Partecipazione / Beteiligung
For the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, the Vienna-based architecture collective AKT and architect Hermann Czech are planning a socially effective, temporary conversion of the Austrian Pavilion. Part of the building will be open to the adjacent district and freely accessible to the people of Venice. At the centre of this architectural intervention is the question of the power of disposition over space and the social shifts that architecture triggers in its built form.
For the first time in its recent history, the population of Venice’s old town has reached a historic low, falling below the critical 50,000 mark. Spatial displacement processes and the loss of essential infrastructure have led to a steady depopulation of the city over decades. In recent years, political promises have been broken and spatial planning control bodies gradually abolished. Social housing construction has now been de facto discontinued. Local life in Venice is increasingly marginalized.
The Austrian Pavilion is located on the northeastern boundary wall of the Biennale site. The district behind it is one of the few remaining neighbourhoods in Venice still inhabited predominantly by Venetians. AKT and Hermann Czech plan to open up the historic Biennale wall, to shift the separation between the Biennale and the city into the pavilion and to hand over space to the urban public, a “Laboratory of the Future”. In this way, from the midst of it, the Austrian Pavilion calls upon Venice’s biggest cultural event to face up to its political and cultural responsibility as a “laboratory of the future” in the context of the city.
What effect does architecture have, how do social conditions shift when building is carried out? This question is posed by the central exhibit of the exhibition, the dividing wall that separates the symmetrical pavilion between the main rooms. The eastern part of the building, including the courtyard, will be made freely accessible from the city via a newly constructed entrance. It will thus be handed over to its inhabitants and local initiatives as a meeting space. The western part will remain accessible from the Biennale. There, the conversion of the pavilion by AKT and Hermann Czech as well as the relationship between the Biennale and the city will be thematized in an exhibition and an accompanying program.
Should the planned opening to the city fail due to the resistance of the Biennale and/or the participating institutions, this failure will become the political content of the exhibition. The architectural intervention for the project will be carried out, except for the connection and will become the central exhibit of the exhibition as an inaccessible empty space. The half of the pavilion that is then not accessible to the public will become visible to Biennale visitors as a missed opportunity for participation. The failure as well as its reasons will be documented and contextualized in the course of the exhibition. The political dimensions of the responsibility of cultural institutions will thus be presented to the international audience in an all the more vivid and urgent way.
“The architectural separation is not complete, because it is possible for people to hear and see each other obscurely, feel the presence of others. One participates, is involved. Distance becomes participation, from an unconnected coexistence a neighborhood might evolve.”
“Architecture is not life. Architecture is background. Everything else is not architecture.”