junya ishigami wins golden lion for best project at the venice biennale junya ishigami wins golden lion for best project at the venice biennale
aug 30, 2010

junya ishigami wins golden lion for best project at the venice biennale

‘architecture as air: study for château la coste’ by junya.ishigami+associates at the venice biennale for architecture image © designboom

japanese firm junya.ishigami+associates has been awarded the golden lion for best project at the 12th international architecture biennale in venice, italy.

‘architecture as air: study for château la coste’ explores a new form of transparency that goes beyond the density and opacity of a building’s structural components. by blurring the limiting boundaries between space and structure, the project essentially aims to illustrate architecture as air, which transcends the concepts of lightness and weight.

measuring approximately 14m in depth, 4m across and 4m high, the installation is a physical model of a building planned for somewhere in europe. by building it at full-scale, it should enable the viewers to perceive the otherwise invisible void, an element that is, much like air, smaller than anything of an everyday scale.

constructed out of spindly carbon fiber pillars, the installation first collapsed hours after the opening of the press preview on the 26th of august. through numerous trials and errors, ishigami’s team worked on rebuilding the structure while simultaneously refining the original idea, resulting in just the pillars for the final presentation. nevertheless, the international jury appreciated ishigami’s ‘unique and uncompromising vision, which pushes the limits of materiality, visibility, tectonics, thinness, and ultimately of architecture itself.’

collapsed structure image © designboom

damaged exhibition image © designboom

problems continued on the second day image © designboom

during the first three days, small groups of workers were trying to figure out how to reconnect the piece. in the foreground, the semi-circle cardboard templates were used to glue the carbon fibers into shape image © designboom

installation view before the opening of the exhibition image courtesy contessanally

the château la coste winery is the site of a new arts center in the south of france, commissoned by irish property developer paddy mckillen and master plannd by japanese architect tadao ando. currently under construction, the project is located in aix-en-provence and includes structures designed by leading architects, among them jean nouvel, frank gehry, norman foster and renzo piano.

updates: our friends at ARTit have just published a nice interview with junya ishigami. they met with ishigami at his office in tokyo while he was preparing for venice, and discussed with him the role of exhibitions in his experimental practice and the idea of architecture after ideology.

  • I don’t get it.

    Daniel says:
  • What am I looking at?

    cornballer says:
  • I’m sure part of the illegibility is due to the collapse of the project. If it remained standing like it was intended to in its original design, I imagine it would have been a stunning piece.

    Paul says:
  • Even if we assume it was indeed a stunning piece, shouldn’t the fact that it collapsed before even the exhibition officially opened concern the committee that awarded the golden lion to this project? Overlooking the fact that most of them are critics and detached from practice (or rather, precisely for this reason) they should be able to discern between poetics of artistic laxity or plain dull mediocrity in cases of “conceptual” constructions like these. Most of the work this young architect has produced up to now is quite nice actually but should he get some sort of prestigious award I am not quite sure it makes sense it get it for this particular project. Just saying…

    Ryioko says:
  • it’s so sad to see that award goes to the failed experimentation, not the successful execution of the solid idea. the explanation of the project sounds like architectural bs in academia, and if this is the representation of how architecture can blur and transcend itself beyond established boundary, the future of architectural discipline and theory is very doubtful.

    jb says:
  • Interesting, space as delineated concept. It’s more art than architecture, though. May I refer you to a couple of (unintentional?) antecedents: the Minimalist artist and sculptor Fred Sandback (deceased) and the contemporary Italian architect Dario Bartolini.

    Tom P says:
  • Footnote the artist Richard Tuttles’ string drawings from 15 years ago. This is a lame ripoff and only shows the weakness of the overall work…nothing new to see here !!! Move along!

    corbuuu says:
  • Overheard at the Jury: The Emperor’s new building is truly beautiful! Do you not see it? Do you not believe it should receive the highest award??

    Airchitecture says:
  • bull s……..

    andrei Panda says:
  • !!! the emperor is naked !!!

    mark kaplan says:
  • I don’t think Ishigami was consciously copying any western precedents. But for people not living and working in Japan it might come as a surprise that copying is not entirely unacceptable in architecture (or art). The point here is that no matter how brilliant the idea (which perhaps was not all that brilliant or original in the first place) it is quite obvious that it failed to present itself successfully. Or perhaps people did indeed meet in architecture as some careless visitor may have knocked it down…

    Anyway, at least he went through the trouble of doing something new for the exhibition. Fujimoto sent another iteration of his Primitive Future House and Ito a 10-year old project…Disappointing

    @Airchitecture: great comment, very fitting!

    Sid says:
  • I think the most interesting part about the project is the multiple iterations that it went through during the several days it was being fixed and rebuilt. The original idea, I admit, is kind of easy and unoriginal, but I’m sure the jury appreciated some of the lateral thinking that went into the post-build phase.

    pet says:
  • Fail! goes to show it’s not what you do – it’s who you know!

    Pier says:
  • “The Emperor’s New Clothes”

    libertyjustice says:
  • This is how nepotistic Japanese share their power to the next generation. Classic!

    Ichi says:
  • You’d think they could’ve tested (or at least calculated) the strength of those carbon fibre columns BEFORE the biennale.

    FAIL

    holamama says:
  • I agree w/ @Ichi and @Pier. Sejima’s curation of the Biennale seems nepotistic and unoriginal.

    Ishigami’s current exhibition in Tokyo also exposes his career to be little more than naive oversimplification inflated by media favoritism. It’s painful to see this inexperienced architect placed on an international platform and fail in such a publicly humiliating way.

    What a cruel jury to award him the prize.

    Bakadane says:
  • I think the finished image pre-collapse is very beautiful. Even the failures look nice — I look forward to seeing more Ishigami buildings in the future.

    bill says:
  • Agreed. The pre-collapse image is really stunning. It’s a shame that the final product is not much to look at (literally) but I appreciate his persistence and working methods.

    h2o says:
  • this jury gave away so many awards(6), it seems they decided to give one each and then had a draw to see who would give which. obviously this one is what sejima got in the lottery.

    YukiNa says:
  • it was torn down by a cat who sneaked in the building during the night. apparently it happened twice.. 🙂

    b says:
  • Reminds me of Icarus- a bit to close to the sun.

    I think the fact that it failed makes the exhibit more thought provoking.

    But on some level it sets a bad precedent.

    Can an injury be excused if the building is beautiful or conceptually interesting yet not well constructed?

    Bobby D says:
  • The building collapsed nobody injured. It failed but it was good try so that I also give you the highest point.
    Well done!…Is this an architectural joke?

    mmike says:
  • no, no there was no cat, this was the journalist fairy tale everybody told. people like myths.
    it just broke, it was unstable.

    fred says:
  • i gues, the photos dont show. should look different in life..?

    peper says:
  • I find that at least in photos it is much more compelling in its so-called ‘broken’ state. It actually reads like a kind of scratched photo – a kind of ethereal George Rousse experiment.

    philharmonikon says:
  • i did not get the concept

    arc says:

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