Sunday, June 16, 2019


Fundamentals: 14th International Architecture Exhibition
Rem Koolhaas
Marsilio, 2014

Paperback | 5-1/4 x 6-3/4 inches (mini version) | 582 pages | English | ISBN: 978-8831718691

Publisher Description:
Fundamentals is the official catalogue of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale and it describes its three interlocking components: Elements of Architecture; Monditalia; and Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014. Together, these chapters presents the 2014 Architecture Biennale as a whole, illuminating the past, present and future of the architectural discipline.
dDAB Commentary:
Reviewing A Moving Border the other day prompted me to pick up my copy of Fundamentals, the catalog to the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. The former arose from a project in the Monditalia section of the Biennale, one of three sections that Rem Koolhaas created when he curated the exhibition. The others were Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014 and Elements of Architecture. Basically, Monditalia occupied the Arsenale and focused on Italy, Absorbing Modernity was the theme addressed by each of the country pavilions (usually they are free to develop their own themes), and Elements of Architecture, located in the Central Pavilion, presented the basic elements upon which architecture is built: facades, roofs, doors, even toilets. Each section is presented in the hefty catalog (I own the miniature version, but the larger, more expensive catalog is what's available online and linked below). Like most exhibition catalogs, the content expresses what the curators and participants wanted to achieve with their contributions rather than what was actually presented. So drawings, renderings, and historical photos prevail, while the experience of the exhibition and photos documenting it followed online and in magazines (my articles for World-Architects are linked above).

The catalog's 582 pages break down as follows: 166 pages for Absorbing Modernity, 158 for Elements of Architecture, and 180 pages for Monditalia, which includes descriptions for the cinema, dance, music, and theater interactions done during the course of the Biennale. (The difference is taken up by some advertising, a photo essay by Wolfang Tillmans, and the presentation of the collateral events.) For the most part, each contribution is given just a couple pages in the catalog -- enough space for a short description and one or two images but not much else. While each country produced a booklet or full-blown book for their participation -- and in the case of Studio Folder's "Italian Limes," their contribution led to a publication -- Elements of Architecture had the largest printed life during and beyond the Biennale. It was published as a fifteen-volume set in 2014, with each element given its own booklet (e.g. Fa├žade), and was repackaged with Irma Boom (she also designed the catalog) as a 2,528-page book for Taschen. Ironically, it was Elements of Architecture that received the harshest criticism from architects and architecture critics when the Biennale opened. It was also the most accessible section for the general public -- which says a lot, considering most architecture exhibitions are only understood and appreciated by architects.

Author Bio:
Rem Koolhaas, winner of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Biennale Architettura 2010, and the Pritzker Prize in 2000, founded OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) in 1975 together with Elia and Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp.
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