This year, for the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, VisionArc was invited to collaborate with Archrival, 1 of 6 teams exhibiting in the Australian pavilion, on their Arena Calcetto installation. The installation consists of a series of tall timber structures sited amongst the trees in the entry forecourt of the pavilion which house custom fussball tables.
As Archrival describes it:
“Arena Calcetto explores the theme of ‘Formations’ and was conceived to represent Archrival’s practice ideals; to engage a wide number of collaborators and to create new connections between the audience, exhibitors and curators at the Biennale event. Our vision is to challenge existing practices in architecture and to expand the practice of creative professionals by harnessing the potential of design rivalries.”
For the installation, VisionArc produced a team of 11 players that were milled from 35mm pieces of corian with colored pictograms laser etched into their surfaces. The set sought to ask: How can we think of a “game” where individual players are instead replaced by some of the most wicked issues of our time- water scarcity, food crisis, energy and natural resource depletion, education, healthcare? How does this ask us to redefine the concept of the “common goal”? What is the nature of competition and collaboration on a playing field in this context? The answers to some of these questions may very well describe the nature of 21st century design. In other words, the practice of architecture in the 21st century has emerged as an increasingly issue driven endeavor- expanding its field perhaps more so than at any other moment.
Whereas in the past, the architect’s “material” palette may have been mostly defined by physical matter, today our practice operates more and more in what has been called that “dark matter” of design- matters of collaboration, policy making, negotiation, research, and advocacy. These broader, underlying systems and mechanisms are less about creating stuff and more about constructing contexts. In the coming decades architects and designers must demonstrate an ability to deftly navigate and negotiate these areas both tactically and strategically. Perhaps the athletic analogy can teach us something after all!
For more on VisionArc’s and others’ work on this collaborative effort check out Patrick Fileti’s short film here.