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Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara

Curators 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale


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The creation of vibrant and meaningful public spaces will be the focus of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara have revealed.

The duo announced that the 16th International Architecture Exhibition is to be themed ‘Freespace’ and will “celebrate architecture’s proven and enduring contribution to humanity.”

Explaining the concept, they said: “We’re interested in going beyond the visual, emphasising the role of architecture in the choreography of daily life.

“We believe that everyone has the right to benefit from architecture. The role of architecture is to give shelter to our bodies and to lift our spirits. A beautiful wall forming a street edge gives pleasure to the passer-by, even if they never go inside. So too does a glimpse into a courtyard through an archway; or a place to lean against in the shade or a recess which offers protection from the wind and rain.

“We see the earth as client. This brings with it long-lasting responsibilities. Architecture is the play of light, sun, shade, moon, air, wind, gravity in ways that reveal the mysteries of the world. All of these resources are free and examples of generosity and thoughtfulness in architecture throughout the world will be celebrated [at the Biennale].

We believe these qualities sustain the fundamental capacity of architecture to nurture and support meaningful contact between people and place.

“We focus our attention on these qualities because we consider that intrinsic to them are optimism and continuity. Architecture that embodies these qualities and does so with generosity and a desire for exchange is what we call Freespace.”

Paolo Baratta, president of the Biennale, added: “The divide between architecture and civil society, caused by the latter’s increasing difficulty in expressing its own needs and finding appropriate answers, has led to dramatic urban developments whose main feature is the marked absence of public spaces, or the growth of other areas dominated by indifference in the suburbs and peripheries of our cities.

“The absence of architecture makes the world poorer and diminishes the level of public welfare, otherwise reached by economic and demographic developments. To rediscover architecture means to renew a strong desire for the quality of the spaces where we live, which are a form of public wealth that needs to be constantly protected, renovated and created.”

As usual, the Biennale will present national pavilions reflecting on the main theme, which will be located at Venice’s Giardini, Arsenale, and in the historic city centre.

The festival – one of the most important in the architectural calendar – will run from 26 May to 25 November 2018.

Farrell and McNamara are co-founders of Irish practice Grafton Architects; winners in 2016 of the inaugural RIBA International Prize for the UTEC University campus in Lima, Peru. They follow in the footsteps of Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, who explored the relationship between architecture and civil society in his 2016 Venice Biennale.

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CLAD people: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara
What is 'Freespace'? Grafton Architects explains Venice Architecture Biennale theme