Biennial News Italy

Critic calls Venice Architecture Biennale “lazy"

While many architecture critics find fault with David Chipperfield’s “Common Ground” exhibition, some give credit to its cohesiveness

David Chipperfield at the Venice Architecture Biennale

The president of the Italian Association of Architects and Critics has launched a withering attack on David Chipperfield’s “Common Ground” exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Shortly after presiding over a magazine launch at “Architects Meet in FuoriBiennale”, the alternative and unofficial architecture event held at Venice’s Palazzo Widmann on 27 and 28 August, Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi described Chipperfield’s input as “lazy” and the show as culturally confused, arguing that its only clear message is that, paradoxically, there is no common ground between any of the participants.

He went on to say: “This is the least interesting of the 13 editions so far.” Puglisi made the comments only a few days after the architectural historian William Curtis praised the alternative architectural event while criticising Chipperfield’s “terribly mainstream” jury, along with what he perceived to be an obvious choice of participants.

Not everyone gave the show a thumbs-down, however. Italy’s Corriere della Sera called the show “a celebration of concreteness” and praised its engagement with reality. The Guardian’s Rowan Moore wrote that “it could be mushy, one of those titles that means anything to anyone, but there is a cohesion… the event makes sense”. And Ellis Woodman wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the biennial “is more than a simple compendium of the most recent spectacular buildings by the usual suspects”.

However, Puglisi and Curtis were not alone. Michael Kimmelman wrote in The New York Times that the show “is well intended but, alas, a missed opportunity… the urbanist gloss notwithstanding, the show mostly just glides over issues like public housing and health (there’s a paper-thin section on social housing), the environment, informal settlements, economic decline and protest. It pays almost no attention to the developing world, to designers from Africa or China, and precious little to female architects, aside from Zaha Hadid, who, like Peter Zumthor, Renzo Piano, Peter Eisenman, Bernard Tschumi and a surprising number of the old boldface names, hogs much of the spotlight.” Christopher Hawthorne wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “The exhibition itself, despite that determinedly optimistic and wide-ranging approach, feels limited, exclusive, stiff, starched and a bit cloistered. And for a show that is so keen to question the value of architectural celebrity… this biennale includes an awful lot of stars, many of them long-time friends and colleagues of Chipperfield’s.”

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