Venice Biennale Exhibit


I was honored to be selected to exhibit my work on the world stage of the 2018 Venice Biennale.   The Venice Biennale is considered the “Oscars’ of the architectural world, where only the best and most innovative architects from around the globe are displayed for 6 months in a museum setting in Venice, Italy. 

I was given two rooms, one that was presented as white and one as black - one that focused on our relationship to the natural world, and one that focused on our relationship with each other.  Interestingly, as in human nature, one often reflects the other.

The black room, called the ‘Social Room”, deals with what I call ‘hybrid architectures’ - projects that don’t fit conveniently into pre-determined definitions.  Projects such as the Billboard House (located within an abandoned billboard structure), Punk (located within an abandoned water-tower), and the UN Security Council Chamber (located within an abandoned Titan II Missile Silo) question their status as citizens within the pantheon of “Architecture”, and as such ask, “will you accept me”, and if accepted, under what terms and conditions?  Through these ‘hybrids’ that no longer fit under standard or more orthodox definitions, we must ask what our definitions for qualifying a building as Architecture might be in a more enlightened, more fluid, more equitable 21st century?  And as architecture is itself a social science that often reflects the values of the cultures which creates it, we must ask if these are the values we wish to represent?

The white room, called the ‘Eco Room’, questions our notions of object and context, and how we might define and prioritize each.  At what point can we find equity, where the context becomes the object, and the object becomes the context - importantly, the large wall models reveal that it is possible for both to happen at the same time, each sharing in their ability to inform the other.  Can one be relative to the other in a symbiotic relationship?  This is a key design strategy in ‘merging the technosphere of our creation with the biosphere of our inheritance’.

The Biennale itself is often defined by a few keynote exhibits.  These ‘must see’ exhibits tend to garner the majority of press and attention.  To this end, we were quite pleased to have an impact on an international audience of over 300,000, a record for the Biennale.  Here is a clip from a critique that aptly summarizes both our work and the exhibit.

“Most architectural exhibits today are like most architecture today - it verbally talks about sea-changes, embedding a new consciousness of social content, and radical departures from the past - but in the end the physical work itself is still basically the same old thing dressed up in a new lexicon - akin to ‘The Emperor's New Clothes”.  I personally have had enough of this posturing and hunger for something with some real substance.  This work from markharris ARCHITECTS, however, delivers such substance.  This is new work, substantially different than what we normally see today, executed with a new set of attitudes and approaches, and running from a new set of operative subroutines that are simultaneously highly-nuanced and powerfully poetic.  This work is truly unique, and it questions everything, from the role of the architect and architecture in the 21st century, to the relationship between architecture and all other allied design disciplines, to our relationship with the natural environment, and, most importantly, with our relationship to each other.  This actually represents a new set of social compacts, so for my money, it’s one of the few exhibits out there that represents the ‘real thing’ - something that actually has the courage to tackle important issues, and that provokes the meaningful dialogue we so desperately need today.”

As principal of the firm, it is incumbent that I extend both thanks and congratulations to the primary team members who helped put this together - Sam Friesema and Richard Mapes - this exhibit would not have been possible without their hard work, absolute dedication, and creative talents.

NOTE: The presentation below is best viewed in “Slideshow” mode, and then use your arrows to move about. 

Memories of the Ruined Landscape Exhibit - Hybrid Architectures of the 21st Century