Alessandro Bosshard, Li Tavor, Matthew van der Ploeg and Ani Vihervaara
Svizzera 240: House Tour
The exhibition in the Swiss pavilion wants to draw attention to an architecture that is hidden in plain sight. Hence, it focuses on the unfurnished interior of contemporary housing. When you think about it, every empty apartment looks more or less the same: a ±240 centimetre high volume dressed with white walls, skirting board, wood or tile flooring and off-the-shelf components and fittings. There are only slight variations due to culture or climate. Like all great architectures, this appearance does not seem to change much over time.
You will however not see a house within the pavilion, but a series of completely white interior scenes, including doors, door handles, skirting boards, window frames, power outlets, light switches, countertops and cupboard doors. These are constructed at different scales between 1:5, 1:2, 1:1.6, 1:1.3, 1:1.2, 1:1, 1.1:1, 1.3:1, 1.5:1 and 2:1. The labyrinth of interior perspectives represents the concept of a ‘house tour’.
A house tour can be experienced in person or simulated through film or virtual reality, but the format gaining the most traction in Swiss architectural discourse is the photography of unfurnished apartments. These images of empty apartments not only feature on the websites of architectural offices, but they have also recently begun to appear in publications on housing architecture. As pictures cannot convey scale, dimension, depth or spatial adjacency, the curatorial team chose to present a tour in built form, creating a labyrinth of interior perspectives.
On this tour, you are no longer an apartment dweller, builder or buyer – nor are you an academic or even an architect – but you become an entirely new architectural subject, a house tourist.
The architects Alessandro Bosshard (MSc ETH Arch.), Li Tavor (MSc ETH Arch.), Matthew van der Ploeg (M.Arch, UIC) and Ani Katariina Vihervaara (M.Arch, BAS) live and work in Zurich. They have been working together since 2015 as assistant lecturers and researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, ETH. Alessandro, Li and Matthew currently work with Prof. Dr. Alex Lehnerer in the chair of Architecture and Urban Design.
The pavilion of Switzerland is located in Giardini and dates from 1952. It was designed by Bruno Giacometti, the brother of Alberto Giacometti. The pavilion was conceived as a study of the relationship between modern architecture and the surrounding nature. Bruno Giacometti wanted to explore how the greenery and light of the park could influence the presentation, and perception, of art in the pavilion’s interior. The pavilion is a good representation of Swiss architecture of that period. Almost all the schools, garden restaurants, villas, and showrooms being built in Switzerland in those days looked like this. Prior to this pavilion, Switzerland had another pavilion, designed by Brenno Del Giudice, at Sant’Elena which they used from 1932 until 1952.
Review by The Venice Insider
The pavilion of Switzerland is one of my favourite pavilions of this year’s Biennale, as you can read in ‘7 pavilions you cannot miss at the Architecture Biennale 2018’. It has also won the Golden Lion for Best National Participation for ‘a compelling architectural installation that is at once enjoyable while tackling the critical issues of scale in domestic space’.
When you enter the snow-white pavilion, you get the impression that you accidentally stepped into an empty space which is not part of the exhibition. However, when you take a closer look, you will notice the white doors, doorknobs, windows, kitchen-sink units and sockets in a variety of sizes. The Swiss team has perfectly translated their concept of a house tour in this unique installation. The biggest scale makes you stand on your toes to look at the kitchen, while you almost have to crawl to get through the smallest door. After a while, your mind is totally deranged and you don’t know anymore whether something is a normal size or not. This is an exhibition which you will think back upon for a long time, especially when you go house-hunting.
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: 1:5 model photograph of «Svizzera 240: House Tour» © Alessandro Bosshard, Li Tavor, Matthew van der Ploeg and Ani Vihervaara. Photo: Milena Buchwalder)
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