The Venice Architecture Biennale was inaugurated in 1980 and is now held every two years, alternating with the Art Biennale. It is arguably the most important event on the International contemporary architecture calendar. Thousands of the world’s most influential architects, designers, urban planners, developers and critics visit the Biennale, resulting in considerable discussion and commentary in the architectural press and general media. 52,000 people visited the 2008 Australian Pavilion.
At this year’s 12th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, Australia is showcasing a collection of dramatic urban visions using ground-breaking 3D stereoscopic technology, allowing visitors to move around a range of existing and hypothetical urban environments.
Led by the Australian Pavilion’s Creative Directors, John Gollings and Ivan Rijavec, the ‘NOW and WHEN Australian Urbanism’ exhibition will act as a catalyst for debate on the future of our cities, engaging in timely issues that include sustainability, urban sprawl and density, and immigration.
The exhibition features two theatres.
Two stereo screens mounted back to back at the rear of the upper and lower exhibition spaces are the focus of the installation. An urban themed black and white geometric matrix is projected on the walls, floors and ceilings of both levels leading to two stereo screens, which feature the urban environments in continuous three minute loop cycles.
The NOW theatre highlights five of Australia’s most interesting urban and non-urban regions as they are now, captured by Co-Creative Director and well-known architectural photographer, John Gollings. ‘NOW’ focuses on prototypical urban narratives that apply to australian urbanism as a whole
On the pavilion’s upper level, NOW features current urban environments in Sydney, Melbourne and Surfers Paradise. Stereoscopic visuals will show contrasting views of these cities from macro-scapes at 20,000 feet to ‘helicoptering’ views of urban and architectural icons at close range.
All three cities were filmed at dusk, when the ‘Australian urban spectacle becomes luminous and articulate in conveying the way our cities work’
In the second theatre, 17 futuristic urban environments imagine WHEN we reach 2050 and beyond. Depicting Australian cities 40+ years into the future, these ideas are the result of a national competition set by the Australian Institute of Architects. ‘WHEN’, screened on the lower level, utilizes 3D stereoscopic imaging to illustrate urban futures for the continent
On the pavilion’s lower level, WHEN will dare to imagine Australian urban spaces in 91 years time, with the intent of ‘catapulting urban debate into eye-popping visceral entertainment set in a soundscape’. Australian architects submitted 3D entries for inclusion by entering an ‘Ideas for Australian Cities 2100’ national competition. A range of entries were chosen focusing on the creative potential of architecture.[slideshow id=386]
These latter images and ideas were the result of a nationwide competition held earlier this year which called for designs that were free of current planning regulations, economic and political expediency. the winning 17 proposals encourage architecture’s capacity as an urban art form, exploring a wide range of approach and philosophy for the future.
The three-minute looped films can be observed from 3D glasses, which hang in a line from the ceiling.
John Gollings said, “The latest 3D stereoscopy will enable visitors to look at our NOW cities from an entirely different viewpoint – as a part of a symbiotic system of connected parts. Imagining what the future might look like, the ‘NOW and WHEN’ exhibition goes beyond the way we see our environment right now.
“3D is really a way of getting closer to a holographic and virtual experience and making it seriously exciting to view. ‘NOW and WHEN’ is approachable on a lot of different levels so there is something for the person who is interested in any number of factors: architecture, photography, architectural rendering, the development of stereoscopic technology, theories of urbanism or futurism. I wanted to make sure that ‘NOW and WHEN’ is controversial and contentious, but also engaging and entertaining.”
Melbourne-based architect and Co-Creative Director Ivan Rijavec said, “In what promises to be the Urban Century, the design and planning of our cities is fundamental to our prosperity and survival.” Rijavec explains that Venice itself is a pertinent reminder of the threats facing our urban environments: “Venice has shown how a city might blossom in a global context, but also how the vicissitudes of a changing world can turn it into a caricature of itself – some 60,000 people live there, while more than 20 million visit it annually. It floods 50 times a year and, unless drastic protective action is taken, by 2030 it will be under water.”
Rijavec and Gollings see future urban transformation in Australia being driven as much by political and economic imperatives as by technology and design. Australia could become the world’s fastest growing industrialised nation over the next four decades; its projected population growth of 65% by 2050 is almost double the global rate.
The national competition for WHEN submissions was intended to liberate architects from planning and design constraints to create a vision of the future.
‘NOW and WHEN’ tackles questions such as: Is it better for cities to grow horizontally or vertically? What if a city’s growth boundary is not on its periphery, but at its heart? What if new planning initiatives were introduced governing the use of air space?
Gollings said, “It is my hope that it will generate new ways of thinking about urbanism. This exhibition distracts the pragmatists inviting them into an imaginative realm, which I hope will re-inform their urban planning strategies.”
The exhibition gives expression to Australian ‘urban dreaming’. Rijavec said, “Projections of the stereoscopic 3D images have exceeded all expectations. The extraordinary sequences of images to be displayed in the WHEN component comprise a cyberspace of urban dreaming, that include fantasies, poetic encapsulations, allegories and strong theoretical propositions, woven into a cinematic performance guaranteed to leave the mind reeling. This will be an exhibition few visitors will forget.”
Commissioner: Janet Holmes à Court
Co-creative directors: John Gollings and Ivan Rijavec
2010 Venice Biennale Committee: Geoffrey London, Howard Tanner, Karl Fender, Brian Zulaikha, Rachel Neeson, Ross Clark, Prof. Philip Goad, Prof. Annabelle Pegrum
Design: Design by Pidgeon
3D visualisation: Floodslicer
Sound Engineers: Nick Murray, Carl Anderson