tool for the Exhibition tour featuring maps and practical information, and Common Ground In Photographs featuring photos taken during the Exhibition by the photographer Juergen Teller, commissioned byDavid Chipperfield (available from the second weekend of September).
TheCommon Ground Critical reader is a hardbound book which contains 31 critical illustrated essays commissioned byDavid Chipperfield from authors who reflect on the theme Common Ground. The entire editorial production uses the graphic project design by John Morgan Studio (English language only).
iBiennale is the official application of la Biennale di Venezia available for iPad and iPhone. It is produced in partnership with LOG607 and Marsilio Editori, and features a new design becaming a useful tool to explore and get the best of the Exhibition.
Ultrafragola Channels chronicles the preview days and the major events during the 13th Exhibition through several programmes, devoted to the Exhibition and comprising reports and video-interviews that can be watched online at
The 13th International Architecture Exhibition is made possible by the support of Foscarini, Telecom Italia, Golden Goose Deluxe Brand, Japan Tobacco International, Happy Business to You, EGI-Gruppo Poste Italiane, Vela-Hello Venezia, Rolex, Moroso, Volume, Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, Charta and Best Union Company and Gi Group.
We would also like to thank Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.
La Biennale thanks the Ministry of Culture, which at a difficult time for public finances is maintaining its decisive support, the local institutions for their support in various ways, the City of Venice and the Regione del Veneto. Thanks also to the authorities that are in various ways involved and concerned with the buildings in which we hold the Exhibition, from the Ministry of Defence to the Venice Superintendence. Thanks to the Sponsors that gave their crucial contribution, and to those who have contributed in so many ways.