Everyone has the right to sound - Architecture - Domus
Everyone has the right to sound
 

Everyone has the right to sound

The Polish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale considers an aspect of architecture we tend to forget on a daily basis — that each part of a building produces or transfers sounds, and that silence in an operating building does not exist.

 

Architecture / Marcin Szczelina

Will this year's Biennale bring with it a good Polish Pavilion? I had my moments of doubt when I participated in the jury proceedings. I then came to understanding that Warsaw's National Galery Zacheta, as the organizer of the exhibition, is forced to struggle with waves of criticism from the architecture environment for their controversial choices of the past year's winning concepts.

Nothing changed this year — over 30 projects were submitted in the competition for the Polish Pavilion. However, every envelope I opened, every project I read out to the public, I could not believe what I saw — aren't there practitioners in such a large country able to propose anything reasonable? Most of them interpreted Chipperfield's theme Common Ground in a literal way, as a common space for interaction. Hence there were many ideas to spill sand on the pavilion floor and scatter beach chairs all over it, or to create a meadow and add a few benches — to let people communicate with one another, provided we created some basic conditions.

Fortunately, having waded through a pile of disappointing works, we finally found a raw diamond — a project proposed by artist Katarzyna Krakowiak, curated by Michal Libera. As we expected, the duo raised the issue of sound in architecture.

The Polish Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition <i>Common Ground</i>, Biennale di Venezia

The Polish Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition Common Ground, Biennale di Venezia

In her creative activity, Krakowiak explores acoustic spaces. She is particularly concerned with the phenomenon of echo, the noise produced by the city. As part of the Ekspektatywa cycle (Bec Zmiana, 2010), she developed and published a set of instructions on how to build your own earphones. Libera, in turn, is a recognized music critic, the organizer of experimental music concerts as well as a researcher of unconventional sound-producing machines. The result of their collaboration was a project entitled Everyone has the right to sound, in which the interior of the building remains almost completely empty, since the entire structure will become a huge amplifier of the sounds created in neighboring national pavilions and within the Giardini gardens. According to the introduction to the exhibition, "the project will be an invitation to experience architecture as a gigantic and complex sound process, marking the limits of what is considered common. Architecture shall be presented as a primary system of listening (for) to us — generating, transferring, and distorting sounds".

The Polish Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition <i>Common Ground</i>, Biennale di Venezia

The Polish Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition Common Ground, Biennale di Venezia

Krakowiak and Libera consider an aspect of architecture we tend to forget on a daily basis — that each part of a building produces or transfers sounds, and that silence in an operating building does not exist. By turning architecture inside out, manifesting and transforming its sounds, we become aware of the role of buildings that remain beyond the control of architects — wall trembling, installation vibrations —, which are usually treated as a "side effect" of the design process, and not included in the plans. Simultaneously, a building tapping on other national pavilions is a witty interpretation of the Biennale's title. Here, the "common ground" is transferred to a universal and abstract dimension of acoustics and a typical human weakness… to eavesdrop on others.

 
the project will be an invitation to experience architecture as a gigantic and complex sound process, marking the limits of what is considered common
 
The Polish Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition <i>Common Ground</i>, Biennale di Venezia

The Polish Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition Common Ground, Biennale di Venezia

Surprising as it is, a great part of the budget for this year's exhibition will be spent on a renovation of the ventilation system in the Polish Pavilion, since, according to the project, sounds from other pavilions will be transferred through the ventilation system — which has been broken for several years now. Irrespective of the results, the exhibition will definitely be a success. At least it will force a renovation of the pavilion. But to be honest, the project proposed by Krakowiak and Libera has the potential to fight for the Golden Lion. As every good project, its idea is quite simple, but it can be interpreted in a great variety of ways. The only fear is if the clarity of the concept will survive the struggle of its realization, since, in order for the exhibition to take place, other countries have to consent to being eavesdropped upon. Otherwise, the exhibition will crumble. Another issue will be the transference of various sounds, noises and vibrations to the Polish Pavilion in a clear manner, inviting visitors to see the exhibition, and in a manner that clarifies the sounds' origin.

Krakowiak and Libera work within the Venice Biennale's best tradition, presenting architectural issues without resorting to trivial presentation of pictures or building projections. They speak of architecture in a non-architectural way. Thus they are attempting to attain the unattainable! However, we will have to wait until the end of August to see if this interesting concept is skillfully presented in the Polish Pavilion.

The Polish Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition <i>Common Ground</i>, Biennale di Venezia

The Polish Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition Common Ground, Biennale di Venezia