10.5.2012

New Australia Pavilion, Venice

An international competition-winning design for Australia’s new pavilion in Venice’s Giardini della Biennale, the heart of the prestigious Venice Biennale events.

The new pavilion will be the first of the 21st century contributions to the Giardini, which is undergoing revitalisation by the Venice Biennale. It will replace Australia’s current pavilion, designed as a temporary structure by Philip Cox in 1988.

Within a footprint of approximately 320m2, the two-level pavilion will provide a new flexible and adaptable exhibition space to showcase Australian visual arts and architecture to international audiences at annual biennales.

The design is of the utmost simplicity, architecturally expressed as a white box contained within a black box. The architects have avoided imposing a mannered architectural ‘event’ on the artworks displayed within, rather creating a container on and in which ideas can be explored where the container in no way competes with those ideas.

It is proposed that the matte charcoal finish of the exterior will be from South Australian black granite, on a steel structure. The interior gallery walls are standard white, and the floor is polished concrete. Free from affectation and obvious nationalistic statement, it is a powerful, confident yet discrete object within the heavily wooded gardens.

Conceived as object rather than building, the design continues the firm’s interest in the small scale architecture of their series of country houses – such as View Hill and Phillip Island houses, which develop around themes of European intervention in the Australian landscape and architecture as land art.

The plan is a simple square, and the section is also simple, with a back-of-house ground level accessible from the water and a piano nobile gallery cantilevered towards the canal. Four three-metre stone panels open like shutters: one is the door; others admit light and provide display.

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Denton Corker Marshall’s experience with similar cultural projects and in delivering projects offshore is extensive. The Melbourne Museum, ANZAC Hall – Australian War Memorial, Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Manchester Civil Justice Centre and Australian Embassies in Tokyo, Beijing and Jakarta are among projects of international significance produced by the practice.

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