Rethinking the Biennale: In Conversation with Anh-Linh Ngo, Curator of the German Pavilion at the 2023 Venice Biennale
The German Pavilion Open for Maintenance / Wegen Umbau geöffnet at this years 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia was curated by ARCH+ and Summacumfemmer Büro Juliane Greb. At its core, the exhibition addresses the resource problem and the material cycles of the biennale. Inside the pavilion is a functioning workshop dedicated to applying these concepts of care, repair, and maintenance to Venice onsite. Onsite in Venice, ArchDaily had the chance to speak with the co-curator Anh-Linh Ngo, where he discussed the different aspects of the German Pavilion.
Fragments from the Biennale Arte 2022, temporarily stored at the entrance of the German Pavilion, December 2022. Image Courtesy of ARCH+ SUMMACUMFEMMER BÜRO JULIANE GREB
The German Pavilion aims to uncover the truth behind the way things are produced in Venice and look at the Biennale from a different perspective, considering the kinds of damages that are done during these events. This year, the exhibition collaborated with 40 different pavilions, taking over their leftover materials, waste, and rubbish. Usually, this waste would be disposed of in the city without a second thought. However, the Pavilion attempts to rethink the way in which we use our resources in these contexts.
The Curatorial team (from left to right, top to bottom)- Christian Hiller, Melissa Makele, Anne Femmer, Petter Krag, Juliane Greb, Anh-Linh Ngo, Franziska Gödicke, Florian Summa. Image © Jelka von Langen
Firstly, these materials were utilized in creating architectural interventions inside the German Pavilion. Initially remodeled in 1938 according to a particular architectural ideology, the curation strives to break away from that singular format. In fact, the display finds applications for the materials that push it towards a more accessible, democratic, and inclusive space. Overall, the applications are aesthetic and functional decisions using these collected materials. For example, the ramp that leads into this year’s pavilion was constructed of sandbags gathered from Ukraine’s Pavilion.
In Conversation with Joar Nango, James Taylor-Foster and Carlos Mínguez Carrasco, the Architect and Curators of the Nordic Pavilion at the 2023 Venice Biennale
The German Pavilion also built physical and digital material storage, composed of the entire list of collected resources. These materials have been cleaned, archived, and placed in an inventory. The aim of the archive is to consider the possibility of these materials becoming available again, reused, and redistributed throughout the city. In fact, the display encourages and urges the Biennale institution to rethink the use of materials being used on site every year. Eventually, it aims to inspire the Biennale institution to use this software, making it available for the coming iterations of the international event.
Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia, Photos by Matteo de MaydaOpen for Maintenance. Image. Image Courtesy of ARCH+ SUMMACUMFEMMER BÜRO JULIANE GREB
An important part of the project was to rethink and redefine how we intervene and produce things for Venice. And what kind of damages we also create, not just solutions. – Anh-Linh Ngo, Editor in chief of ARCH+, Co-curator.
At the heart of the program of the Pavilion, a workshop area has been activated until the end of this year’s La Biennale di Venezia. There will be weekly workshops hosted with different universities where students worldwide actively participate in “preparing maintenance” for varied sites around Venice. In fact, students will have the opportunity to see their work applied and go into the cities to do this repair work. The display aims to push beyond the DIY aesthetic of the 60s, presenting a model where architects and designers can see that interventions are possible with these scrap materials. Young practitioners are encouraged to find practical ways to problem solve for the resource and climate crisis.
Spolia from the exhibition “Queendom” of the Israel Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2022, December 2022. Image Courtesy of ARCH+ SUMMACUMFEMMER BÜRO JULIANE GREB
Other countries have responded similarly to Lesley Lokko’s brief for this year’s Biennale: The Laboratory of the Future. The European Cultural Centre (ECC) showcased its sixth edition of the Time Space Existence architecture exhibition. Centered on the theme of sustainability in its various forms, the exhibition encompasses subjects related to migration, digital building technologies and material research, future urban developments, and housing, bringing together architects. The Danish Pavilion, “Coastal Imaginaries,” addresses solutions to alleviate global challenges such as rising sea levels and storm floods. Finally, The Turkish Pavilion “Ghost Stories: Carrier Bag Theory of Architecture” explores the status and hidden potential of abandoned buildings across Türkiye to discover more hopeful proposals for the future.
Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia, Photos by Matteo de Mayda
We invite you to check out ArchDaily’s comprehensive coverage of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023.