Alejandro Aravena launches Venice Architecture Biennale with attack on developers who put profit before people

by Kim Megson | 26 May 2016

Alejandro Aravena has officially launched the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale by firing a broadside at decision makers and architects who put profit ahead of the public good when creating our built environments.

“Banality and mediocrity in architecture are as damaging as not responding to basic needs,” said the Pritzker laureate at this morning’s (26 May) press conference for the festival, which he is curating.

“Corporate architects [and developers] are the real bad guys, but nobody says anything about it. These guys should be banned,” he added. “Even while we’re here, they are developing millions of square metres of land [for profit alone].”

Challenges facing the built environment are focus of this year’s festival, with Aravena’s component named Reporting from the Front. Pavilions representing 65 countries are showcasing the challenges that exist around the world – from natural disasters to financial constraints, pollution, crime and housing shortages – and possible solutions in different contexts. Eighty-eight architects from 37 countries are participating.

“The Biennale has to be a place of dialogue between the public, architects and artists and we wanted to improve the meetings between them for this event,” said Paolo Baratta, the president of the festival. “The purpose is to rediscover that architecture is a tool in the hands of all of us, not just architects and developers living on some holy mountain. We have the tools to organise our common space.

“Openness is a prerequisite and nobody can withdraw from their responsibility [to improve our built environments.]

“We’re not here to provide recipes. We’re here to provoke questions. This is a machine of urgency and hope, but nobody comes here with any sense of triumph or satisfaction about their work.”

"Corporate architects are the real bad guys, but nobody says anything about it. These guys should be banned"

Aravena said the legacy of the Biennale will depend on what architects, decision makers and users take from it. He said: “I hope architects will go back to their offices with less excuses to do better. I would like ministers and mayors to think about improving the quality of lives, not just profit. Finally, I would like citizens to expand their horizons about how they can live and consider alternative ways.”

Aravena conceded that architectural questions sometimes require an iconic, high-budget building, and said his crusade for the built environment is not about “moral superiority and saying buildings for the poor are worthy and high budgets are irrelevant”.

However, he stated architects should put public good first and “not do things just because you can, because that leads to a scarcity of meaning and does not contribute to the public good.”

The Biennale – which runs until 27 November – will be accompanied by a number of associated events, including talks on the socially-minded work of Aravena and the overarching theme of the festival.

Special satellite projects will include an exhibition curated by architect Stefano Recalcati exploring the regeneration of urban ports and a London School of Economics pavilion researching the interaction between public and private space. London's V&A museum will organise an exhibition named A World of Fragile Parts which will display exhibits from the museum’s collection as 3D printed copies in an exploration of duplication.

CLAD will be reporting live updates for the opening days of the Biennale. News editor Kim Megson will also be live-tweeting from the event, follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

Alejandro Aravena  Venice Architecture Biennale  Reporting from the Front 
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Alejandro Aravena has officially launched the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale by firing a broadside at decision makers and architects who put profit ahead of the public good when creating our built environments. “Banality and mediocrity in architecture are as damaging as not responding to basic needs,” said the Pritzker laureate at this morning’s (26 May) press conference for the festival, which he is curating. “Corporate architects [and developers] are the
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