On May 19, 2023 at 7PM, on the occasion of the vernissage of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition at the Biennale di Venezia, the Unfolding Pavilion will once more open its doors to the public. Following the previous editions on Ignazio Gardella’s Casa alle Zattere, Gino Valle’s Giudecca Social Housing, and the lost replica of John Hejduk’s House for the Inhabitant Who Refused to Participate, the fourth Unfolding Pavilion will be dedicated to the Giardini della Biennale: the Venetian site featuring the highest concentration of modern architecture, with buildings by Alvar Aalto, Josef Hoffmann, Gerrit Rietveld, Carlo Scarpa, James Stirling, Sverre Fehn and more.
The Giardini Pubblici, commissioned by Napoleon in 1807 to provide a green lung for the densely built City of Venezia, was a public park designed by local architect Giannantonio Selva in the style of Neoclassical landscape gardens. A large portion of the city fabric, including two Renaissance churches and a monastery, had to be demolished in order to build the public gardens. Permanent gallery spaces were built in the park beginning in 1895, with the opening of the first International Art Exhibition. The vast majority of the area has since been fenced off and given to the Biennale, removing it from public use. In 1932, the perimeter of the gated enclave of the Giardini della Biennale was extended to include a plot of land on the neighboring island of Sant'Elena. Currently, only one-third of the Giardini’s total surface area is open to the public, with the rest being accessible only during the visiting hours of the Art and Architecture Biennales.
The Giardini, however, are not private property: they are public land granted to the Biennale for free by the City of Venezia in exchange for upkeep and security. As a result, during the months when the pavilions are closed and empty between exhibitions, the public land on which they stand could be returned to citizens, as originally planned. Despite this, access to the inner part of the park is restricted and controlled by the system of gates, walls, fences, CCTV cameras, metal spikes, barbed wire, and armed guards that comprise the Giardini’s urban front. It is, in fact, a case of private expropriation of a public territory.
Reacting to this situation, Unfolding Pavilion #OPENGIARDINI is an exhibition that
investigates the paradoxical state of a public space that is not publicly accessible, through a series
of site-specific interventions aimed at sparking discussion about the Giardini della Biennale’s
current and future uses.
Comment as :