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Foster’s Tower, Hadid’s Funnel Dazzle in Venice: Review

David Chipperfield
Portrait of the U.K. architect David Chipperfield, director of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. Chipperfield has given the title "Common Ground" to this year's Biennale to emphasize a collective, as opposed to an individualistic vision of architecture. Photographer: Francesco Galli/La Biennale di Venezia via Bloomberg

The Venice Architecture Biennale this year gives top billing to U.K. architects, starting with David Chipperfield.

The man best known for his work on Berlin’s Neues Museum is steering the event. Norman Foster and (Baghdad-born, London-based) Zaha Hadid also have notable displays.

The central exhibition, designed by Chipperfield, is titled “Common Ground” to stress teamwork over self-centeredness.

Chipperfield said the theme was “to encourage my colleagues to react against the prevalent professional and cultural tendencies of our time that place such emphasis on individual and isolated actions.”

Foster -- architect of London’s Gherkin tower -- has a dim, immersive display called “Gateway” in the Arsenale’s first gallery. Names of generations of architects, critics and designers slither across the floor in moving projections. Images of the world’s landmarks, slums and protest sites flash across wall-to-wall screens.

In the central exhibition, Foster has another room devoted to his Hongkong and Shanghai Bank tower, completed in 1985 in Hong Kong. Surrounding a maquette of the building are an Andreas Gursky photo of it and a Ben Johnson painting.

Hadid shows “Arum” (2012), a huge funnel-shaped pleated-metal sculpture inspired by Frei Otto, architect of the 1972 Munich Olympic arena.

The Biennale is held within walking distance of St. Mark’s Square. Exhibitions are inside the “Corderie dell’Arsenale,” once Venice’s naval ropemaking workshops, and the lush Giardini gardens, where countries have age-old permanent pavilions.

At the U.S. pavilion, an exhibition called “Spontaneous Interventions” displays examples of architects, designers and citizens taking over derelict spaces to make them more sustainable, creating urban farms and new bike lanes.

Director Wim Wenders -- whose documentary “Pina” focused on the late German choreographer Pina Bausch -- shows the austere Swiss architect Peter Zumthor in a short movie.

The 13th Venice Architecture Biennale runs through Nov. 25, 2012. The event is held every other year, alternating with the Art Biennale.


(Farah Nayeri writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Rich Jaroslovsky on technology and Jason Harper on autos.

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