The 15th Architecture Biennale opens in Venice | Arts | DW | 27.05.2016
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The 15th Architecture Biennale opens in Venice

Pritzker Prize-winner Alejandro Aravena chose an unusual theme for the International Architecture Exhibition: "Reporting from the Front." He says he wants to change people's perspectives on the role of architecture.

Alejandro Aravena - architect and head of this year's Architecture Biennale in Venice - invited 88 architects and their teams from around the world to partake in the main event. They were commissioned to prepare for the exhibition by reporting from daily experiences at work - and most of all by looking for areas in need of improvement in the current political climate.

Abstract as it may sound, this actually refers to the very concrete answers that architecture can offer to issues like migration, refugees, natural disasters, crime and other problems that force people to rethink the concept of housing.

Taking place every other year, the international architecture exhibition occupies two locations in Venice: the "Giardini" (Gardens) and the expansive "Arsenale" - a historic wharf in the sinking city.

A change in perspective

A woman stands on a ladder and gazes into the distance. This is the image that Alejandro Aravena chose for the artwork of this year's Biennale, a direct reference to author Bruce Chatwin's encounter with German archeologist Maria Reiche in the Peruvian desert. Chatwin took the picture.

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Interview with Alejandro Aravena

Carrying a lightweight stepladder, Reiche would travel for miles through the arid landscape. Her goal was to examine mysterious crop circles and other ancient drawings on the ground, commonly known as the "Nazca lines." To get a glimpse of the circles, Reiche had to climb on the ladder; on ground level they were largely indistinguishable.

"Changing one's perspective sometimes leads to new insight and facilitates finding solutions," Aravena says. A staunch believer in innovation, Aravena wants to use the Biennale as a marketplace of new ideas and concepts where young talents can be creative and daring.

Refuge and refugees

Representatives of at least 64 countries take part in this year's event, presenting their ideas at the "Giardini" exhibition center and other locations throughout Venice until November 27. Germany and Austria have stated they will contribute ideas pertaining to the ongoing refugee crisis.

The German Pavilion, conceived by Peter Cachola Schmal, the head of the German Architecture Museum, is titled "Making Heimat - Germany, Arrival Country," with the word 'Heimat' referring to the German term for 'homeland.'

Schmal says that the German Pavillon presents Germany as a destination for immigrants, stressing the challenges and opportunities that mass migration can pose to architects.

Lifetime achievement

Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha will be honored with a lifetime achievement award at this year's Architecture Biennale in Venice. Called the "Brazilian Brutalist," the winner of the coveted Pritzker Prize in 2006 is recognized worldwide for his love of geometry and concrete.

Da Rocha, 87, has designed many notable cultural edifices in Brazil, chiefly in Sao Paolo.

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