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Denton Corker Marshall The Myste Biennale Pavilion play

Denton Corker Marshall of Melbourne has designed an Australian Pavilion for Venice’s historic Giardini Garden, replacing one built as a temporary solution in 1988 by Philip Cox.

Ronnie Di Stasio held a design competition to create this pavilion, with its idea being an opaque black box providing a transformable canvas for creativity and expression.

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Denton Corker Marshall is known for creating high-profile buildings that require engineering solutions and sculptural works of art. Their projects range from biomedical accelerators, city halls and art galleries – to iconic designs like Sydney’s Pavilion of Power by Portia Malatjie of MADEYOULOOK. Their latest pavilion opened Friday and will remain up until October.

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The Sculpture

At the Giardini, even among less obvious pavilions, art serves as a form of social and political therapy. Not that beauty and delight don’t exist here – instead it mostly works to heal wounds from war, natural disasters or explore how global capitalism has altered identities and communities.

Melbourne-based Denton Corker Marshall designed Australia’s national pavilion with that in mind. Their team, known for creating many cultural and civic spaces around Melbourne, were given the task of designing a 250 square-meter pavilion at Giardini in Rome’s Giardini Gardens; an area coveted by several countries.

Denton Corker Marshall imagined their building as an adaptable black box where openings in each panel could switch its mood from closed and mysterious to open and visually accessible or colorful and outgoing depending on which openings were opened or shut or made visible depending on who was inside.

It has produced an imaginative space that serves as theater, museum and installation piece at once. Its form recalls that of an Earth globe with meridians and parallels reminiscent of map charts; while inside there’s the feeling of an underground party. A stunning success of the Biennale that architecturally invokes what might lie beyond our current reality.

Germany’s pavilion, featuring an earthen monolith whose windows feature dramatic rays enhanced by pump-in mist, exudes utopian qualities as does Japan’s, featuring jury-rigged contraptions crafted out of pipes and refuse adorned with chimes and cymbals by artist Yuko Mohri inspired by temporary repairs used on subway systems, underscoring how fragile is our society that revels in perfection.

Other pavilions, like Egypt’s, are more politically charged. Egypt outwitted 16 other nations to secure the last available pavilion site in 1988, and architect Philip Cox quickly designed a structure meant to be temporary but ultimately extended over decades; Denton Corker Marshall rebuilt it again for this Biennale.

The Pool

Australia’s national pavilion at Venice Art Biennale last year made waves when it debuted as an eye-catching black granite cube perched atop a canal; since then, its opening has also served as venue for Architecture Biennale; offering visitors a space designed for different kinds of exhibitions including an actual pool!

Denton Corker Marshall of Melbourne designed a pavilion featuring a shallow pool filled with 30cm-deep water as the centerpiece for their exhibition, The Pool. Curated by Isabelle Toland of Aileen Sage Architects principals Isabelle Toland and Amelia Holliday as well as Chicago urbanist Michelle Tabet from Sydney-based Aileen Sage Architects Principals Isabelle Toland and Amelia Holliday alongside Michelle Tabet from Chicago Urbanist Group; Michelle Tabet uses The Pool as a way of exploring Australia’s cultural identities through watery lenses.

To that end, the curators have invited an elite group of Australian culture leaders–from Olympic gold medal swimmers Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe to author Tim Flannery and Romance Was Born fashion designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales; musician Paul Kelly and Indigenous art curator Hetti Perkins–to share their personal experiences of pools in Australia both natural or manmade, temporary or permanent–through interviews broadcast throughout the gallery.

Their interviews reveal how pools not only serve as physical boundaries but also represent social and personal frontiers.

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Many of the stories focus on individual experiences; others use swimming pools as a lens through which to examine Australia’s relationship with water, including how it manifests in landscape and buildings.

This is particularly evident in the show’s catalog which showcases photos and drawings showing not only coastal rock swimming pool architecture but also their uses.

The Pool will run until November at Venice Architecture Biennale’s Giardini della Biennale, situated in the center of Venice. Each participating country utilizes this structure for performances and events; more information regarding this year’s program can be found by clicking here.

The Music

While most pavilions depend on painting and sculpture for inspiration, this pavilion relies entirely on sound. Andrea Mancini of Every Island collective has constructed an immersive sound experience in what resembles a wall-like structure fitted with speakers. They have composed sounds ranging from high-pitched frequencies to the noises generated by trees “talking.”

They will play them back via a rig that allows visitors to customize volume, frequency, timbre. Throughout its run at Biennale performances will take place here too!

Unusually, this pavilion will not be curated by a single artist but by Uzbekistan’s culture ministry – meaning many details have yet to be announced by them; according to the Biennale website however, Aziza Kadyri will explore Uzbek women’s statuses by creating a display that draws upon migration histories and traditions of Uzbek peoples.

Denton Corker Marshall was selected as the winner of an international competition to design Australia’s new pavilion, replacing one created by Philip Cox in 1988. Situated within Giardini parkland and featuring operable panels that open or close according to exhibition needs, Denton Corker Marshall designed an impressive two-tier structure located within Giardini that will replace Cox’s temporary structure.

Timor-Leste has chosen Maria Madeira – an artist known for using her body as an artistic medium to critique gender norms and power structures – for their inaugural pavilion in Venice.

Madeira will kiss the walls while singing songs in Tetun language while using her signature tongue kiss technique on them. Madeira’s project made a logical choice as part of Timor-Leste’s exhibit at Venice Biennale this year.

John Akomfrah’s mind-boggling pavilion may be one of the hardest to fully appreciate–if not even visit at all. This Brooklyn-based artist, known for his multipart film installations that explore grand postcolonial narratives, has filled his pavilion with hours of footage and an overwhelming array of sound – making it difficult for visitors to fully take in during one visit.

Perhaps Akomfrah’s pavilion serves as an antidote to last year’s art Biennale when its nation-based model was widely condemned as stultifying and exclusive.