Adam Caruso, Peter St John (Caruso St John Architects) and Marcus Taylor
The British pavilion has a good chance to become the most popular public space of this year’s Architecture Biennale. The curatorial team decided to construct a meeting point on the roof of the pavilion, perfectly in line with the overall #Freespace theme. The elevated platform will offer the visitors a place to meet and a unique view from Giardini across the lagoon.
The pavilion itself will be open to the public but empty, with just the peak of its tiled roof visible in the centre of the public space above, suggesting a sunken world beneath. The building will be completely covered with scaffolding to support the new platform. The empty pavilion is not intended to represent anything in particular, but it holds memories of things that happened there at previous Biennales.
Throughout the Biennale, the British pavilion will program a series of events including poetry, performance, film and architectural talks and debates in response to Freespace and ideas raised by Island. Neighbouring national pavilions are also invited to hold their own events at the British pavilion.
The title ‘Island’ refers to many things, but firstly to Shakespeare’s Tempest, where the protagonists are shipwrecked in a storm, and saved from drowning by being washed up on the beach of an unknown island, which turns out to be a paradise of sorts. So it is about being saved and lost at the same time. The title also makes you think of Venice, with its precarious relationship to the sea. And then of course, being the British pavilion, it makes you think of Brexit and the current renegotiation, with all its questions and uncertainties. Finally, it refers to the constructed space on the roof of the pavilion, a kind of raft which will have its own independence and serenity, lifted above the Giardini, with a beautiful view over the lagoon.
Caruso St John Architects was founded in 1990 by Adam Caruso and Peter St John. The practice has completed major projects throughout Europe and was awarded the 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize for the Newport Street Gallery, built for Damien Hirst to show-case his collection of contemporary art. Caruso St John Architects already participated in the Architecture Biennale in Venice in 2010, with their ‘Nagelhaus’ project for the City of Zurich, and in 2012, with the ‘Pasticcio’ exhibition.
Marcus Taylor has exhibited widely in the UK and overseas. His work has been collected by several major institutions including the Tate and Foundation Cartier. He has collaborated on several architectural projects as part of his artistic practice, most recently with Caruso St John Architects on the competition for the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial next to the Houses of Parliament.
“There will be many ways to interpret the experience of visiting the 2018 British Pavilion. An island can be a place of both refuge and exile. The state of the building, which will be completely covered with scaffolding to support the new platform above, suggests many themes; including abandonment, reconstruction, sanctuary, Brexit, isolation, colonialism and climate change.”
Adam Caruso, Peter St John and Marcus Taylor, curators
The British pavilion in Giardini was opened at the 8th Art Biennale in 1909. The building originally housed the café and restaurant of La Biennale. It was redesigned by Edwin Alfred Rickards, a representative of British Edwardian classicism, with the support of William Frank Brangwyn for the interior.
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: Holy Rosary Church at Shettihalli © Bhaskar Dutta)
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