Architecture – Building a better world is a tough task in these troubled times. At Venice Biennale 2021, several projects suggest a broader and more inclusive vision to tackle global emergencies: multi-species architecture. The projects respond to the curator’s main theme ‘How will we live together?’, not only in harmony with other humans but also with other living beings.
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Rotterdam-based Tomáš Libertíny presents an exhibition of sculptural works made by humans and bees. The humans 3D printed prefabricated skeletons of miniature architectural forms such as a Nefertiti bust and a domed pavilion, over 60.000 bees co-designed and built it by depositing wax around it.“Bees are cloud engineers,” explains Libertíny. “Only by using this back-and-forth process between nature and technology informing each other can we remain in balance with the surrounding environment. In this, perhaps, lies the answer to how we live together.” Videos showcase the process behind the making.
Harnessing algae superpowers
What if we could home-grow air and protein-purifying algae to complement our meals and clean our house as well? EcoloLogicStudio presents an exhibition “combining architecture and microbiology.” Thanks to their efficient metabolism, the spirulina platensis and chlorella algae are super photosynthesisers and can consume more CO2 than trees. They are also the most nutritious organisms that could complement our meals. On show two home-purifying vertical gardens and a convivial installation where people can gather to experiment with and taste the freshly harvested algae.
A future Danish forest grows in Venice
A soil-free hydroponics garden of pine tree seedling grows in the EFFEKT‘s installation at Arsenale. Water and nutrients circulate their roots for six months, thriving among seven biophilic models selected by the Danish studio. The plants are remotely controlled from Copenhagen and once the Venice Biennale is over, they will be planted in Denmark as part of an urban reforestation project.
There is an inseparable bond between elephants and the Kuy people, an ethnic group in Thailand’s Tha Tum district. Due to urbanization and over-tourism, the animals are often forced to wander in tourist cities or labor in forest camps until they fall ill and die. On display are a Tha Tum elephant shrine-like elephant shelter and a touching video. What can be learned from it, where humans and elephants have lived side by side for centuries? Asks the curator Boonserm Premthada.
Land of Milk and Honey
Israel explores humans’ relationship with wild and farm animals in the biblical Land of Milk and Honey, the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The touching exhibition, inaugurated during difficult days for both Israel and Palestine, highlights the role of urbanization and technology in reshaping the natural landscape with far-reaching environmental consequences.
A multi-species dining experience
At the Arsenale, Superflux set out a banquet for all forms of life, including humans, animals, plants and fungi. Titled Resurgence, the London-based studio presents an imaginary four-metre-long wild oak table with stools for different species of flora and fauna and envisioning a future in which plants and wildlife have reclaimed our cities and humans understood they depend on other lifeforms.
Variations of a birdcage
Alessandra Covini and Giovanni Bellotti of Studio Ossidiana present Variations on a Bird Cage, an exercise in coexistence between a human and a bird, developing the archetype of the cage from a space of confinement towards a mediative object. The exhibition spatialises the relation between bodies/species through an intermediary object, the cage, its shape and materials. “Habits transform into habitats, and the actions embedded in ‘living together’ become the ingredients for a project of transformation.” A bird-like cage tower complements the exhibition at Corderie in the Gardens of Arsenale.
Fungi, rocks, tree trunks, and animals are displayed as objects, projections, images, films and audio recordings at the Future Assembly exhibition by Studio Other Spaces, founded by artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann. On show in the Central Pavilion at Giardini, the installation illustrates an imaginary future that centre’s the natural world in an international collaboration informed by the alliance of the United Nations.
The ‘stakeholders’ section of the exhibition represents a future assembly representing entities whose rights are typically left out of human legislation. Fungus organisms submitted by Doxiadis+ and a bat submitted by Maeid represent the interdependence on human-built infrastructure. A gaseous body submitted by Rojo/Fernández-Shaw aims to urge visitors to think of the atmosphere and planetary systems.
All photos: courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia, the pavilions and the studios.