Team Spirit

 10 Jun 2014

‘The Clouds of Venice’ for the Australian pavilion at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale by supermanoeuvre. The Clouds of Venice creates a diffuse spatial condition through an ultra-high population assembly of steel rods. Each element undergoes a unique sequence of bending operations performed by an industrial robot controlled via custom software written by supermanoeuvre. The form is a result of the explicit negotiation between material properties, tectonic constraints and experiential desires. 

You might have thought you knew what the role of architecture was, in at the Biennale this year, creative directors Anthony Burke and Gerard Reinmuth decided to confront traditional perceptions. Under the theme Formations, they highlighted the way architects have become more collaborative than ever (they even enlisted Sydney studio Toko Concept Design to be
an integral part of their creative team). They gathered together an Australian contingent of six groups, each of which exhibited a different way of collaborating.

First, there was Healthabitat, a UN award- winning team that has improved the health of Australian indigenous people by using good design to upgrade their homes. A 10-year study of the team’s work has shown a 40 per cent reduction in illnesses associated with a poor living environment. The team, led by architect Paul Pholeros, has even implemented its ‘Housing for Health’ principles in places as far apart as Nepal and Brooklyn, New York, and in Venice Pholeros worked on homes of local people to show how $7,000 worth of improvements could dramatically improve living conditions.

Zip Industries are one of the sponsors of the Australia pavilion at the 2012 Venice International Architecture Biennale. According to the pavilion’s creative directors, Anthony Burke and Gerard Reinmuth, collaboration is the name of the game.

Other exhibitors also took the Australian exhibition beyond the pavilion’s walls. Architects Supermanoeuvre designed a metal birdcage- type structure around a staircase leading up to the light monitor at the top of the pavilion. “Visitors could look out across the canal and to the pavilions around them,” explains Burke, head of the Architecture School at University of Technology Sydney. “Everything was designed to project visitors out into Venice and into the conversations we really wanted to have with other international exhibitors.”

Fellow exhibitor Archrival took part in that conversation in a very active way. The non-profit organisation, which creates small-scale, high- volume projects, filled the courtyard between the Australian, French, Czech and Uruguayan pavilions, with foosball (table soccer) games taking place in a way that bonded them all.

Meanwhile, Melbourne’s RRR radio show The Architects went out and about with microphones, recording interviews and shows in the Biennale grounds. “There was this strong sense of us reaching out,” says Burke. “We really grabbed eyes in many different and unexpected ways.” Particularly unexpected were the activities of sculptor and architect Richard Goodwin, who toured the canals of Venice by boat, mapping the city on video before returning to the Giardini, climbing a pole and sliding back into the light monitor at the top of the pavilion on a huge flying fox. “In a way, the Australian pavilion was everywhere,” says Reinmuth, a founding director of Sydney architectural practice Terroir.

It wasn’t even just Australian. Tom Kovac (a professor of architecture at Melbourne’s RMIT) and PhD student Fleur Watson showed off their ideas for Maribor in Slovenia, this year’s European City of Culture. They presented their exhibition 2112 Ai (100YR City) in both the Australian and Slovenian pavilions, reflecting on how the city of Maribor could be transformed over the next 100 years, and demonstrating how collaboration was essential for innovation.

“Our aim was to focus on Australia doing things out in the world,” Reinmuth shares. “In a way, it’s like the Zip HydroTap. It’s not just an Australian product; it’s an incredibly good product internationally.”

"Article taken from Boiling Point issue no. 19, published by the Indesign Media Asia Pacific. Words by supermanoeuvre, Project Team: Iain Maxwell, Dave Pigram, Wes McGee, Ben Hagenhofer, Lauren Vasey, Whit Sel f"