Greece. The School of Athens

A pleasant surprise at the Biennale 2018: the Greek Pavilion has meaningful contents and an elegant set up.

View of the Greek Pavilion, Venice, 2018

Similarly to Spain, Greece is looking for its Freespace inside schools, the places where architectural knowledge is transmitted. Curators Xristina Argyros and Ryan Neiheiser, though, focus more on the space where learning happens rather than on the design outcomes of such experience. The School of Athens, stemming from a series of joint workshops between the National Technical University of Athens and London’s Architectural Association, collects 56 seats of as many universities, selected with no historical or geographical limitations, and even including unrealized projects.

56 maquettes, one for each project, and all 3d printed with the same material and language, are lifted at eyesight by a regular grid of pedestals. Walking through this landscape of white miniature models results in an endless surprise: in fact, instead of representing the totality of the buildings, they critically select and visualize only their commons, those intermediate spaces open to unexpected uses. Therefore, the Freespace guideline becomes a filter, an interpretative clue that gives well-known spaces a new and unexpected shape. Some architectures, such as the Architectural Association’s Georgian row-houses in Bloomsbury, are barely recognizable, and yet the functioning of their public spaces stands out with powerful clarity.

The School of Athens is a throughout, systematic, potentially open-ended research, completed by a cool catalogue in three mini-volumes. Each one provides a different comparison tool between the projects on show (images, drawings, data). The pavilion’s interior is nicely laid out in order to build, needless to say, a Freespace (here, a reinterpreted amphitheater) which visitors can appropriate as they wish. Within this frame of such meticulous classification and formal care, one might regret the absence of any exception, any single element standing out from the grid, but it’s a venial sin that is readily forgiven to this decade’s best national Greek participation.

Exhibition title:
The School of Athens
Opening dates:
26 May – 25 November 2018
Xristina Argyros, Ryan Neiheiser
Greek Pavilion, Giardini

Special Biennale

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