Venice Biennale | Grand Tour in Rain Boots

Thursday the 22nd of November, 25 students left on a long awaited “grand tour” to the beautiful city of water: Venice, Italy. The main purpose of the tour was to visit the closing ceremony of the 2018 Venice Biennale of Architecture on November the 25th. However, for most, just venturing amidst the magical vias of Venice was a reason enough to join this trip.

For future architects like us, just arriving in the city felt like visiting a museum. Spending our night across of the main island, on the waterside of Giudecca, we had the pleasure of waking up to the sight of the beautiful Santa Maria della Salute basilica in the morning. As the most of the highlights we were planning to see were on the main island, taking the vaporetto in the morning was part of the daily routine. Of course not before ingesting our mornings worth of caffeine and putting on our rain boots, which were quite necessary due to the yearly “acqua alta”.

We had just three days to take in the big show which the world of architecture has prepared for two years. You’d think that would be enough time to explore the creations of some of the biggest names, taking on today’s most pressing issues. We tried our best.  

I found the Giardini to really be the heart and soul of the Biennale. To us it felt just like a playground for grownups. Each National pavilion being a one-of-a-kind experience. What I found to be a real surprise was the Swiss pavilion. Its interiors had been transformed into a series of oddly scaled domestic spaces. The catalogue describes a critical position concerning unfurnished domestic architecture as it is portrayed by photography. However, the reality was a delightful series of events that led people to pose in front of an oversize door hanging from a 6-foot-high door handle, and squeeze through small doorways. One of the last pavilions I visited was the Australian one. Once you’ve read the introduction text at the entrance, the pavilion is relatively easy to visit as there are no signs to read or models to look at. There are only grasses and, from time to time, a video. The pavilion is an oasis of peace and quiet, so it was perfect to escape the crowds of the Biennale. Sitting amidst the grasses was the perfect way to clear your mind from all the impressions that day. It is designed to disrupt the viewing conditions through which architecture is usually understood and serves as a reminder of what is at stake when we occupy land. This pavilion reminded me a little bit of the Argentinian pavilion, called: “Horizontal Vertigo”. However where in the Argentinian pavilion, the immensity of the landscape is being confined to a glass box, in the Australian, nature seemed to set its own boundaries, forcing humankind to adjust its ways to it.

There were so many more pavilions that I really enjoyed, Spain, Latvia, France, but what made the whole Biennale experience even more exciting was the atmosphere at the pavilions. The proximity of so many of my peers in one place, many of whom are showing work, is something very unique. Just opening your eyes in a pavilion can spark any conversation about life, art, design, society, politics, gender and architecture.

After three whole busy days at the biennale, I came to a simple conclusion, La Biennale di Venezia makes sense here. If you did this in any other city it would be great, but it couldn’t be this. I will be back in 2020 for sure.