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Lorena del Río interviewed by Architexx

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Intuition and Humor: <br> Lorena Del Rio on Facing Her Fears

INTUITION AND HUMOR:
LORENA DEL RIO ON FACING HER FEARS

By Julia Gamolina

Lorena del Río is an architect, co-founder of RICA* STUDIO based in New York and Madrid, and an Assistant Professor at the Cooper Union. Her academic research stems from an interdisciplinary approach to design where architecture, art, and material research meet to promote emotional well-being. Lorena is educated at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, ETSAM, where she is also developing a PhD focusing on the sensuality of materials. Prior to founding RICA* STUDIO together with Iñaqui Carnicero, she was a senior architect at SelgasCano. Lorena has taught at Cornell University as a Visiting Assistant Professor and California College of the Arts, where she also was the co-director of the BuildLab. In her conversation with Julia Gamolina, Lorena describes her incredibly rich career, working with her partner, and new beginnings. She also speaks to her intuitive approach in stepping out of her comfort zone, and advises young architects to find what they love and never give up.

JG: How did your interest in architecture develop?

LDR: My parents owned an antiques store, so I was familiar with interiors, furniture, and objects since I was little. I thought I wanted to study interior design, but my intuition told me to go into something more technical. After my first year in architecture, I did fall in love with the technical aspects, especially with ways of challenging conventions. I also loved that an architect never works in isolation – it’s a profession that engages many other disciplines.

Lorena at the SelgasCano office, 2008.

Straight out of architecture school, you worked for one of Spain’s most creative firms: SelgasCano. What was it like and what did you learn?

SelgasCano is a very special and unique office – run by a couple, Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano. When I first came for my interview and saw their space, I thought, “These guys are so cool!” In the interview, Jose asked me what kind of music I liked. For them, these things are important, because they incorporate so much outside of architecture in their work. I worked with them for five years and more than “knowledge” in a conventional way, I learned a way of being. They taught me how to look through different eyes at everything – nature, art, music, cinema – and to bring it all together. Everything informs architecture; a movie, a natural setting, or a piece of art can trigger an idea for a project. They taught how to practice architecture as a way of living.

Your interest in plastics developed there.

Yes – the partners were interested in materials that challenge the perception of gravity, create ethereal atmospheres, and deal with natural light in a new way. They use plastics in many different ways, they use a huge range of materials in general. I became interested not only in the technical qualities of plastics, but also in connecting materials to the architectural concept at the very beginning, and being able to seduce with materials. I decided to pursue my PhD in these topics, and to use plastics as my case study.

Cartagena Auditorium by SelgasCano. Opening, March 2012

After SelgasCano, you started teaching at Cornell. How did this come about?

The crisis in Spain started to get worse and specifically affected architecture offices. My relationship with and the work at SelgasCano was fantastic – I loved seeing the auditorium in Cartagena open after working on it for five years – but after participating in all phases of different projects I felt that I had reached the top in the office and it was good timing to try something else. My husband Inaqui got an offer to teach at Cornell for a year. At first, I was planning to go to Ithaca to be a scholar and work intensively on my PhD. Then, I also applied to teach a seminar focused on my research, Introduction to Plastics, and ended up teaching at Cornell full time for four years.

Lorena giving a lecture at Cornell University, Spring 2014.

What was the transition to teaching and to the United States like?

I was completely out of my comfort zone. The hardest thing was the language barrier – my English wasn’t like it is now, and it was difficult for me to communicate. I felt insecure about using the wrong grammar or the wrong vocabulary in front of my students. I was good at pretending I wasn’t frustrated by it but I really was [laughs]. I also had no idea what a seminar meant in American academia; I just presented my experience, without having anything to reference it against. Now I know that by teaching in a different way, I was able to bring something new.

Jello Pavilion, Cornell University, Spring Semester 2015.

How did you cope with it?

By being patient and doing things the best way I knew how. I learned we should be able to make fun of ourselves; I remember saying things wrong in the first classes I taught at Cornell, and thankfully I was able to laugh and move on. I realized that it’s normal and it’s not about how you say things – it’s the type of things you say.

I also had a lot of encouragement. Andrea Simitch at Cornell always said to me, “You have a lot to offer.” It was good to hear this from a woman who was also once a very young professor and one of the few women at Cornell. She really helped me by making me feel that I could do it and I could do it well, and that the things I offered were different, and were great because they were different.

Lorena with her Option Studio students, Cornell University, Spring 2014.

You are now one of the first two tenure-track professors at the Cooper Union in almost three decades. How does it feel!

It’s very exciting and also unbelievable – I know many people applied for the position. The application process was a real challenge but also a real honor; in addition to having one of the most prestigious architecture programs in America, Cooper Union has the perfect balance between the size of the school, the intensity of the work, the amazing professors, and also the interdisciplinary approach. This makes the students very unique.

Ideas City installation at the Cooper Union, September 2017.

Can you tell me about RICA Studio, the practice you run with Inaqui?

RICA from RIo-CArnicero– in Spanish it also means something tasty or good. You could say good food is rica; we liked that double meaning.

Our work is diverse. The Venice Biennale was huge for us – Inaqui was appointed the co-curator of the Spanish pavilion and RICA took the lead of the pavilion design. We received the Golden Lion, and are now adapting the exhibition to galleries around the world. Then, our private clients are giving us the opportunity to re-think the domestic space in several single family home commissions. We are also interested in challenging conventions in educational spaces, like in the project we recently completed to transform an existing building into a kindergarten. Finally, we love competitions; we maintain the routine of always having one on our desk as a way to engage with ideas in different cultural and social contexts.

Are the States and Spain different in terms of practice?

Radically. In Spain, the system of competitions is amazing. A young professional can get a big commission because it’s not about networking or about having a lot of experience – it’s about your value as a designer. As a result of mostly public competitions, we have amazing architecture in Spain. I always complain about the States not having that system because there are so many public buildings being built here without any design aspiration.

Lorena and Inaqui at the Venice Biennale, with the Golden Lion award for Best National Pavilion, 2016.

RICA lecture at Californa College of the Arts, Fall 2015

Is it possible to separate work from your home life?

We try but it’s not [laughs]. After working together intensively the last six years, we are now in our best moment and I can happily talk about how great it is to work with your partner. It wasn’t always like that [laughs]. At the beginning, Inaqui was expecting me to do things his way, and I was expecting him to do things my way. We realized that it’s about finding what he is really good at, and what I’m really good at. I go ahead, and he trusts me, and the other way around.

Working together does also have a bright side, like having important meetings with your partner in your pajamas, or Skyping at 2am from bed when coordinating with our Madrid office.

What have you taught each other?

For me, Inaqui is the bravest person in the world. He believes he can do anything, and he taught me to believe I can do anything as well. He said, “You have to apply to Selgascano – they’re going to love your work,” and he was right! As a student, I didn’t trust my skills and I wasn’t confident in myself. When I see how far I’ve come since then, and the amount of times I’ve faced my fears, I know I’ve grown a lot and Inaqui has had a big part in that.

On the other side, I am and always was very patient and Inaqui really was not. He needs to see things happening right away or he gets anxious. I have a view that’s more long-term, and I think I’ve taught him its benefits. He’s more patient and less anxious now for sure [laughs].

How does your teaching inform your practice?

There is so much intelligence gathered in a classroom at places like Cornell or the Cooper Union that can be applied to resolving real issues. I taught a course once where my students designed playgrounds and constructed full scale prototypes of them, based on a research we were developing at RICA. Then, I invited a local Montessori school to the final review, and the kids played in and tested the playgrounds. It was an extremely pedagogical experience.

RICA Studio’s Madrid office.

What are some challenges that you’ve faced in your career?

When I was a student, I struggled with criticism and how to use feedback in a positive way. I wanted to do things right immediately, and that never happens in architecture – it’s all about persistence. I always convey to my students that they have to be strong and separate their feelings about themselves from the feedback their projects receive, because in the end, architecture is something beautiful. I also always knew that finding my place as an architect and a woman wouldn’t be easy; architecture is still a male profession.

What have been some highlights?

The results of our investigative process are always highlights. We truly believe in the power of design to change behavior and improve life conditions. In our project English for Fun, a kindergarten in Madrid, we were able to challenge and improve educational environments. For our collaboration with Juegaterapia, we designed a playground in a hospital for kids suffering from cancer. It’s fantastic when architecture goes beyond just building spaces, and affects well-being. Working with these kids was an incredible honor.

Visit to La Fe Hospital of the Juegaterapia Foundation, 2016.

English For Fun, Madrid, 2016

What has been your general approach to your career?

In terms of my work, the way architecture was taught to me was through the study of the masters and the production of architectural objects. For me, architecture actually has more to do with daily life – what we see, hear, feel, smell, the way we behave, nature. I try to incorporate sensorial experiences into my work and translate them into a physical space. My focus is seducing the senses through architecture.

In terms of my career, I never had a clear strategy – I was mostly guided by my intuition. I made decisions not because I was following a plan, but because I felt good about them. One rule I did have is to tell myself that I always need to enjoy what I’m doing and change whatever was needed in order to do work I really like. It’s all about enjoyment.

Summer in Can Lis by Jom Utzon, 2011.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

To never take things too seriously! I always rely on making jokes. When I first came to the States, my level of English wasn’t good enough to be funny, and that was really frustrating because jokes are a part of me and I always use humor as a way to relate to people.

Sou, Lorena and Inaqui’s 6 yr old black lab, helping Lorena prepare for classes. Ithaca, 2015

Looking back, what are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of learning how to move out of my comfort zone without any fear. There is a saying in Spanish, “perfection is the enemy of good.” It’s true. You should aim to make things good, but not perfect, because if you aim to be perfect you can get lost in things that are not important. There are many ways to do things and perfection doesn’t exist – it’s all about being satisfied with what you’re doing and trying to improve.

Academia can also be a harsh environment sometimes, and I’ve learned to navigate through competitiveness, criticism, and challenging colleagues. At this point I’ve been challenging myself for five straight years – presenting my work to the public, to students, to selection committees. I know now that I am what I am, not more and not less, and I just present what I am. Accepting myself as I am is one of the biggest hurdles I’ve overcome.

What advice would you give to young architects?

To be enthusiastic, to enjoy, and to never give up trying to do what you want to do. Architecture is really broad and there are many ways to find your place within the discipline. It’s all about finding your passion and your obsessions, and following your intuition. Architecture is something very intimate and connects with the most profound part of ourselves, so every young architect should find what they love most in the field and go for it.

Shortly after moving to NYC in 2017.

Unfinished article in Divisare

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15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

Unfinished
Curated by Iñaqui Carnicero and Carlos Quintáns. Project winner of the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. For a concisely curated selection of emerging architects whose work shows how creativity and commitment can transcend material constraints.

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

JESÚS GRANADA

Spain is one of the countries where the practice of architecture has been most affected by the economic crisis. There are few places on earth where such large numbers of buildings were built in such a short period of time. The lack of reflection over whether these projects were necessary or valid resulted in the subsequent abandonment of many buildings when their completion or maintenance was discovered not to be economically viable. Their appearance throughout Spanish territories has generated a collection of unfinished buildings where the factor of time was eliminated from the formula for making architecture.
Using photography as a filter to portray this reality, the Pavilion’s central space represents the optimistic view of those who have fought back against this recent past,understanding these inherited constructions as an opportunity.

RICA* STUDIO

The ¨Unfinished¨ exhibition, presented in the Spanish pavilion at the Biennale, seeks to direct attention to processes more than results in an attempt to discover design strategies generated by an optimistic view of the constructed environment. The exhibition gathers examples of architecture produced during the past few years, born out of renunciation and economy of means, designed to evolve and adapt to future necessities and trusting in the beauty conferred by the passage of time. These projects have understood the lessons of the recent past and consider architecture to be something unfinished, in a constant state of evolution and truly in the service of humanity. The current moment of uncertainty in our profession makes its consideration here especially relevant.

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

FERNANDO MAQUIEIRA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

FERNANDO MAQUIEIRA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

FERNANDO MAQUIEIRA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

FERNANDO MAQUIEIRA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

FERNANDO MAQUIEIRA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

FERNANDO MAQUIEIRA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

FERNANDO MAQUIEIRA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

FERNANDO MAQUIEIRA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

FERNANDO MAQUIEIRA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

JESÚS GRANADA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

JESÚS GRANADA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

JESÚS GRANADA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

JESÚS GRANADA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

JESÚS GRANADA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

JESÚS GRANADA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

JESÚS GRANADA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

JESÚS GRANADA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

JESÚS GRANADA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

JESÚS GRANADA

15 Biennale di Venezia. Spanish Pavilion

ANDREA AVEZZÙ

Dialogue: Iñaqui Carnicero, co-curator Spanish Pavilion la Biennale di Venezia. Architectem Magazine

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Spanish Pavilion Venice Biennale 2016

The Spanish Pavilion was awarded a Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Biennale, featuring a new type of architecture that emerged in the country after the financial crisis.

Under the title “Unfinished”, the exhibition curated by architects Iñaqui Carnicero and Carlos Quintáns consists of nearly 67 proposals and 7 photographic series presenting answers to the problems arising in Spain after the housing boom post-crisis. The inherited situation has led to many architectural studies to reflect on the passage of time in architecture and to respond against the excesses of the past.

Exhibition curator Iñaqui Carnicero is an Architect and has served as a visiting Professor at Cornell University. He has been recognised with numerous international awards such as the Design Vanguard Award, AIANY Housing Award, Emerging Architects Award, FAD and COAM Award.

Pabellón de España ©Juan Rodríguez
Pabellón de España ©Juan Rodríguez

The exhibit is divided into four areas:

Photographic series – highlighting otherwise hidden situations for visitors to reflect on the outcome of Spain’s construction frenzy and the affect of the financial crisis.

Pabellón de España ©Juan Rodríguez
Pabellón de España ©Juan Rodríguez

Selected Works – Displayed in the side rooms, featuring projects that deal with strategies that architects put into play as a response to these situations. These projects are further catalogued under the titles: Consolidate, Reapropiation, Adaptable, Naked, Perching, Infill, Reassignments, Guides, and Pavements.

Photo: Luis Diaz
Photo: Luis Diaz

Selected entries – Presenting selected projects from an open competition aimed at searching for unpublished projects responding to the proposed theme.

Interviews – Behind the central space and between the side spaces is a continuous projection of interviews, recording comments by renowned architecture personalities on “Unfinished” as well as about Spanish architecture. Speakers include Amale Andraos (Dean at Columbia University), Kenneth Frampton (Full Professor at Columbia University), Sarah Whiting (Dean at Rice University), Andrea Simitch (Associate Professor at Cornell University), Sou Fujimoto (Architect), Barry Bergdol (Ex curator MoMA), Val Warke (Associate Professor at Cornell University), Jorge Silvetti (Full Professor at Harvard GSD), Nader Tehrani (Dean of Cooper Union), Meijeen Yoon (Chair MIT) and Martino Stierli (Chief Curator MoMA )

Interviews
Interviews

ARCHITECTEM met with Iñaqui at the vernissage to discuss the exhibition and the challenges contemporary designers face in Spain – below is a condensed version of the conversation

 

Unfinished seeks to direct attention to processes more than results in an attempt to discover design strategies generated by an optimistic view of the constructed environment. The exhibition gathers examples of architecture produced during the past few years, born out of renunciation and economy of means, designed to evolve and adapt to future necessities and trusting in the beauty conferred by the passage of time. These projects have understood the lessons of the recent past and consider architecture to be something unfinished, in a constant state of evolution and truly in the service of humanity. The current moment of uncertainty in our profession makes its consideration here, especially relevant.

 

Re-Edificatoria_ Adrià Goula ©Adrià Goula
Re-Edificatoria_ Adrià Goula ©Adrià Goula

ARCHITECTEM Let’s begin with the concept

 

IC This year Alejandro Aravena invited curators of all the national pavilions to respond to what we think is the major issue that architecture has been suffering in recent years. For us in Spain, it was very obvious; the problem has to do with the fact that when we benefited from a period of economic wealth, we started building many public and private buildings, without reflecting too much on necessity. After the economic crisis, some of these structures that were under construction remained unfinished, because the clients did not have money and resources to maintain them. What we have in Spain right now is a collection of contemporary buildings, what we call ‘contemporary ruins’, that exist all over and nobody is taking care of. So the idea of the pavilion is on one hand reporting these situations, these unfinished constructions but at the same time giving a positive perspective. By inviting seven photographers in the central space we are showing the work of seven people who have been documenting these ruins and it has a certain beauty of showing things that are meant to be hidden. For us the beauty of the process is the opportunity it leads you to find other tools or strategies that can be used to solve things. On the one hand, we are reporting the situation in the central space, and at the same time we are showing on the sides, solutions.

ARCHITECTEM The catalogue posits “The selected projects show the architects response to the economic and construction crisis over the past years in Spain through virtues that can become strategies or creative speculations which are capable to subvert the past condition into a positive contemporary action.” Do the ‘contemporary ruins’ act as dynamic case studies in the quest for solutions?

IC They became the tool to report this situation. So as solutions to the unfinished projects, the projects on the sides consider the built environment as part of the strategy and reflect on the amount of architecture needed to be produced in order to solve the problem and to activate these abandoned constructions.

Two Houses at Oropesa, Paredes Pedrosa ©Luis Asín
Two Houses at Oropesa, Paredes Pedrosa ©Luis Asín

ARCHITECTEM The strategies thus proposed are specific to the local context; can they be universally applied?

IC I think it can be universally applied, I mean this problem of incomplete and unfinished construction or this idea of reflecting on the factor of time in architecture is relevant for us, its very contemporary for us, but we can find it in other countries, other contexts and I think it’s a critical global issue. It brings attention to the fact that we have to be aware of the resources we have and to balance the amount of resources we put on the table to solve problems. Actually I think it is an opportunity.

ARCHITECTEMBeing an active academic, are these issues of reassignment, adaptability and re-appropriation a focus in the studios you teach?

IC Defiantly. At Cornell these past three years, these have been the major topics we have been working on in the studios as well. I like to always put students under constraints. Certain constraints are often given by the site, by the political situations, and sometimes defined by the history of a place. By reducing the amount of elements students can use, they are forced to improve their creativity.

Depósito del Rei Martí 11_ARCHIKUBIK_©Adrià Goula
Depósito del Rei Martí 11_ARCHIKUBIK_©Adrià Goula

ARCHITECTEM In the prevailing economic and political environment do you anticipate architects bearing increasing responsibility to provide solutions for unfinished and existing projects?

IC In Spain it’s happening, because of the lack of investment for new buildings many offices are inventing this new strategy; adding to or removing from things that already exist, sometimes thinking about the evolution of a building by proposing solutions but then also thinking about what will happen in another 20 years. So this a new way of thinking about design in Spain, that I think could be extended to other countries.

Depósito del Rei Martí 11_ARCHIKUBIK_©Adrià Goula
Depósito del Rei Martí 11_ARCHIKUBIK_©Adrià Goula

ARCHITECTEMWill this global movement affect the way we define star architects or style specific architectural design?

IC Of course, 8 years ago in the model we had, the masters were star architects defining their own brand. They were fighting to restore an old language and then going on to define what they thought was their unique language. Now these proposals are more related to offices, where young architects are less interested in defining their own brand and more in using the tools they learn in school in order to produce and improve living conditions by measuring the amount of new architecture they need to produce. I think the identity of the architect is still there, if you see these 55 projects you can see very different approach. And they identify very different interests. I’m not saying that the architect, the creativity of the architect is not present anymore. It’s an opportunity to be more creative with less tools. I’m very positive about the near future and this shift, I think, is going to improve things.

Pabellón de España ©Juan Rodríguez
Pabellón de España ©Juan Rodríguez

The exhibition at the Venice Biennale will remain open up till 27 November 2016.

Bustler: Winning participants revealed

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The 2016 Venice Biennale is off to a positive start with the announcement of the National Participation winners during opening inauguration this past Saturday. Throughout the Biennale grounds, 63 countries are showcasing their unique architectural responses to the 2016 theme “Reporting from the Front”. After evaluations, the 2016 jury — which includes President of the Jury Hashim Sarkis (Lebanon, USA), Pippo Ciorra (Italy), Sergio Fajardo (Colombia), Marisa Moreira Salles (Brazil), and Karen Stein (USA) — decided which countries had the most outstanding exhibits.

Spain scored the Golden Lion for Best National Participation with “Unfinished”. This year’s top winners also include Japan, Peru, Gabinete de Arquitectura, NLÉ, and Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo.

Last but not least, Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha was presented with the honorable 2016 Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.

Read on for a little more about the winning participants.

Golden Lion for Best National Participation: Spain – “Unfinished”. Photo via La Biennale di Venezia.

Golden Lion for Best National Participation: Spain – “Unfinished”
Commissioner: Iñaqui Carnicero + Carlos Quintans
Curator: Carnicero + Quintans
Exhibitor: Contemporary Spanish Architecture

The jury selected Spain’s “Unfinished” for being “a concisely curated selection of emerging architects whose work shows how creativity and commitment can transcend material constraints.”

Special Mention: Japan – “en : art of nexus”. Photo via La Biennale di Venezia.

Special Mention: Japan – “en : art of nexus”
Commissioner: The Japan Foundation
Curator: Yoshiyuki Yamana
Exhibitors: Seiichi Hishikawa, mnm (Mio Tsuneyama), Osamu Nishida+Erika Nakagawa(Osamu Nishida, Erika Nakagawa, Naruse Inokuma Architects (Jun Inokuma, Yuri Naruse), Naka Architects’ Studio (Toshiharu Naka, Yuri Uno), Nousaku Architects (Fuminori Nousaku, Junpei Nousaku), miCo. (Mizuki Imamura, Isao Shinohara), Levi Architecture (Jun Nakagawa), Shingo Masuda+Katsuhisa Otsubo Architects (Shingo Masuda, Katsuhisa Otsubo), Koji Aoki Architects (Koji Aoki), 403architecture [dajiba] (Takuma Tsuji, Takeshi Hashimoto, Toru Yada), BUS (Satoru Ito, Kosuke Bando, Issei Suma), dot architects (Toshikatsu Ienari, Takeshi Shakushiro, Wataru Doi).

Japan received a Special Mention for “bringing the poetry of compactness to alternative forms of collective living in a dense urban setting.”

Special Mention: Peru – “Our Amazon Frontline”. Photo via La Biennale di Venezia.

Special Mention: Peru – “Our Amazon Frontline”
Commissioner: José Orrego
Curators: Sandra Barclay and Jean Pierre Crousse
Exhibitors: Elizabeth Añaños; Sebastián Cillóniz; Claudia Flores; Jose Luis Villanueva; Militza Carrillo, Gino Fernández; Miguel Chávez, Alvaro Echevarría, Alfonso Orbegoso; Karel van Oordt, Daizuke Izumi, Alejandro Torero; Carlos Tamayo; Luis Miguel Hadzich

Peru received a Special Mention for “bringing architecture to a remote corner of the world, making it both a venue for learning as well as a means for preserving the culture of the Amazon.”

e-architect

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Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award in 2016

Golden Lion for Best National Participation – SPAIN

Spain has been awarded the Golden Lion for best pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016, for the exhibition ‘Unfinished’ ; Gabinete de Arquitectura has been awarded the prize for best exhibition.

‘Unfinished’, Pavilion of Spain:
Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award 2016 Pavilion of Spain
photo © Fernando Maquieira

Unfinished_Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award 2016 Pavilion of Spain
photo © Fernando Maquieira

The Spanish Pavilion was curated by architects Iñaqui Carnicero, co-founder of Rica Studio, and Carlos Quintáns.

Spanish Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2016:
Venice Biennale Pavilion Golden Lion Award 2016

The international Jury of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia composed of Hashim Sarkis (President of the Jury, Lebanon, USA), Pippo Ciorra (Italy), Sergio Fajardo (Colombia), Marisa Moreira Salles (Brazil), and Karen Stein (USA) has decided to confer the awards as follows:

Golden Lion for Best National Participation

SPAIN
UNFINISHED
Commissioner: Iñaqui Carnicero + Carlos Quintans.
Curator: Carnicero + Quintans
Exhibitor: Contemporary Spanish Architecture.
Venue: Giardini

Spanish Pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale 2016:
Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award 2016 Pavilion

Two special mentions have been awarded to the following National Participations:

Archilovers: Awards of the 15th Architecture Biennale

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The international Jury of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia has conferred the awards last Saturday May 28th 2016 at the Biennale headquarters, Ca’ Giustinian.

The Jury was composed of Hashim Sarkis (President of the Jury, Lebanon, USA), Pippo Ciorra (Italy), Sergio Fajardo (Colombia), Marisa Moreira Salles (Brazil), and Karen Stein (USA).

The Spanish Pavilion curated by architects Iñaqui Carnicero and Carlos Quintáns

 

You can see below all the winners and the Special mentions. The five members of Jury of awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation to Unfinished in the Pavilion of Spain (Giardini) ‘for a concisely curated selection of emerging architects, whose work shows how creativity and commitment can transcend material constraints’.

Pavilion of Japan, curated by Yoshiyuki Yamana

 

Two National Participations received Special Mentions: en: art of nexus in the Pavilion of Japan (Giardini) ‘for bringing the poetry of compactness to alternative forms of collective living in a dense urban setting’; and Our Amazon Frontline in the Pavilion of Peru (Arsenale) ‘for bringing architecture to a remote corner of the world, making it both a venue for learning as well as a means for preserving the culture of the Amazon’.

The Peruvian pavilion, curated by Barclay & Crousse

 

Kunlé Adeyemi (NLÉ, The Netherlands) was awarded the Silver Lion for a Promising Young Participant ‘for a powerful demonstration, be it in Lagos or in Venice, that architecture, at once iconic and pragmatic, can amplify the importance of education’.

The floating wood-framed school that he built in Venice (Gaggiandre, Arsenale), referring to his Makoko Floating School (Nigeria, 2013), will be dismantled after the exhibition and shipped to Nigeria.

Floating School in Venice by NLÉ

 

Silver Lion for a promising young participant to NLÉ(Kunlé AdeyemiWaterfront) ‘for a powerful demonstration, be it in Lagos or in Venice, that architecture, at once iconic and pragmatic, can amplify the importance of education’.

Breaking the siege by Gabinete de Arquitectura

 

Golden Lion for the Best Participant in the 15th Exhibition REPORTING FROM THE FRONT to Gabinete de Arquitectura (Solano Benítez; Gloria Cabral; Solanito Benítez – Paraguay) ‘for harnessing simple materials, structural ingenuity and unskilled labour to bring architecture to underserved communities’ in the Breaking the siege project.

 

Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo (Italy) was awarded a Special Mention as a Participant for ‘her perseverance in using the rigours of her discipline to elevate the everyday into timeless works of architecture’ in Her small-scale work in Sicily Onore perduto (Central Pavilion, Giardini).

Onore perduto by Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo

 

The Board of Directors of the Venice Biennale awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Paulo Mendes da Rocha (Brazil) on the recommendation Alejandro Aravena, director of the 15th International Art Exhibition.

Venice Biennale 2016: Gabinete de Arquitectura and the Spanish Pavilion Win Golden Lion Awards

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The five members of international Jury of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition today awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation to Unfinished in the Pavilion of Spain (Giardini) for ‘a concisely curated selection of emerging architects, whose work shows how creativity and commitment can transcend material constraints’.

The Spanish Pavilion “Unfinished”. Photograph © Stefan Tuchila

The Spanish Pavilion was curated by architects Iñaqui Carnicero and Carlos Quintáns. Photograph courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

Two National Participations received Special Mentions: en: art of nexus in the Pavilion of Japan (Giardini) ‘for bringing the poetry of compactness to alternative forms of collective living in a dense urban setting’; and Our Amazon Frontline in the Pavilion of Peru (Arsenale) ‘for bringing architecture to a remote corner of the world, making it both a venue for learning as well as a means for preserving the culture of the Amazon’.

The work of Gabinete de Arquitectura. Photograph courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

The Golden Lion for the Best Participant was awarded to Gabinete de Arquitectura (Central Pavilion, Giardini) for ‘harnessing simple materials, structural ingenuity and unskilled labour to bring architecture to under-served communities’.

Floating School in Venice by NLÉ. Photograph © Stefan Tuchila

Kunlé Adeyemi (NLÉ, The Netherlands) was awarded the Silver Lion for a Promising Young Participant for ‘a powerful demonstration, be it in Lagos or in Venice, that architecture, at once iconic and pragmatic, can amplify the importance of education’. The floating wood-framed school that he built in Venice (Gaggiandre, Arsenale), similar to his Makoko Floating School (Lagos, Nigeria, 2013), will be dismantled after the exhibition and shipped to Nigeria.

Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo (Italy) received a Special Mention as a Participant for ‘her perseverance in using the rigours of her discipline to elevate the everyday into timeless works of architecture’. Her small-scale work in Sicily (Central Pavilion, Giardini) emphatically rejects banality and mediocrity.

Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Via Bustler

The Board of Directors of the Venice Biennale awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Paulo Mendes da Rocha (Brazil) on the recommendation Alejandro Aravena, director of the 15th International Art Exhibition.

Archinet: Dispatch from the Venice Biennale: Unfinished processes and unseen industries

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Main room (front view), Unfinished. Spain Pavilion. Image courtesy of Fernando Maquieira ©.

Main room (front view), Unfinished. Spain Pavilion. Image courtesy of Fernando Maquieira ©.

The lady on the ladder chosen as the image for the 2016 Biennale Architettura sees, amidst “great disappointments[,] creativity and hope,” states Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale. “[S]he sees them in the here-and-now, not in some uncertain aspirational, ideological future.” Several pavilions choose this approach to portray “trends going […] towards renewal”; encouraging instances of the how profession addresses the challenges outlined by Aravena.

This year’s recipient of the Golden Lion for Best National Participation, Spain’s Unfinished, showcases 55 different projects that have reimagined the “unfinished remains of […] the largest construction enterprise in Spanish history,” as described by co-curator Iñaqui Carnicero. The Pavilion, located at the entrance of the Giardini, feels open and easy to navigate. The language of the unfinished comes out in every detail. Suspended metal stud frames make of the main room a playful sequence to the exhibition. Additional projects are displayed in adjacent rooms, with photographs and axonometric drawings in wooden frames that stabilize the metal studs which support them. Every part of the exhibit builds on another, bringing together the many layers of the proposal.

The Pavilion allows for multiple readings: from a 30-second selfie to an in-depth description of each project on the website or through the QR codes along the walls. It also sets the stage for a broader discussion that the curators hope to spark on social media through the #Unfinished tag. Unfinished also has a pamphlet for free distribution during the Biennale, two print books, and three online publications to contribute to the debate. “We want this to generate a lot of expectation, of hope; it is a very optimistic project”, says co-curator Carlos Quintáns.

The Poland Pavilion, Fair Building, shows another side of the unfinished. “We know where our food comes from, where our clothes are stitched—why don’t we talk about how our buildings are made? Is it possible to have ‘fair trade’ buildings?” asks co-curator Dominika Janicka. Across the small canal in the Giardini, Fair Building places the focus on construction workers and instigates a discussion on the hidden participants of architecture. The Pavilion is divided into two rooms that evidence the industry’s dichotomy. The first room screens videos of the construction industry projected on screens along metal scaffolding. Videos of 15 workers wearing Go-Pro cameras on their helmets are complemented by interviews with 50 others about the realities of working on site. The second room opens into a pristine layout of leather sofas and flat-screen televisions to resemble a sales room for luxury projects.

The other walls of the second room exhibits the realities of the architecture industry, where the architect comprises a minuscule fraction of a project and the construction work is the real backstage sweatshop that we fail to acknowledge. “We want to show the hidden cost of the architecture business,” says Janicka, “not only architecture how the user sees it.” The Polish Pavilion steers clear of the judgmental, although the curators feel passionate about declarations like those of the late Zaha Hadid on her work in Qatar. Fair Building wants to have an open discussion, highlighting the problem but also asking “is Fair Building possible?”

Main room, Unfinished. Spain Pavilion. Image courtesy of Fernando Maquieira ©.
Unfinished. Spain Pavilion. Photo by Laura Amaya.
Exhibited projects, Unfinished. Spain Pavilion. Image courtesy of Fernando Maquieira ©.
Unfinished in the details. Spain Pavilion. Image courtesy of Fernando Maquieira ©.
Interviews, Unfinished. Spain Pavilion. Image courtesy of Fernando Maquieira ©.
Fair Building, Polish Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2016, exhibition view. Photo courtesy of Maciej Jelonek.
Construction site at Fair Building, Polish Pavilion. Photo courtesy of Maciej Jelonek.
Fair Building, Polish Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2016, exhibition view. Photo courtesy of Maciej Jelonek.
Fair Building, Polish Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2016, exhibition view. Photo courtesy of Maciej Jelonek.
Sales room at Fair Building. Polish Pavilion. Photo by Laura Amaya.
Fair Building, 2016. 5-channel video installation, film still. Polish Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2016.
Fair Building, 2016. 5-channel video installation, film still. Polish Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2016.