Following Word War Two, London embarked on a highly prolific rebuilding campaign. But it wasn’t simply putting the pieces back together. The ambition of the welfare state combined with new ideas in architecture to produce radical new designs, altering the British landscape. The organization behind this was the London County Council, and in particular the Architects’ Department. Ruth Lang discusses the machinery of the bureaucratic system that enabled one of England’s most innovative periods in design.
Hong Kong and Macau aren’t independent nations, yet they appear at the Biennale regardless. As recent appendages to China, they are undergoing an often-uncomfortable transition to a new political reality. Thomas Daniell explains how both pavilions give different responses to the unification question. Hong Kong emphasizes its inclusion in a larger regional network, the Pearl River Delta, while Macau places focus on its cultural distinctiveness.
With Rem Koolhaas ‘couch surfing’ has acquired a new meaning. Anyone lucky enough to actually get an interview with Koolhaas will most likely end up on his couch. The back seat of his BMW that is. Some private conversation time, wherever the journey takes you, accompanied by the deep hum of the V12 sports engine. Volume became member of this back seat club to discuss some intentions behind Fundamentals and perspectives on architecture it produced.
This year’s Venice Architecture Biennale breaks with two mechanisms that defined its presence over the last fifteen to twenty years. First is the setting of a grand, though conveniently abstract theme that suggests a connection between current development and the state of architecture. The ethics of architecture (or of the architect?), the architect as seismograph, architecture is for people, that kind of stuff. These past themes suggested a critical position of the curator on duty, but hardly succeeded in influencing the debate, let alone affairs. At best they added flavor to the core element of the Biennale: a presentation of who matters in architecture. And that brings us to the second mechanism: no matter the main curatorial theme, every pavilion was totally at liberty to present their best architecture and architects. Some pavilions succeeded in selling an idea more than products and some (rarely) attempted to raise an issue, but the ‘who’s doing what’ element was dominant.
We just launched Volume’s 41st issue, ‘How to Build a Nation’. In the coming weeks we’re going to publish a selection of articles, and for those who are interested how the issue looks and feels we have uploaded a preview.
For the first time, a general theme was given to the national pavilions at this year’s Architecture Biennale in Venice. They were to be historical shows, focused on the impact of modernity on a country’s architecture. What it produced was not just a global survey of twentieth century construction, but also heroic stories of nation-building. Yes, architecture can build nations. Today, we seem far from that notion. The nation-state is either giving up on itself, or exploited through tyrannical regimes. Meanwhile architects are hardly taking up the cause.