Making Common Ground

By HY William Chan
Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship

Making Common Ground by HY William Chan

The month-long experience of creating the centerpiece Venice Biennale international exhibition, with the theme of Common Ground, occurred from the 1st to 26th of August 2012.

I was invited by Indian Architect Anupama Kundoo to contribute to One to One Wall House, a full scale replica of Kundoo’s South Indian House. We were located in the 900 year-old Corderie in the Arsenale. For one month, I was part of a team of local Indian craftsmen, Venice architecture students, and architects, engineers, and students from Brisbane.

My involvement included the on-site design and construction of the Wall House. Learning construction techniques and the use of power tools, I assisted with the making of timber spreader frames, ceiling barrel vaults, living room support structure and platform steps. I was also involved in paving and glass-cutting as well as the interior and lighting design.

The main feature of the installation was the self-supporting terracotta pot vault – an innovative system devised by Kundoo. Despite the initial collapse of the vault due to the inability to secure the structure with mortar at the last minute, a compromise in the architecture had to be made. This resulted in the solution of supporting the vault with steel batons.

This process of making, creative problem solving and cross-cultural collaboration has been the highlight of the experience. The ability to work together even with the numerous structural obstacles and cultural barriers is a testimony of not only the success of the project but the meaning of common ground.