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International Architecture Biennale 2023 through the eyes of WAiSP students

20 of December '23

In November 2023, a study trip took place, organized within the framework of the Student Research Group HAUZ07, operating at the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts of the Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Academy in Cracow. The destination chosen was Venice and the 18th International Architecture Biennale, which is coming to an end, held under the slogan Laboratory of the Future. We invite you to read the report.

The trip was attended by a group of male and female students consisting of: Bartłomiej Bogucki, Katarzyna Cieślak, Klaudia Wcisło, Wiktoria Bryl, Joanna Mikołajec, Matylda Grojec, Rafał Burtan, Wiktor Żukliński, Maja Malinowska, Aleksandra Trojnar, Pakhoma Kyrylo, Aleksandra Buła, Julia Kochańska, Sebastian Śliwa, Adrian Gołąb, Ignacy Safiński, under the supervision of three WAiSP KAAFM staff members - prof. Krzysztof Ingarden (dean), Dr. Maria Katarzyna Banasik-Petri (associate dean), Piotr Urbanowicz (supervisor and founder of the HAUZ07 Scientific Circle).

Studenci i pracownicy WAiSP KAAFM na Biennale w Wenecji przed głównym wejściem

WAiSP KAAFM students and staff at the Venice Biennale in front of the main entrance

photo: Piotr Urbanowicz

The HA UZ07 Scientific Circle was founded in 2007, and as part of its activities, meetings are held to deepen students' architectural knowledge and awareness. The form of the meetings is a loose, weekly, non-committal discussion of architecture, which begins with short introductory lectures, prepared by the mentor and students. The purpose of this form of meetings is to stimulate and provoke students to open discussion, to interest them in the issues of contemporary architecture and to learn presentation, as well as to integrate a group of active students. Members of the KN HAUZ07, actively participate in projects organized by WAiSP, including study trips to, among others, the Kunsthaus in Bregenz (Austria) for the Peter Zumthor architecture exhibition, Bregenz, Basel, Belgium, Vienna and Oslo. A trip to Berlin took place in May 2023. Study trips perform a very important function in the activities of the Scientific Circle, complementing the didactic process with the empirical transfer of knowledge. They are designed to stimulate young people's curiosity about the world of architecture, the desire to learn about various architectural realizations, to compare and read places and context - stimulating scientific and research activities. Each study tour ends with a student photo contest and an exhibition, which is its conclusion. On November 19 - 22 this year. Study Circle visited Venice.

For many of us it was the first - and definitely not the last - encounter with Venice, as well as with the Venice Biennale. Like a sponge, we soaked up the atmosphere and wonderful architecture of this unique city, and the weather spoiled us with picturesque sunsets," say the trip participants.

Zachód słońca w Wenecji

Sunset in Venice

Photo: Piotr Urbanowicz

Biennale through the eyes of students

What's next. This is the open question with which this year's Biennale leaves us, the students report, and if anyone hoped to get a clear-cut solution, they may be disappointed. The multiplicity and diversity of the form of responses to the event's keynote, combined with the subjective interpretation of the audience, gives rise to a myriad of directions for the future as well as opinions on the Biennale itself. However, one thing is common to all projects: "the primacy and power of one tool: imagination. You can't build a better world if you can't imagine it first." These are the words of the event's chief curator Lesley Lokko, who is not only an architect, but also a writer. Our adventure with "Laboratory of the Future" began at the Arsenal and continued at Giardini. It stimulated our imagination in a special way and prompted a heated discussion, during which everyone shared their feelings and insights, and more than once we could hear the popular "I would do it/it differently" among architects.

Pawilon Austriacki

Austrian Pavilion

Photo: Adrian Golab

Diversity - this was the first thing that occupied my thoughts when I showed up at this year's Biennale. The theme of the event itself was quite obvious to me. The future is something not yet precisely identified, something yet to come. I thought we could only speculate, asking ourselves - what will be? However, how great was my surprise when I arrived on the scene. Something that had previously seemed quite simple unfolded in my mind. Walking through the pavilions, I realized that it is the past that is integral to the future. Our perceptions of the world, decisions and approach to life build the future. One of the places that touched me most deeply was the Austrian Pavilion. The interior is quite simple, at times giving the feeling of an unfinished project. I think this is exactly how it was meant to be perceived. The project addressed a discussion of the relationship between one of the most important cultural institutions in the world and Venice. The installation the architects wanted to build was to take the form of a bridge and connect the Biennale site with the surrounding city. Unfortunately, the city authorities did not agree to the construction of the structure, which was to create a kind of fusion of the two sites. The consequence of all the decisions made was a manifesto undertaken by Austrian architects. The bridge was only half built, but the message of the pavilion itself was much deeper. How much the current conflicts affect the future, how divided society we are, and what consequences this brings, is what the artists' response to the "Laboratory of the Future" is. Thanks to pavilions like this one, I realized that the future is a topic we need to work on constantly. Now. Today - Julia Kochanska, a first-year architecture student.

Pawilon Brytyjski

British Pavilion

Photo: Adrian Golab

Before the trip, I was mainly accompanied by a feeling of excitement about the fact that I was to participate in the Venice Architecture Biennale for the first time [...]. For me as a future architect, it was an extremely inspiring experience. The watchword "The laboratory of the future" is such a broad concept that each country interpreted it according to its own idea, and the exhibitions were very diverse. I was most interested in the one in the Romanian Pavilion because it forced the viewer to interact. One had to climb several steps and at the very top stop to see the second part of the exhibition. The entire exhibition was based on a journey through inventions that are the result of the collaboration of four scientific fields. These elements became a reason for dialogue, including with visitors, in order to find new solutions to help create a better future. After walking around the pavilions for a while, I felt a great fatigue from too much information. I lacked a place to rest, to calm down. Nevertheless, I think that every architecture student, should at least once participate in such an event - Wiktoria Bryl, student of architecture III.

Pawilon Chin Pawilon Chin

China Pavilion

Photo: Piotr Urbanowicz, Klaudia Wcisło

Positive Refreshment. The exhibits touched on a wide range of important topics, and the way they were presented surprised me more than once. I would definitely like to spend more time there to be able to absorb and process even more in peace. At the Arsenal, the China Pavilion was extremely interesting, depicting through physical models experiments on how to shape living conditions in high-density environments, where more space is provided to nature. However, it was the Saudi Arabia Pav ilion that stole my heart. Not only did it have a multidimensional effect on the visitor, but it was a kind of oasis of calm - a refuge from all the Biennial frenzy of colors, shapes, materials and sounds. The columns forming the entrance portal begged to be touched. Subdued colors, a room with pleasant smells, relaxing sounds, dimmed light and a comfortable place to sit encouraged contemplation. It was a real sensory laboratory! The content of the exhibition told the story of the present and future of the material in a Saudi architectural context, and the pavilion's design, divided into several sections, reflected the way and use of traditional components combined with innovative techniques (3D printing). At Giardini, many of the pavilions caught my eye, and the tour itself was much more enjoyable due to its location among the greenery. I made my own subjective classification of favorite pavilions in terms of: exhibition - Germany, Romania, Ukraine, China, Denmark, audiovisual effects - Uruguay, Serbia, Spain, pavilion design - Japan, Canada, Scandinavia, Australia. The message presented by some pavilions was not obvious to me even after reading the exhibition description, and this is my biggest reservation about the exhibitions of this year's Biennale - Katarzyna Cieślak, a third-year architecture student.

In Venice, not only the Biennale man lives

The trip to Venice, like every study trip of the HAUZ07 SC, was preceded by an analysis of selected issues (including the theme of the Biennale) and architectural objects that constituted the purpose of the trip. At the Circle's meetings preceding the trip, students prepared lectures that formed the basis for the subsequent tour and discussions.

Instalacja Helgi Vockenhuber w bazylice San Giorgio Maggiore

Helga Vockenhuber's installation at the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore

photo: Bartłomiej Bogucki

We recall with fondness strolling through the narrow Venetian streets, admiring the historic and contemporary architecture, with a special focus on the current human-urban relationship. Maintaining a people-friendly scale, creating a cozy and intimate atmosphere in which people stay with pleasure, the students report.

One of the first places the group visited was Negozio Olivetti designed by Italian architect Carlo Scarpa, then the students took a water streetcar to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore to see Andrea Palladio's Renaissance basilica up close. Inside the basilica was a contemporary installation by Helga Vockenhuber. The group also toured the Vatican Chapels and the Borges Labyrinth there.

Instalacja Holy See w Kaplicach Watykańskich

Holy See installation in the Vatican Chapels

photo: Adrian Golab

We absorbed in concentration all that they had to offer us. Starting from the beautiful installations, to the wonderful accompaniment by Antoni Fres, to the incredible location of the garden itself. To feel the fullness of the place, one must stop for a moment in solitude and immerse oneself in the synesthesia that engulfs us. The original chapels, pavilions and installations that use the play of light and shadow have an element of magic that calms and soothes. In the gardens, we saw works by many artists from around the world, including Norman Foster, Smiljan Radic, Javier Corvalán, and Sean Godsell. Right next door, in the State Capitol Pavilion, we admired an exhibition by Portuguese architect Álvar Sizy, who made wooden figural sculptures, the architecture students recalled.

 Kaplice Watykańskie  Grupa z Polski w Palazzo Franchetti na wystawie Kengo Kumy

From left: the Vatican Chapels, agroup in Palazzo Franchetti at Kengo Kuma's exhibition.

photo: Klaudia Wcisło, Piotr Urbanowicz

At Palazzo Franchetti, the group viewed Kengo Kuma's "Onomatopoeia Architecture" exhibition, featuring physical models of projects by Kengo Kuma & Associates. Some of them were already well known to the students from the 2021 exhibition at the Europe Far East Gallery at the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art in Krakow. At the time, many members of the HAUZ07 Circle were involved in the preparation of the exhibition and installation of the "Cloud" installation, the result of a workshop conducted with WAiSP seniors, in cooperation with Kengo Kuma's office. The group from Poland also visited the Puenta della Dogana contemporary art gallery to see the result of renovations carried out in 2007-2009 by Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

These are just a few of the places we managed to see during our several-day stay in Venice. Of course, our travels don't end with just learning about the architecture, culture, and art of a place. We greatly appreciate the culinary experience and the many conversations that are an integral part of our trips. We returned to Krakow full of inspiration. We already had a moment to cool down, process and discuss everything we experienced during the trip. One idea that often comes up in our conversations regarding future editions of the Architecture Biennale is thechallenge to make all the exhibitions on display enter into an understandable dialogue with visitors, without having to engage them in reading often lengthy descriptions," the WAiSP students conclude.

Wiktoria Bryl, Katarzyna Cieślak, Julia Kochańska,
HAUZ07 WAiSP KAAFM Scientific Circle

elaborated:Dobrawa Bies

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