(Thoughts on the Swiss and German Pavilions Venice Biennale 2012)
Architecture as resource is the title of the German pavilion with the slogan; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle as the headliners. The main theme here is the reconsidering of an existing stock of buildings mainly from the post war period that are not necessarily considered as a cultural value. What’s constitutes value in architecture? Past and present? How can you judge or chose what to keep from the existing stock? Can you use the same parameters to critique the new architecture? If you regard all the architecture as a resource and judge without the hierarchy of time, perhaps that is a helpful tool in creating means for “judging” contemporary building practice.”The existing housing stock” is what creates an urban situation and thinking of the the city as a whole, means that architecture is always an act of transformation within a preexisting condition. So what we do is always to be thought of as a transformation of an existing situation and not as a singular intervention. If it is a renovation or a completely new project, the act is still a transformation of an existing “ensemble” as Miroslav Šik puts it in the Swiss pavilion.
Hearing Šik talk was one of my Biennale highlights. It was refreshing to listen to somebody who truly practices what he preaches – a rare quality in architecture today. I enjoyed the directness of his installation at the Swiss Pavilion. As with the rest of his work, he seeks the obvious approach – the most fitting solution. His beautifully crafted collage or ensemble is all the more provocative for its willingness to become background. Perhaps Baron Foster of South Bank could benefit from a dose of Šik’s caustic wit. His installation in the Arsenale left me cold, but then perhaps I missed the point – I was too distracted by the names of famous architects whizzing around my feet.