From the National President – August 2012

August sees the opening of the Venice Architecture Biennale and I am looking forward to representing the Institute at the Vernissage on the 27 and 28 August.

Over the past 12 months, as a member of the Institute’s Venice Biennale Committee, and now in my capacity as National President, I’ve been privileged to be a participant in, and to witness the development of Australia’s 2012 exhibition.

The process began for us with a call for creative directors this time last year. From 27 submissions received, we were very pleased to announce the creative team for the 2012 Australian exhibition, being Anthony Burke of UTS, Gerard Reinmuth of Terroir and TOKO Concept Design.

Their proposition was for an exhibition entitled ‘Formations: New Practices in Australian Architecture’, with a focus on the extraordinary range of practice modes at work in Australia. Their own call out for Australian formations to feature as part of their exhibition resulted in more than 120 submissions, from which they chose an exemplary six which will feature in the Australian Pavilion next month. In developing the scheme, the creative directors have also published a book which highlights the work of a further 26 practice formations.

The Venice Architecture Biennale provides a unique and very special vehicle to communicate about Australian architecture to an international audience. It provides Australian architects with an opportunity to explore ideas and to consider current issues through speculation and proposition, and to think about and show what is happening within the profession and the discipline of architecture here. The exhibition will sit alongside those of our counterparts in the world architecture scene, and it is this coming together of architecture and people from around the world that makes the event, and the Australian exhibition, so interesting. Exposure of the breadth of innovation, ideas and creative work embodied in Australian architecture, to our colleagues and to the international media, through this exhibition extends Australia’s reputation for progressive architecture, and conveys much about our diverse society and our rich culture.

As new economic, social and cultural challenges present themselves, it is hoped the exhibition at the Australian Pavilion will act as a catalyst for discussion and debate around the changing role of architects and the ways in which they influence the world around them. Building upon the Common Ground theme set by the Director of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition, David Chipperfield, Formations will explore concepts that unite the architectural profession, whilst celebrating points of difference. This will be communicated through a programme of events that will run alongside the exhibition, including workshops and informal discussions between international exhibitors and visitors that foster a collaborative working environment within the Biennale’s Giardini. The exhibition and associated publications will demonstrate something of the diversity of Australian architectural practice, and support a broader recognition of architects who practice in ‘non-traditional’ ways – a central interest of mine and something I am thrilled to be able to support.

This is the first year that the Biennale exhibition has received funding from the Australian Government. Under the banner of Australia Unlimited, the government is a proud sponsor of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, and we welcome and thank them.  Australia Unlimited is an initiative designed to raise awareness of Australia’s capabilities in areas such as architecture, design, technology, science and research, with a particular focus on skills relating to global issues such as health, food security, energy, and sustainable development.

I would like to congratulate all those involved in bringing the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale to life. The exhibition is open to the public from 29 August until 25 November, and I hope you will have or can find an opportunity to visit! For those unable to do so, the Formations catalogue is now available (see the Publications & Resources section for more details) and will provide a comprehensive document of the exhibition and of the advance work leading up to the opening at the Australian Pavilion.

Shelley Penn