European Cultural Centre

Curator De Stefano: "Architecture and big challenges"

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This year's exhibition shows the increasing creativity of architects and designers in coping with the complexity of a world that is changing

Born in Venice, a degree in Economics and Management of Arts and Cultural Activities from Ca' Foscari and a Master in Cultral economics and entrepreneurship from the Erasmus Universiteit in Rotterdam, Rachele De Stefano is the Head of Architecture at ECC Italy and is also a member of the organizing team of "Time Space Existence".
We asked her a few questions to further investigate the nature of the project.

The audience of Domus has now come to know "Time Space Existence," which has become a must-visit during the period of the Architecture Biennale. Please tell us something about the promoting organization ECC.
Based in Venice, ECC Italy is the main branch of its larger parent organisation the European Cultural Centre. Focusing on diverse topics within art, architecture and design, we aim to create dynamic exhibition spaces that show the interchanging of ideas from different backgrounds and cultures.

In Venice we manage three palaces: Palazzo Bembo, Palazzo Mora, and Palazzo Michiel and two public gardens, the Giardini della Marinaressa. Every year these venues transform, giving space to a group of architects and artists who present their projects through different media and approaches. The idea of establishing in Venice a place for cultural exchange and dialogue, started in 2011, when we launched the first contemporary art exhibition titled Personal Structures at Palazzo Bembo. Given the success of the exhibition, since then every two years we continue to present a show under the same title during the Art Biennial. This initial exhibition project provided the ground to experiment with other disciplines and for this reason we decided to open up the conversation to a group of architects. In 2012 we invited different practitioners, including Arata Isozaki, to investigate the topics of time, space and existence by presenting a project in Palazzo Bembo. This was the starting point of our architecture biennial exhibition which since then runs in Venice every two years under the title Time Space Existence.          Alongside our exhibitions Personal Structures and Time Space Existence, every year ECC curates a programme of talks, conferences and workshops that highlight and deepen the main topics of each show.

Rachele De Stefano, Head of Architecture at ECC Italy and amongst the curators of "Time Space Existence" (© Federico Vespignani)

How do you bring together 217 projects from 52 nations? How does the selection process work, and what is the underlying idea?
We work in a team to prepare a list of potential participants that has to be heterogeneous, inclusive of firms working in different parts of the world and with diverse approaches. We aim to bring together global firms with smaller studios led by one or two architects, and we combine the work of emerging names next to masters, as well as academic institutions and artists. Of course we make a selection when picking who to exhibit, but we always try to be as democratic as possible. Our approach to the selection of what are the main topics of the exhibition is “bottom up”. Our intent is to let the participants speak with their projects, in this sense we document what is happening in architecture nowadays and hope that through this exhibition we can raise awareness on current research, works, concepts which are not seen normally by the international public. Similarly we aim to give voice to practitioners working in certain areas of the world which are often underrepresented in international cultural events. 

It takes us about 2 years to put together the final list of participants, this means that we work on the upcoming edition while we are still busy with the organisation of the current one.

And what kind of world emerges from the documentation work of this edition?
From this year's edition emerges that architects are working on solutions to the major challenges of our times such as climate change, mass migration, scarcity of resources, scarcity of homes: in doing so they are experimenting creative and more collaborative approaches which force them to question their role, perspective and culture along the way. The combination of expertises and backgrounds from designers coming from all over the world, lead to an exhibition that aims to re-envision new ways of living and rethink architecture in today’s context.

Time Space Existence is eclectic by nature. It encompasses specific projects, global perspectives, vernacular architecture, and futuristic engineering. Then there is art, perhaps unexpected in an architecture exhibition. What is its role? And who is responsible for identifying the artists to invite?
Art is a necessary presence within our architecture exhibition. The artists are selected by the ECC team with the intention of offering a different perspective on the built world and how we perceive and experience it. The artists showcased, such as Pedro Friedberg, have the ability to imagine new worlds and scenarios free from temporal, spatial, cultural, and political constraints. This is necessary if we want to give space to imagination. Imagination is a fundamental tool for finding solutions to the problems that afflict us.

Title: "Time Space Existence" Organized by: ECC Italy
Organizating teams: Benedetta Bianchi, Elisa Dallanoce, Sara Danieli, Rachele De Stefano, Hadi El Hage, Bérénice Freytag, Ilaria Marcatelli, Vittoria Mastrolilli, Lucia Pedrana, Martina Rodella, Lucia Trevisan, Suzanne van der Borg, Elena Volpato Dates: Until al 26 novembre 2023 Where: Palazzo Mora, Palazzo Bembo, Marinaressa Gardens, Venice

Opening image:
 exhibited at Palazzo Bembo, Transpecies Design from the College of Design at the University of Oregon is a non-anthropocentric project curated by Adriann Parr to regenerate 
and reinvigorate the natural environment (© Federico Vespignani)

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