grafton architects to curate the 2018 venice architecture biennale grafton architects to curate the 2018 venice architecture biennale
jan 17, 2017

grafton architects to curate the 2018 venice architecture biennale

UPDATE: on june 7, 2017, curators yvonne farrell and shelley mcnamara joined the president of la biennale di venezia, paolo baratta to announce the theme of the 2018 event — ‘freespace’. read the duo’s statement in full at the bottom of this page.

january 17, 2017: the board of la biennale di venezia has appointed yvonne farrell and shelley mcnamara of grafton architects as curators of the 2018 venice architecture biennale. the duo, who live and work in dublin, ireland, founded their firm 40 years ago, in 1977. the firm was represented at the 2002 biennale, before winning the silver lion 10 years later for the design of the UTEC university campus in lima, peru. last year, grafton was represented under the title ‘the physics of culture’, a display that explored the civic qualities of its schemes. read our in-depth interview with shelley mcnamara, and see our round up of the firm’s defining projects here.


grafton won the silver lion in 2012 for the design of the UTEC university campus in lima
image © designboom

 

 

farrell and mcnamara have designed and built several schools and architectural works for institutions and universities, including the university of limerick’s medical school and dormitory, a new building for the università bocconi in milan, italy. the studio has also been selected to design a new faculty building for the london school of economics and political science (LSE) in london. both architects have been jury members for many architectural awards, such as the RIBA stirling prize and the mies van der rohe prize.

yvonne-farrell-shelley-mcnamara-grafton-architects-curators-venice-architecture-biennale-2018-designboom-02
at the 2016 biennale, grafton was represented under the title ‘the physics of culture’
image by francesco galli, courtesy of la biennale di venezia

 

 

the exhibition curated by alejandro aravena offered visitors a critical overview of the worldwide evolution of architecture and underlined how important it is that a qualified demand on the part of individuals and communities be met by an equally effective response, thereby confirming that architecture is one of civil society’s instruments for organizing the space in which it lives and works,’ explains president of la biennale, paolo baratta.

lse-paul-marshall-building-shortlist-david-chipperfield-herzog-de-meuron-diller-scofidio-renfro-designboom-02
the studio has been selected to design a new faculty building for the LSE in london
image by grafton architects, courtesy of LSE

 

 

along these lines, yvonne farrell and shelley mcnamara will continue to address the same theme but from the point of view of the quality of the public and private space, of urban space, of the territory and of the landscape as the main ends of architecture. the curators, who are well-known for the refinement of their work, are also known for their intense didactic activity and their ability to involve and fascinate new generations.’

 

the 16th international architecture exhibition will begin on may 26, 2017 and will remain on view until november 25, 2018.

 

yvonne farrell and shelley mcnamara explained their choice of the theme ‘freespace’ with the following words:

 

‘freespace describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself.
freespace focuses on architecture’s ability to provide free and additional spatial gifts to those who use it and on its ability to address the unspoken wishes of strangers.
freespace celebrates architecture’s capacity to find additional and unexpected generosity in each project – even within the most private, defensive, exclusive or commercially restricted conditions.
freespace provides the opportunity to emphasise nature’s free gifts of light – sunlight and moonlight, air, gravity, materials – natural and man-made resources.
freespace encourages reviewing ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the  well being and dignity of  each citizen of this fragile planet.
freespace can be a space for opportunity, a democratic space, un-programmed and free for uses not yet conceived. there is an exchange between people and buildings that happens, even if not intended or designed, so buildings themselves find ways of sharing and engaging with people over time, long after the architect has left the scene.
architecture has an active as well as a passive life.
freespace encompasses freedom to imagine, the free space of time and memory, binding past, present and future together, building on inherited cultural layers, weaving the archaic with the contemporary.

 

with the theme of freespace, the biennale architettura 2018 will present for public scrutiny examples, proposals, elements – built or unbuilt – of work that exemplifies essential qualities of architecture which include the modulation, richness and materiality of surface; the orchestration and sequencing of movement, revealing  the embodied power and beauty of architecture.
the exhibition will have a spatial, physical presence of a scale and quality, which will impact on the visitor, communicating architecture’s complex spatial nature.
the exhibition invites emotional and intellectual engagement of the many who come to the biennale in order to understand architecture more fully, to stimulate discussion on core architectural values and to celebrate architecture’s proven and enduring contribution to humanity.
when jørn utzon thinks about a concrete and tiled seat at the entrance of can lis, majorca, it is moulded perfectly to the human body for comfort and pleasure. spatially, it is a ‘word’ of greeting, of welcome.
angelo mangiarotti ‘says’ the same thing at the entrance to 24 via quadronno, milan where a gently sloping path, with a seat at the entrance threshold ‘holds’ you and welcomes you home from the city.
lina bo bardi raised the museum of modern art in sao paolo in order to make a ‘belvedere’ for the citizens to overlook the city.
the medici palace in florence represents power and wealth but the stone seat which forms part of the solid façade almost turns the building inside out. the solid wall becomes the enclosing wall of the public space. what is solid seems outward looking and generous.
we believe that everyone has the right to benefit from architecture. the role of architecture is to give shelter to our bodies and to lift our spirits. a beautiful wall forming a street edge gives pleasure to the passer-by, even if they never go inside.  so too does a glimpse into a courtyard through an archway; or a place to lean against in the shade or a recess which offers protection from the wind and rain.
we are interested in going beyond the visual, emphasizing the role of architecture in the choreography of daily life.
we see the earth as client. this brings with it long-lasting responsibilities. architecture is the play of light, sun, shade, moon, air, wind, gravity in ways that reveal the mysteries of the world. all of these resources are free.
it is examples of generosity and thoughtfulness in architecture throughout the world that will be celebrated in the 16th international architecture exhibition. we believe these qualities sustain the fundamental capacity of architecture to nurture and support meaningful contact between people and place. we focus our attention on these qualities because we consider that intrinsic to them are optimism and continuity. architecture that embodies these qualities and does so with generosity and a desire for exchange is what we call freespace.
we invite all participants and every national pavilion to bring to venice their freespace, so together we may reveal the diversity, specificity and continuity in architecture based on people, place, time, history, to sustain the culture and relevance of architecture on this dynamic planet.

 

‘a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in’ – greek proverb.

 

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