If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you won’t be visiting Venice any time soon. But that’s fine, neither will I.
You might have heard that the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale, one year delayed, kicked off in late May to significantly smaller crowds—and presumably a significantly smaller Aperol bill—than usual. You might have also heard that curator Hashim Sarkis’s Biennale centers around a question: How will we live together? The experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the stoppages in cultural production it brought about, has surely colored the responses. Numerous exhibitors, including the national pavilions in the Giardini and standalone teams at the Arsenale, have produced ways for audiences to engage with their projects from afar, online or otherwise. In this way, Sarkis’s Biennale differs from its predecessors in its messaging, but also in its media.
Here, AN has singled out projects that can be enjoyed and experienced without any knowledge about what’s been built in Venice:
Some of the Biennale’s most successful virtual offerings are those that question the nature of exhibition-making, which continues to be centered around physical objects. At the top of the heap is the Polish pavilion’s Trouble in Paradise, which considers the design of the countryside in the central European state. The exhibition’s website is a delight and features an easily navigable panorama, in fact a collaged rurality peppered with annotations about artifacts (church steeples, barns, benches), points of communality (long-lasting social clubs), and sinister development practices (“fief urbanism”). Proposals from a few northern European design offices—selected by PROLOG, the Wrocław-based architecture office that curated the pavilion—proffer ironic visions of future village life. The text is a little scant at times, but the balance of interactivity and simplicity sets an example that others would do well to follow.