Photos from Venice's incredible architecture biennial

biennale-main-image

Parallel visited the opening weekend of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition.

Classical forms, striking angles, elegant facades…the people at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennial are painfully attractive. They float across the honeysuckle-scented gardens, all tote bags and black denim and avant-garde fringes. Effortlessly cool. At the opening last weekend these stylish architects were out in droves, celebrating the culmination of months of tireless work – their Aperol Spritz’s glinting in the sun.

But to concentrate on the Biennial’s aesthetics is to somewhat miss the point this year. It’s the first time the event has shunned architecture’s grandiose pretensions, its subservience to money and spectacle, and concentrated on social justice. The Mexican architect Alejandro Aravena was the curator – a surprise choice, it seems – choosing as the theme, “Reporting From The Front". Aravena wanted to recast the architect’s duty as kind of campaigning journalism; engaging with the material circumstances of oppression and plight, and making architecture – once again – into a politically transformative calling. 

As is custom, scores of countries from across the world took over either a purpose-built national pavilion in the Giardini della Biennale in Castello, the massive space in the army’s former Arsenale in the north or another space somewhere in Venice. Shumi Bose’s British pavilion examined the unwaged labour that goes on in the domestic home; Poland focused on the physical and fatal dangers encountered by construction workers; Serbia created a bright blue skate-boarding half-pipe. Parallel was there to explore the hundreds of different ideas and forms on show.

THE OPENING DAY PARTY OUTSIDE THE GERMAN PAVILLION.


THE BALTIC STATES'S ENTRY, LOCATED IN A GYMNASIUM IN CASTELLO. 

INSIDE THE CAVE OF "INCIDENTAL SPACE", THE OFFICIAL ENTRY OF SWITZERLAND.

VISITORS WERE INVITED TO CLIMB INSIDE THE INFLATABLE SPHERES OF SHUMI BOSES' "HOME ECONOMICS" EXHIBITION.

AN EXHIBITION IN ARSENALE.


PLAYING WITH LIGHT RAYS INSIDE THE CENTRAL PAVILLION.


A SERIES OF TELEVISION SCREENS BROADCAST INTERVIEWS IN THE NORDIC PAVILLION.

A WOODEN STRUCTURE IN GIARDINI PARK.

NORMAN FOSTER'S FULL-SCALE PROTOTYPE OF "DRONEPORT" – AN AIRPORT FOR DRONES.

VISITORS DIP THEIR FEET IN THE AUSTRALIA EXHIBITION, "POOLS", IN GIARDINI.

NEW ZEALAND'S "FUTURE ISLANDS", WHICH REIMAGINES ITS TERRITORY AS FLOATING CLOUDS.

The Venice Architecture Biennial is open to the public until November. Entrance to the pavilions in the Giardini Della Biennale and Arsenale cost €25. 

Photography by Lili Owen Rowlands