A woman in housedress and slippers, scarf wound round her head, stands on a ladder staring at the desert. This arresting image, a photograph taken by Bruce Chatwin, was chosen by the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena to represent the themes of this year’s Architecture Biennale in Venice, which closed November 27. The woman, whom Chatwin encountered in southern Peru, was a German archeologist. She was there to study the Nazca lines, which look like random gravel from the ground but from a small elevation take shape as geoglyphs, or man-made images of animals and plants. The point? A slight shift in perspective achieved by modest means can alter our experience of the world.
More than sixty countries were represented in the Biennale’s two locations, the Gardens and the Arsenale. At both sites, Aravena, who recently received the Pritzker Architecture Prize, constructed compelling entry halls from over ninety tons of scrap material left over from previous Biennales. Out of plasterboard and the metal posts it attaches to, he formed cavernous spaces with textured walls and sculptural ceilings. The boards were cut with ragged edges and stacked like tiles, leaving small ledges here and there, or tiny gaps for windows, while lengths of torqued aluminum stalactites hung just above our heads. The spaces felt like primitive shelter: cave, hut, igloo, ger. Read More