The Tour Guide presents a selection of the best 10 Pavilions at the 14th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale curated by Rem Koolhaas. This report appeared in A10 magazine, Issue 57, June 2014.
A year ago, when the president of the Venice Biennale announced the curator of its 14th edition, the majority of those in the architecture world were satisfied, convinced that it was a first-class choice. Not only is Rem Koolhaas one the most renowned international architects, he’s also widely considered an influential theorist of contemporary architecture. But either his thematic ambitions have been misunderstood, or not considered inspiring enough. Many pavilions that stuck to the theme come no further than a simple survey of architecture, lacking in critical reflection. Creative and honest interpretations of the Koolhaasian manifesto are needed, something that this selection could very well deliver.
The first changes Koolhaas implemented were the expected opening (June instead of August) and the prolongation of the international exhibition’s duration, from three to six months. But the most rel- evant change is his requiring the national pavilions to adhere to a common theme, Absorbing Moder nity: 1914–2014.
Has national identity been sacrificed to modernity? This is the question Koolhaas presented to the 65 nations, eleven of which are taking part for the first time. According to his statement, it made sense to talk about Chinese, Swiss and Indian architecture in 1914. Nowadays, however, architecture has become interchangeable and global. In asking each participating nation to tell the history of its last 100 years, a global overview of architecture’s evolution would emerge in Venice.
A far from stimulating choice? Looking at the pavilion proposals, it appears so. This time, Koolhaas seems to fail in imposing his own reflections. The majority of the national pavilions will simply show their most significant architectures of the past century, most of the time without a critical statement. After all, it’s often easier (and strongly advised) to please the Biennale’s curator. Excluding this approach, we have selected ten must-see pavilions, all distinguished examples of experimentation and the creative interpretation of the Koolhaasian manifesto. (…)