MSD at the Biennale

By Sophie Hill

This July, Lauren Granek was one of 17 masters students who spent a week at the Architecture Biennale for the Venice traveling studio, led by Prof Alan Pert and Scott Woods.

The Venice TS provided students with the ideal means to observe, document and critically engage with the vanguard of contemporary curatorial practices currently re-defining architectural exhibition making, representation, publicity, museology, and indeed the role of the architect today.

Each student was allocated a nation in the Giardini section of the Biennale, and given a ‘hidden history’ which would be incorporated into and shape their final project in whichever way they chose.

What was the most inspirational part of the Venice TS experience?

The most inspirational part of the Biennale, and the Venice travelling studio as a whole, was the diversity of ideas that I was exposed to, from both the Biennale and my studio group. Studying and working in the industry has taught me to challenge and propose new ideas in architectural discourse, however, being placed in a foreign environment completely saturated with such a range of varied proposals really defied my familiar process and rationale when designing.

It was incredibly refreshing to witness architects challenging architectural norms in speculative works, providing a greater insight into national political, social, economic and architectural contexts.

Has the Venice TS experience changed the way you view architecture?

Definitely! The proposals at the Biennale were not solely architecture for architecture’s sake - they had political, social and cultural purpose and content. Learning in the same environment over the years has perhaps narrowed my thinking in the discourse, which was why seeing work that really challenged architectural norms has had such an impact on my perception of architecture.

Has the experience changed the way you approach your projects?

My approach to projects has definitely been impacted by my experience in the travelling studio. During the studio I have seen works that challenge the banal, pushing ideas that are often suppressed somewhere along the lifespan of a project. The experience has shown me a sort of rebellion against common thinking and limitations in architecture and that speculative projects are far more exciting and challenging than known go-to outcomes.

What particular piece of work did you produce for the Venice TS and how did the Biennale experience shape this project?

The speculative work I created explores the idea of ‘The Monument of Memory’, with an examination of what we define as temporary or obsolete in object, space, architecture, place or even humanity itself. My work draws on ideas generated by Aldo Rossi’s Teatro del Mondo and the Dutch National Pavilion, both closely linked to ideas of temporality and obsolescence in function and presence.

My work proposes the contention that ontological status (the nature of being) is defined by memory, thus to exist does not require embodiment or emplacement but rather a meaning and embeddedness in place.