Biennale Architettura 2018: FREESPACE

Biennale Architettura 2018: FREESPACE

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Established in 1895, La Biennale di Venezia is one of the world’s most prestigious cultural organizations and is renowned for setting new global trends and launching the international careers of many artists and architects. For each edition, the Board of La Biennale di Venezia appoints top curators selected from around the world to organize exhibitions that are highly provocative or groundbreaking in the sectors of Arts, Architecture, Cinema, Dance, Music and Theatre.

Biennale Architettura 2018: FREESPACE

Photo by Andrea Avezzù - Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

La Biennale Architettura takes place every second year from May to November - alternating with the Art Biennale - and is located over two venues in the eastern part of Venice: the Arsenale and the Giardini. Once the largest pre-industrial production centre in the world, the Arsenale has been converted into 50,000 square meters of exhibition space and related functions. The Giardini, a parkland area, houses the Central Pavilion along with 29 national pavilions that each showcase particular countries or regions.

Biennale Architettura 2018: FREESPACE

This year’s appointed curators, architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, titled the 16th International Architecture Exhibition FREESPACE. With a focus on questions surrounding the quality of open and free space, Farrell and McNamara define the concept of Freespace as spaces which testify to the generosity and humanity which are at the roots of architectural practice. ‘We see architecture as the translation of need in its widest sense into meaningful space,’ say Farrell and McNamara.


The Arsenale

Italian architect Francesca Torzo was invited by curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara to present her interpretation of the FREESPACE theme at the Arsenale. The architect selected the renovation and extension of Z33, a house of contemporary art, in Hasselt (Belgium).

Biennale Architettura 2018: FREESPACE

Photo by Francesco Galli
Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

Francesca Torzo presents this project by showing important fragments of the project in images, texts, drawings and several models that describe in an abstract way the sequence of the project spaces. Among the different objects are 1:1 prototypes that offer an experience of the materials used in the project. Visitors build their own experience of the different spaces by walking around and through the installation. 

Z33 belongs to the Beguinage of Hasselt as a part of the wall built around the Beguinages garden, merging the existing museum from 1958 and the extension building. Francesca Torzo interpreted this historical complex as an island in the urban tissue by the exceptional size of the void and the permanency of its border of brick construction. The façade, made out of 34.494 handmade bricks, placed one by one, protects the quietness of the house of art and the garden.

To fit the elegant shape of the façade SlimLine 38 windows from Reynaers Aluminium were selected.

Biennale Architettura 2018: FREESPACE

Photo: Francesca Torzo architetto

Inside, the building is made up out of simple rooms that vary in size, proportion and light atmosphere. The design plays with the gradients of exposure and intimacy, public and domestic. The rooms overlook each other, offering plural perspectives and views as it happens in a city.

The Belgian Pavilion

Eurotopie, the selected project for the Belgian Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2018 addresses the issues and challenges tackled by the European Union. Despite being the EU’s principal territorial, physical and symbolic anchorage, the European Quarter in Brussels seems in no way to contribute to a collective European identity. The relationship of the European Quarter with its host city, however, is ambiguous.



According to the curators Traumnovelle and Roxane Le Grelle, Europe is the only great narrative which can effectively counter nationalism and extremism. With Eurotopie, they hope to arouse political commitment in European citizens and extend an invitation to pursue the construction of Europe as a political ideal as well as its anchorage in Brussels. They also address architects and space-makers in considering how the European democratic space can be constructed, and how it can cohabit with Brussels.

Photo: Italo Rondinella - Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

Eurotopie will occupy the Belgian Pavilion for the six-month exhibition. Built in 1907 by Léon Sneyers and renovated several times since, it is the oldest Pavilion in the Giardini. It boasts high ceilings and beautiful natural light as well as a prime location along the major axis of the Giardini.