Biennale Rotterdam, focus on the ecological footprint

Biennale Rotterdam, focus on the ecological footprint


This autumn, the tenth Biennale Rotterdam opened the season of European events dedicated to architecture. In what today is an increasingly diversified landscape of events (Rotterdam, of course, but also Lisbon, Tbilisi, Tallinn and Orléans), the exhibition It’s About Time. The Architecture of Change is pretty classic; it shines more for thoughtfulness and attention to detail than for originality in a strict sense. Curating it, with Derk Loorback and Peter Veenstra, are Véronique Patteeuw and Léa-Catherine Szacka, architects and researchers who in various ways over the last few years have become interested in the phenomenon of the proliferation of architecture biennials and triennials. At the helm themselves of an event of this kind, the curators have designed two exhibitions, both presented in a former port area of the city.

The main one brought together the projects of about fifty architects and researchers in an imposing derelict gasometer, re-staged for the occasion by the artist Richard Venlet. Fifty years after the publication of the report The Limits to Growth by the Club of Rome – which in 1972 raised the alarm about the limits imposed by the finite resources of the planet – the exhibition examined with a two-fold gaze (past and present) the role that architecture can play to become a vector of change. The rather varied contributions ranged from the usual ‘habitués’ of the biennial circuit (2050+, Andrés Jaque, Rotor and Bêka Lemoine to name a few) to lesser-known names (such as Richard Weller, Philippe Rizzotti and Extinction Rebellion).

The timeline with the installation by Monadnock studio in the main exhibition. (ph. Jacqueline Fuijkschot)

Organised into chapters, these contemporary projects dialogued with those put together in a big timeline, which tracked solutions and strategies already adopted over the last fifty years to counter the devastating effects of human activities on the planet. Aligning itself thusly with many of its counterparts, the biennial has shined a spotlight on the disastrous ecological footprint of architecture to explore the paths to its possible redemption. It did so with a coherent and well-structured account albeit at the cost of a few contradictions, like talking about sustainability in a windowless building, artificially lit throughout the entire duration of the event.

Future Generation exhibition. (ph. Sabine van der Vooren)

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