June 11, 2014

The name Rem Koolhaas is on everyone’s lips at this Venice Architecture Biennale. As curator of this massive show he has titled Fundamentals, Rem has declared it has “nothing to do with design” and expressed his wish to disconnect with contemporary architecture altogether, focusing instead on the elements – stairs. ceilings, elevators, doorknobs and toilets – that combine to create buildings.

There’s a visceral sense of a ground swell, of an imminent shift in the way we think about architecture today. But while waiting for the dust to settle, it was great fun looking around this 14th International Architecture Biennale. It’s full of nostalgia for me, since Venice is one of the key cities that formed part of my cultural ‘grand tour’ before setting up my practice in Sydney 15 years ago. (It’s also, incidentally though not negligibly, where I bought my first-ever pair of Prada pants!) It’s also where I’ll return next year, to represent Australia in the Commissioner’s Council for the art biennale.

In the meantime, here are a few highlights from this year’s (no matter how much Rem Koolhaas would like otherwise) Architecture Biennale…


Construction of the Arsenale shipyards began in the 12th century, it’s where the Venetian Republic built up and moored its massive naval fleet.

Modern and Classic: Sven Ferr’s magnificent Nordic pavilion and the Classic Danish pavilion.

Japanese Pavilion. A model of an off form concrete building by Tado Ando – made of off form concrete!

Discussion panel at the Swiss pavilion. (Just in the shade, wearing black-on-black,Jacques Herzog of Herzog  de Meuron.

Kosovo’s dramatic installation made from traditional stools.


Author: Nick tobias