From Vatican Chapels to a Gay Culture Pavilion—See Highlights From the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale

This year's theme is "Freespace" and the exhibitors tackle everything from politics to sex and religion at the biennial.

The Central Pavilion in Venice. Image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

The 16th edition of the Venice Architectural Biennale kicked off last week, with throngs of tourists infiltrating the Bride of the Sea for the event. This year’s theme is “Freespace,” which co-curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects see as the ideal state of architecture—bridging pubic and private spaces.

From religion to sex, the exhibitors didn’t shy away from hot-button topics. The Vatican’s 10 architect-designed chapels created as much buzz as a Cruising Pavilion centering on gay culture. But it was the Swiss Pavilion’s “House Tour” that snagged a Golden Lion for its playful approach to scale.

The biennale runs through November 25, with 71 participants in the main “Freespace” pavilions, plus 63 national participants and a bevvy of satellite events. Here are the highlights of this year’s show.

IslandGreat Britain, Giardini

Great Britain’s Pavilion “Island.” Image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Work, Body, LeisureThe Netherlands, Giardini

Netherland’s Pavilion “Work, Body, Leisure.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Netherland’s Pavilion “Work, Body, Leisure.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

RepairAustralia, Giardini

Australia Pavilion’s “Repair.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Australia Pavilion’s “Repair.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Infinite Places—Building or Making Places?France, Giardini

France’s Pavilion “Infinite Places.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

France’s Pavilion “Infinite Places.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

In Statu Quo: Structures of a Neighborhood: Israel, Giardini

Israel’s “In Statu Quo: Structures of Negotiation.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Israel’s “In Statu Quo: Structures of Negotiation.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Unbuilding Walls: Germany, Giardini

Germany’s “Unbuilding Walls.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Germany’s “Unbuilding Walls.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Another GenerosityNordic Countries, Giardini

Nordic Country’s Pavilion “Another Generosity.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Nordic Country’s Pavilion “Another Generosity.” Photo by Italo Rondinella, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Dimensions of CitizenshipUnited States of America, Giardini

United States’s Pavilion “Dimensions of Citizenship.” Image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

United States’s Pavilion “Dimensions of Citizenship.” Image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Svizzera 240–House Tour: Switzerland, Giardini

Switerland’s Pavilion “Svizzera 240: House Tour.” Photo: Christian Beutler/Keystone, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Switerland’s Pavilion “Svizzera 240: House Tour.” Photo: Christian Beutler/Keystone, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

 

Vértigo Horizontal: Argentina, Arsenale

The “Pampas Box” in the Argentine Pavilion’s “Vertical Horizontal.” Image by Alam Mulyana via Instagram.

Argentina Pavilion’s “Vértigo Horizontal” image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Free Market: Ireland, Arsenale

Ireland’s “Free Market.” Photo by Francesco Galli, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Ireland’s “Free Market.” Photo by Francesco Galli, image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

No More Free Space?Singapore, Arsenale

Singapore’s Pavilion “No More Free Space?” Image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Singapore’s Pavilion “No More Free Space?” Image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

Cruising Pavilion, Venice

Installation view of the Cruising Pavilion, photo: Louis De Belle.

Tom Burr, Anthology of Writings 1991-2015, edited by Florence Derieux, published by Sternberg Press. Courtesy of the Cruising Pavilion.

Vatican Chapels: Holy See, San Giorgio Maggiore

Exterior View of the Holy See Pavilion. Image Courtesy of MAP Studio / ALPI Courtesy of MAP Studio / ALPI.

Robin Hood Gardens: A Ruin in Reverse: Victoria & Albert Museum, Pavilion of Applied Arts

The Robin Hood Gardens Estate mid-demolition. Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images.

DO HO SUH’s “Robin Hood Gardens, Woolmore Street, London E14 0HG” (film still), 2018. © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Maupin New York and Hong Kong, and Victoria Miro London and Venice.


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