Curated by FAT Architecture and Crimson Architectural Historians, the exhibition at British Pavilion in Venice chronicles origins and myths of British Modernism: from the moment it emerged from the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution until its collapse in the 70s. www.britishcouncil-venice.org – labiennale.org – www.fashionarchitecturetaste.com – www.crimsonweb.org
Curator Sam Jacob of FAT Architecture said: “A Clockwork Jerusalem describes a world where ruins become utopias, where archaeology and futurism merge, the Picturesque is reimagined as concrete geometry, and where pop culture, history and social ambition are fused into new national futures. It argues for a rebooting of the British tradition of visionary planning”.
Indeed, British Modernism combined traditions of the Romantic, sublime and pastoral with a fascination and fear of the industry, technology and science fiction to create new visions of society that became the basis for post-war architecture and planning.
Outside the pavilion, visitors are greeted by a pair of Concrete Cows on loan from Milton Keynes – the last of the post-war British New Towns. The statues that are the city unofficial mascots assume a formal position on either side of the entrance in the manner of Venetian lions.
The portico of the British Pavilion has been transformed into an ‘Electric Picturesque’ landscape. Tree trunks installed from floor to ceiling interrupt the symmetry of the Neoclassical pavilion. Seen through the forest is an animated white LED galloping horse, representing a high-tech reworking of the Neolithic white horses carved into British hillsides.
In the main room of the pavilion visitors can climb an earth-mound that references thousands of years of British architecture, from ancient burial mounds to the rubble of demolished slums. The mound symbolises both the beginning and the end: destruction and construction.
Surrounding the mound there is a panoramic narrative image that tells the story of British Modernism, referencing British visual and architectural culture: William Morris, Stanley Kubrick, David Hockey, Archigram and more. The eye of William Blake, author of the words to the famous poem Jerusalem, sits at the centre of the panorama, made up with a cog like a Droog from Stanley Kubrick’s famous A Clockwork Orange.
In the rooms around the central installation, images, objects and artefacts tell the story of British Modernism from Stonehenge to council estates, from Ebenezer Howard to Cliff Richard, from ruins and destruction to rural fantasies. Large scale models show three of the exhibition’s significant housing projects: Hulme, Thamesmead and Cumbernauld.
A Clockwork Jerusalem will be open to the public throughout the duration of the Biennale Architettura 2014, until the 23rd November 2014.
Photos: Courtesy of the British Council. www.britishcouncil-venice.org