Thursday, September 13, 2012

Critical Dialogues: Scotland + Venice

Beautiful interiors of Ludoteca Santa Maria Ausiliatrice

On the evening of Saturday, September 8th, the Venice Takeaway stewards attended the Scotland + Venice public party held in Ludoteca Santa Maria Ausiliatrice (a convent turned community centre), the studio hub used by the Scottish practices as their Venetian headquarters. I felt a personal obligation to call in, having lived and studied in Glasgow for a year and a half.

Within the space visitors could watch the screening of edited footage and documentation of the weeks actions and events under the theme of "Critical Dialogues", this year’s Scottish contribution to the Venice Architecture Biennale. Scotland does not own a pavilion in the Giardini and as well as a number of other countries, they exhibit in other venues in association with the main Biennale, for a set period of time.

It marked the end to a week long series of events and projects within the public realm, organised by four emerging practices that explore the social role of the architect and the creative boundaries of architecture. These are: DO Architecture, GRAStudio, Pidgin Perfect and Stone Opera.

Over a few glasses of prosecco, we got chatting to two of the exhibiting practices about their projects:

Pidgin Perfect

Pidgin Perfect's project "Banchetto" organised a tour of the main Biennale for a group of local residents who had never before crossed its threshold, and invited them to eat, drink and talk architecture at an open air dinner held in in the old Castello Alto-Basso neighbourhood of the city. Last night the dinner table was recreated, some of the residents were in attendance and images from the night were screened, for people to view.

Becca Thomas of Pidgin Perfect explained the significance of the project, the importance of engaging local communities within the wider discussion around architecture. Interestingly, their design for the curtains and tablecloth were made of up of doodles, that they had collected from cafes and pubs all over Glasgow, from the city centre, to Cowcaddens and the Gorbals. Thus creating a rich tapestry of interconnectedness, with contributions from all sorts of Glaswegians, from every walk of life. Pidgin Perfect provided people with three words - "Openess", "Empathy" and "Equality" - these were the prompts that were to inspire the persons sketch/


The Transient Art Gallery

Lindsey Koepke (of the Canadian Pavilion) & Gunner Groves-Raines of GRAS

We explored GRAStudio's "Transient Gallery", located just next door to the Ludoteca Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, in the courtyard of the hostel there. The Transient Gallery is a temporary structure that aims to explore "the significance of everyday architectural objects which create or enhance a sense of collective identity across the communities that use them." The well seen here, is one of 231 remaining of the estimated 6,782 which once existed in Venice.

The Transient Gallery highlights and celebrates the existence of Venetian wellheads to encourage a wider debate on the importance of these types of shared, functional objects in public spaces around the world. The gallery will remain here for the duration of the Biennale. Unexpectedly, we were made privy to the placement of bottles of Scottish water around the well (numbered, 64 in total), for visitors to take away with them. As well as creating a transient tangible-intangible link between Scotland and Venice, the symbolic gesture of taking water from the no-longer functioning well, is a reminder of its once use function and prompts us to think of what can now be done with this spaces, a tactile reminder of what has past, in this ever-shifting city. You can read about the process of assembling the gallery, at the GraStudio blog here.

Critical Dialogues is a partnership between Scottish Government, Creative Scotland and British Council Scotland.

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