2018 Australian Pavilion looking to ‘repair’ the land at the Venice Biennale

The Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) has opened ‘Repair’ at the Australian Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice. The Creative Directors Mauro Baracco and Louise Wright of Baracco+Wright Architects, in collaboration with artist Linda Tegg, have curated a multi-sensory living installation for the Pavilion, designed to disrupt the viewing conditions through which architecture is usually understood.

Creative Directors Mauro Baracco and Louise Wright and artist Linda Tegg

The curators have installed ten thousand plants inside and outside of the Pavilion, including 65 species of Western Plains Grasslands. This component of the exhibition, entitled Grasslands Repair, will serve as a reminder of what is at stake when we occupy land – just one per cent of these threatened species are left in their native ecosystem. The Pavilion will be transformed into a field of vegetation, allowing visitors to enter a physical dialogue between architecture and the endangered plant community.

The curators invited a team of local experts to reflect on architecture from unconventional positions so that the theme could be more deeply explored. The wider team supporting the creative directors includes architect and anthropologist Paul Memmott, landscape architect Chris Sawyer, landscape architect and urban designer Tim O’Loan, ecologist David Freudenberger, curatorial advisor Catherine Murphy, architects Lance van Maanen and Jonathan Ware.

The curatorial statement provides us within an insight into the concept for the pavilion

“The use of land for buildings is no small act. There is a role for architecture to actively engage with the repair of the places it is part of: the soil, hydrology, habitat, connections, overland water flow, microorganisms, vegetation and so on. This type of repair is critical to enacting other wider types of social, economic and cultural repair. The first move is the repair of the natural environment. How architects can do this will be an exciting development of an architecture not yet fully imagined. It requires a coming together across disciplinary boundaries and a widening of the architectural knowledge base to a front end detailed understanding of a site across multiple scales; where the very small scale action has a role in the large scale, and a facilitation of repair of the environment through the many decisions we make.”

The statement shows that architects(curators) understand the role of the land(scape) in creating architecture, however the statement “How architects can do this will be an exciting development of an architecture not yet fully imagined.” seems to not fully realise the role of landscape architects (along with other disciplines) that have already played a major role in developing and implementing concepts and paradigms (landscape urbanism) to repair the land. Is this curatorial statement naive? or a realization that there is a need for interdisciplinary collaboration required at small and large scale to facilitate to repair the impact of humans on the landscape and built environment. The hope that it is the latter and that this is a turning point in Australia and across the world that we need to elevate the importance of landscape can learn to work together to repair the landscape.[Editor – Damian Holmes]

Photography | Rory Gardiner