Andrea Zamboni´s review of ¨Unfinished¨ in Domus

Author Andrea Zamboni

Photography Luis Díaz Díaz

Published 16 June 2016

Location Venice


After the incredible drive witnessed at the end of the last century followed by a couple of decades of huge ferment, in 2008 Spain entered an overwhelming and paralysing slump that seriously affected its architectural world.

The abrupt change in the status quo – from a total lack of resources to changing prospects while works were in progress and even a sudden collapse in the need for the works under construction – transformed extraordinary design opportunities into crippled and unexpressed projects placed on hold. The recession left many works of architecture unfinished, contemporary ruins awaiting a fate partially already sealed and partially still to be rewritten and flamboyant but incomplete works along with small abandoned masterpieces rising on the horizon.

Unfinished, Spanish pavilion, Venice Biennale 2016, installation view

A speculative gaze on these new contemporary ruins prompted the curators to optimistically look at them from a different angle, guided by historic references of sure effect. Iñaqui Carnicero and Carlos Quintans Eiras have turned agonising issues into an extraordinary opportunity to bring the best-known and most promising voices of contemporary Spanish architecture together non-ideologically but within a single story and with a single destiny. Combining several generations has brought out the most genuine implication that Spanish architecture can convey, which is the collective worth of an approach to architecture – today grappling with a new condition from which to pick up the thread.

Unfinished, Spanish pavilion, Venice Biennale 2016, installation view

Leaving behind the years of major expansion and expression, and the ensuing abandon, the undercurrent reveals an unshakeable faith in the value of their action and a firm awareness of the public worth of architecture, something that Spain conveyed at the height of its media successes and still manifests today, at a time of extreme difficulty. The paradox remains that it is one of the countries that, for years, generated a sense and manner of creating architecture but that today finds itself up against an unavoidable situation and the problem of having to define a new form, if not something that is still developing.

Unfinished, Spanish pavilion, Venice Biennale 2016, installation view

The ensuing transitory imprint denounces a state of possible transformation, a condition to which Spanish architecture is striving to lend new form in any way it can. Even the exhibition design is a constructed example of a sense of transience, with extruded aluminium and suspended panels simulating incomplete partitions. The “unfinished” steps out of the picturesque category to unveil the nitty-gritty of unfinished works but it is also an expression of a new condition where a different form and a different meaning can be produced. The result is a selection of projects sharing the theme of building on what is already built, in what is already built and with what is already built, pointing to a potential new direction for contemporary Spanish architecture.

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