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A First For Australian Architects At The 2018 Venice Biennale

Architecture

The esteemed Venice Biennale opens this Saturday, and for the first time, Australian architects are among the world’s leading firms invited to create exhibitions for the Biennale Architettura 2018 main showcase, Freespace.

Melbourne-based John Wardle Architects has unveiled Somewhere Other, a multi-disciplinary installation, which explores working between two distinctly different places: Australia and Italy.

Here, we see it all coming together, from concept render to assembly in Arsenale!

24th May, 2018

The John Wardle Architects team and assistants preparing their installation for Venice. Photo – courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

‘Somewhere Other’ installation. Photo – courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

The eponymous architecture firm lead by John Wardle (pictured centre) was one of only who Australian firms invited to create an exhibition for the Biennale Architettura 2018 main showcase, Freespace.Photo – courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

The Melbourne-based architecture firm collaborated with Murano glassblower Leonardo Cimolin. Photo – courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

Installation concept sketch. Photo – courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

The installation is clad in spotted gum, featuring joinery by Jacaranda Industries. Photo – courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

Its series of portals and thresholds that orchestrate various forms of engagement, from the most intimate to the most social. Photo – courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

‘Venetian Portal’ detail. Photo – courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

All the components traveled from Australia to Venice in two shipping containers. Photo – courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

The dynamic and immersive installation incorporated the work of artist Natasha Johns-Messenger, as well as filmmakers Coco and Maximilian. Photo – courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

Elle Murrell
Thursday 24th May 2018

‘…a series of portals and thresholds that orchestrate various forms of engagement, from the most intimate to the most social.’ – John Wardle.

Two massive shipping containers left Australian shores bound for Venice. There, there were met by the team of specialist contractors, who had constructed the contents back in OZ. Next, the team from John Wardle Architects, along with collaborators: artist Natasha Johns-Messenger, filmmakers Coco and Maximilian, and Murano glassblower Leonardo Cimolin, set about the monumental task of assembling their elements into Somewhere Other, a vast installation worthy of La Biennale di Venezia.

‘It’s an idea formed around the theme of translation, and working between two distinctly different places: Australia and Venice,’ explains founding principal John Wardle. ‘To make this connection between “somewhere” and “other” we determined our exhibition to be a series of portals and thresholds that orchestrate various forms of engagement, from the most intimate to the most social, with opportunities for entering within, or standing back and observing.’

The result is a meticulously constructed installation, which joiners Jacaranda Industries have clad in spotted gum, an Australian native hardwood. Integrated throughout the structure’s viewing points and thresholds are a series of screen-like mirrors and films – by artist Natasha Johns-Messenger and filmmakers Coco and Maximilian, respectively – as well as an intriguing optical device created in collaboration with Venetian glass master Leonardo Cimolin.

‘The capacity of Natasha’s work to confound perception and challenge what and how we see things led us to invite her into our project for Venice,’ details John. Meanwhile, Coco and Maximilian’s six short films cover John Wardle Architects projects. But rather than merely document, they creatively explore emotional engagement with architectural space.

One end of the Somewhere Other installation tapers to a viewing portal, inspired by both Venetian carnival masks and the horizontal eye slit in legendary bushranger Ned Kelly’s iron helmet. ‘It’s suggestive of the way we engage with interior space,’ explains John of the view.

At the other end, is a U-shaped passageway where a film, presenting a journey through passages, windows and door openings, is projected at human scale. At the same time, two of Natasha’s angled mirrors create an engaging illusion, enfolding viewers in the projection.

A final ‘Venetian Portal’ can be viewed from that same U-shaped passageway. This polished chrome cone extends through funnel-shaped Venetian glass by master craftsman Leonardo Cimolin. Uniquely, this viewpoint has an opposite function to the other two, focusing a viewer’s attention inward on the architectural pavilion space before them, rather than elsewhere… somewhere other!

Curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, Freespace, runs from May 26th to November 25th.

To accompany the exhibition, John Wardle Architects has commissioned a monograph, Somewhere Other: John Wardle Architects, by Uro Publications.

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First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net