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Switzerland and Eduardo Souto de Moura win Golden Lions at Venice Architecture Biennale

The exterior of ‘Svizzera 240 - House Tour’ which scooped a Golden Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018.
The exterior of ‘Svizzera 240 - House Tour’ which scooped a Golden Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018.

Prestigious Golden Lions have been awarded to Switzerland, Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura and British architect Kenneth Frampton at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice. 

Curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects announced the winning participants as chosen by a jury made up of Sofia von Ellrichshausen (Argentina), Frank Barlow (US), Kate Goodwin (Australia), Patrica Patkau (Canada) and Pier Paolo Tamburelli (Italy).

The Golden Lion for Best National Participation went to Switzerland for ‘a compelling architectural installation that is at once enjoyable while tackling the critical issue of scale in domestic space’. Co-curated by Swiss architects Alessandro Bosshard, Li Tavor, Matthew van der Ploeg and Ani Vihervaara, ‘Svizzera 240: House Tour’ saw the pavilion transformed into a characterless rental property with a series of rooms decked out in the typical decor of plain white walls, laminate wood floors and plastic window frames.

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However, there was a Being John Malkovich twist, with rooms, windows and doors in a variety of distorted scales – contrasting the lilliputian with the brobdingnagian, leaving visitors disorientated, as if stepping through the looking glass into an Alice in Wonderland world. Only around 30 per cent of the Swiss own their own property, so with the majority living in rental properties the curators aimed, by exaggerating the otherwise quotidian fixtures and fittings, to highlight and question the banality of the interior design in rental accommodation.

Visitors to the ‘Svizzera 240: House Tour’ found themselves both dwarves and giants

In the same category, the British pavilion, wrapped in scaffolding with its empty rooftop space by Caruso St John and artist Marcus Taylor, received Special Mention for the ‘courageous proposal that uses emptines to create a “freespace” for events and informal appropriation’.

Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura won a Golden Lion for best participant in Farrell and McNamara’s Freespace exhibition for his pairing of two aerial photographs, ‘which reveals the essential relationship between architecture, time and place’. The images of his Alentejo project, São Lourenço do Barrocal estate, demonstrated how minimal his intervention was in the transformation of an old farm into a hotel.

Souto Moura – Arquitectos won a Golden Lion for Vol de Jour, 2018, displayed at Freespace. Photo by Francesco Galli

Recipient of the prestigious Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement was 87-year-old British architectural historian Kenneth Frampton, professor of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) at Columbia University in New York. Dubbed a ‘maestro’ by Paolo Baratta, the president of the Venice Biennale, Frampton was recognised in particular for his critical approach to the teaching of architecture.

‘Kenneth Frampton occupies a position of extraordinary insight and intelligence combined with a unique sense of integrity. He stands out as the voice of truth in the promotion of key values of architecture and its role in society. His humanistic philosophy in relation to architecture is embedded in his writing and he has consistently argued for this humanistic component throughout all the various “movements” and trends often misguided in architecture in the 20th and 21st century,’ said Farrell and McNamara.

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The Switzerland pavilion mismatched scales to draw attention to the cookie-cutter interior design style of rental properties

‘Svizzera 240 - House Tour’ was co-curated by Swiss architect Alessandro Bosshard and Zurich-based architects Li Tavor

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