Canada Builds/Rebuilds a Pavilion in Venice
Réjean Legault, with the support of Cammie McAtee
Canada Builds/Rebuilds a Pavilion in Venice
The Canadian participation to the 2018 Architecture Biennale consists of 2 parts, one in Giardini and one in Arsenale. The focus of this preview is on ‘Canada Builds/Rebuilds a Pavilion in Venice’, which takes place in their own pavilion in Giardini. In fact, the pavilion itself is the exhibition. After a thorough restoration, the renewed pavilion of Canada will be unveiled at the start of the Biennale in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of its inauguration.
Canada has been present at La Biennale di Venezia since 1952. The Canada Pavilion was originally built in 1957, under the supervision of the Gallery Director at the time, Alan Jarvis, and designed by the Italian architecture studio BBPR. The brick, glass, wood and steel design was considered an innovative and sensitive response to the surrounding historical gardens of the Giardini and fully integrates two large living trees within its form. It opened to the public in 1958 with an exhibition of the works of James Wilson Morrice, Jacques de Tonnancour, Anne Kahane, and Jack Nichols.
Over the past 60 years, the Canada Pavilion has been subject to deterioration, which has affected the building’s façade and structure. A restoration was necessary to secure the building and stop its deterioration, to update the electrical wiring system and to make facility improvements to better display contemporary art. The pavilion has now been restored to its original 1957 design, in partnership with Alberico Barbiano di Belgiojoso, heir to the BBPR studio. The restoration project also included the garden around the pavilion and a terrace with seating. This gives a beautiful view of the laguna and provides outdoor space to accommodate performance and artistic interventions.
The exhibition inside the pavilion will feature four thematic sections that highlight historical milestones and explore various aspects of the sixty-year life of the Canada pavilion. The first section considers the motivation behind its commission in 1955 by the National Gallery of Canada, and its inauguration at the XXIX Biennale. The second explores the design of the pavilion by Studio BBPR between 1956 and 1958, highlighting both the architectural and cultural context of its design. The third section illustrates the life of the pavilion, chronicling the exhibitions of art and architecture it has hosted over the years. The final section documents the vision and process behind the architectural restoration that led to the pavilion’s renewal.
Réjean Legault is an associate professor at the Ecole de design of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). Trained as an architect at the Université de Montréal, he holds a PhD in the History and Theory of Architecture from MIT and has published extensively on modern architecture in Canada, the United States and France. In 1996, he was appointed head of the CCA’s newly established Study Centre and since 2001, has taught in a graduate programme specializing in the study and preservation of modern architecture, the only such programme in Canada. His research, lectures and publications focus on the historiography of modern architecture, on postwar tectonics, and on the relationship between materials and architectural modernity.
“The Canada Pavilion in Venice is extraordinary. It is a beautiful structure, embodying the idea of Canada as a country in dialogue with nature. The RAIC applauds the sensitive preservation and modernization of the pavilion and the wonderful new landscape design.”
Michael Cox, President, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada
UNCEDED: Voices of the Land
The second participation, and the official contribution, of Canada to the Biennale will be presented in the Arsenale by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal, with co-curators Gerald McMaster and David Fortin. This exhibition will show the innovative design talent of 18 Indigenous architects from Turtle Island (Canada and the USA) through an immersive and breath-taking installation. UNCEDED will be an experience bringing together the past, present and future of Indigenous experience. The Turtle Island pavilion will be used as surfaces for telling the story through four thematic metaphors – indigeneity, resilience, sovereignty, and colonization.
If you want to know more about the Architecture Biennale 2018 and the other national participations, you can read my post ‘What to expect from the Architecture Biennale 2018′ or have a look at this overview page which links to all the articles related to the Biennale. If you want to be informed about new previews of national pavilions being added to the site, you can subscribe to The Venice Insider biweekly newsletter.
(Picture in banner: Canada Pavilion 1957 or 1958. Photo: NGC)
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