Alejandro Aravena, the overall creative director of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale has called on the creative directors of each of the national pavilions to share stories of architecture “improving the places where life occurs”. His theme “Reporting from the Front” focuses on the social impacts of architectural endeavour. He has set up an agenda of the national exhibitions as places of exchange where we will report, acknowledge and communicate.
Recognisably Australian, “The Pool” is joyful, celebratory and accessible. It is also a setting for the sharing of stories, tales of personal and collective struggle, of community building and transformation and refusal of the status quo. Creating a pool as the focal point in the space, the exhibition will at first seduce the senses, but it will also capture the imagination and intellect of those who choose to dive deeper, as we have throughout our research and development process.
Through the device of the pool, we have uncovered many stories… To tell these stories, we have selected eight prominent cultural leaders … These include Tim Flannery, Ian Thorpe, Romance was Born, Christos Tsiolkas, Anna Funder, Hetti Perkins, Dawn Fraser and Paul Kelly.
Through the device of the pool, we have uncovered many stories and from these curated eight narratives, each about an aspect of Australian cultural identity and each shedding light on the sustainability of our social infrastructures. To tell these stories, we have selected eight prominent cultural leaders from a variety of fields including literature, science, the arts, sport and music. These include Tim Flannery, Ian Thorpe, Romance was Born, Christos Tsiolkas, Anna Funder, Hetti Perkins, Dawn Fraser and Paul Kelly. Their narratives move from the scale of the body to the scale of the continent and together they reveal the many powers of the pool: as a means to enable survival in an unforgiving landscape, to tame our environment, to provide spaces that facilitate a direct contact with nature, to create democratic social spaces, but also spaces for healing racial and cultural division. All are examples of the myriad meanings and impacts of the pool on Australian society.
Many of the stories reference places and projects of direct significance to Reporting from the Front. Others do so more obliquely, through a description of events, experiences, histories or memories. These collectively describe a powerful relationship between place and society, a relationship intrinsic to next year’s Biennale theme.
As the creative directors of the Australian exhibition, we are proposing to step outside of architect-to-architect discourse to show how a familiar, common object, the pool, is in fact pregnant with cultural significance, it is both artifact and catalyst of change. Our vision portrays the architect as a synthesiser of different voices and perspectives, a facilitator and leveler that creates a platform for conversation between leaders and civil society.
The Pool is a prism that uncovers a vast commentary about Australia and its architecture, reaching out to those beyond the profession through a multitude of narratives that inform and define our cultural identity.