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14th Venice Biennale

On Fundamentals


That Koolhaas always ‘wins’ is proven in his latest project: the curatorship of the Venice Architecture Biennale, which this year is structured on ‘Fundamentals’ and three themes: ‘Elements’, ‘Absorbing Modernity’, and ‘Monditalia’. Only ‘Elements’ has borne real fruit, having at least gelled in the fifteen booklets of the event’s encyclopedic catalog (see page 61), which presents the same number of architectural ‘elements’: from the fireplace to the ramp through the window or the door. Not much can be said, however, about the other two, especially ‘1914–2014. Absorbing Modernity’: few of those invited have addressed it or offered a real answer. The Dutch master’s real stroke has been the examination of conscience called for by the exhibition: talk about architecture, not about architects, after the ‘star system’ years. An act of contrition whose conclusion has been all too predictable, with nobody talking about stars but everybody ending up talking about Rem Koolhaas.

In the awards chapter of this otherwise on the whole successful exhibition, the Golden Lion has gone to South Korea, and the Silver Lion to Chile. The list of silvers includes – in the projects section – an incisive reflection by Andrés Jaque on the power that communications media are wielding in urban planning. This is a sociological counterpoint to the more ‘disciplinary’ Spanish pavilion, the exhibition in which, curated by Iñaki Ábalos, has chosen to address the environmental role of architectural interiors through a selection of twelve buildings.

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