What’s Past and What’s Next in Architecture at the Venice Biennale

Daniel Davis – 8 July 2014

Last month I ventured to Venice. Partly I was there to help OfficeUS prepare for the opening of the Venice Biennale, partly I was there to help cover the opening for ARCHITECT magazine.

The opening was weird. An archipelago of architecture inhabited by name-brand architects, pamphlet thrusting PR agents, life giving bar tenders, unaware tourists, and  journalists. A perfect analogue for the world of architecture.

Opening aside, it was the main exhibit that I found the most compelling and that I wrote about for ARCHITECT magazine:

Curated by Rem Koolhaas, the main exhibition, “Elements of Architecture,” resembles a natural history museum with its taxonomy of life-sized architectural elements on display. The elements are categorized into 15 fundamental genera—such as walls, doors, and ramps—that are organized to show the mutations and adaptations leading to the evolution of each element throughout architecture’s history.

After charting the development of architecture elements over the past 5,000 years, the most interesting part of this exhibit was to do with how Koolhaas envisioned the elements evolving. It isn’t obvious from the exhibition or catalogue, but at the opening there was a lot of emphasis placed on the growing datafication of architecture. To quote Koolhaas:

“every element [is about to] associate itself with data-driven technology”

There are quite profound implications to having every element of the building producing, analyzing, and reacting to data. You’ll have to read the full article to find these out, but I’ll leave you with the conclusion:

In a move symbolic of Silicon Valley’s growing influence, Nest CEO, Tony Fadell, joined Koolhaas on stage at the Biennale opening to discuss the future of architecture. In some ways, it was a condemnation of how uninspiring architects have become to have the CEO of a thermostat company representing the avant-garde of architecture at the Biennale. Yet, as Koolhaas says, “the architectural community hasn’t given it much thought that each element will be profoundly influenced by its connection to the digital world.” As such, architects look destined to repeat history—a history driven by technological developments rather than architects.

Thanks again to Wanda Lau for editing the article. Read the full article on ARCHITECT magazine.