Finding Common Ground

By Jennifer McMaster
Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship

Gunther Vogt, image copyright of Jennifer McMaster

This report summarises my time at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. While in Venice, I wrote about, drew and photographed the content on display throughout the Giardini and Arsenale. This content was then circulated via various means, including my own blog, the architecture insights website, and various print and online journals. I also created radio content centred around this year’s Biennale.

My work on the radio program Building Blocks has greatly influenced my understanding of architecture. Delivering stories to a public audience has forced me to think much more about how space is experienced by the general public.

Because of this, my focus at the Biennale was very much on relaying information that I believed was interesting, challenging and meaningful. In the Giardini, home to the various National Pavilions, I saw some incredibly inspiring examples of how architecture is being used to create positive influences. Across the Giardini, there was a strong emphasis on collaboration and community. Many suggestions were made as to how architecture can filter down to affect public spaces, city organisations and everyday interactions. Several of the exhibitions also responded to the harsh economic and environmental realities that we now face, suggesting new ways of working and conceiving architecture.

The curated aspect of the Biennale, co-ordinated by David Chipperfield under the banner of ‘Common Ground,’ was similarly diverse. The exhibitions I found myself most drawn to were those that engaged the theme in a manner which traversed the traditional bounds of the Biennale. Installations such as that by Gunther Vogt did this by moving beyond the Arsenale’s halls and inhabiting the streets of Venice to genuinely engage with the city. Others, meanwhile, used the exposure offered by the Biennale as an opportunity to raise questions and encourage debate amongst the profession.

The 2012 Architecture Biennale offered insight into some remarkable new ways of thinking about, and practicing within, architecture. It is my hope that the best of the ideas on display in Venice will continue to be discussed and debated, as there is much to learn from what was there.