nemoAugust 7, 2017
Venice returns to Aotearoa
I’m filling in here while Levi is away (not sure when he’ll be back again), so here is a welcome tale, not exactly about Wellington, but definitely about Architecture. You’ve probably all heard about the Venice Biennale of Art, where New Zealand has been exhibiting for the last several times, some more successfully than others? There’s also a Biennale of Architecture too, and Aotearoa has been venturing to show there, but only for the last two times. It’s expensive, but last year the NZIA represented us all in Architecture, with a show called “Future Islands”. The great thing is, it has at last arrived back on these shores and is being exhibited in Auckland at present. Even better, this exhibition will be coming to Wellington in a couple of months time – and possibly venturing even further south after that.
The Future Islands are currently on show in Object Space, a new venue in deepest darkest Ponsonby, in the heart of RTAville. (No, not wasting away in Margaritaville like Jimmy Buffet, but close). Object Space is a cool new ice cube of a gallery – a far show from the Venician Palazzo the exhibition was on at in la Serenissima, where everything is old and wrinkly and rippling with reflected light off canal-dappled water. Here we have windowless white walls and, when I was there, a plethora of Auckland ladies who lunch looking lost, trying to find their way around the exhib.
You probably know a bit about the project – the Islands in question are lightweight, high tech, floating platforms, on which the buildings themselves float above. Lots of little models of a number of Aotearoa’s more recent iconic buildings – self-proposed by architects it seems, as they are made in different ways and displayed in different manners. The whole is impenetrable and exclusive at first, involving an ability to read and understand a plan in both 2D and 3D, which as you all know, is beyond many people. As Captain Nemo I’ve been doing this plan-reading malarky for years, but even so, it took me a fair while to get to where I could identify a building with ease. The Ponsonby-based ladies, however, were mostly hopelessly lost, cast adrift on the changing tides of the Waitemata and left without a hoe for their waka up the awa.
So is it an exhibition for the public or for the architectural cognoscenti then? Obviously it wants to be both, but perhaps miserably fails at the public realm, although its appeal is still universal in some ways. I mean, who doesn’t like floating white cloud-like islands ready to scythe you in two with razor-sharp precision? Impossibly intricate miniature models are at danger of dismantlement by tiny hands, so for the most part, the floating clouds – sorry, islands – are up in the sky, just beyond the reach of puppies and people in pampers.
But there are some beauties, some highly recognisable houses that we will all know, and some that you may not. There is an incredibly highly detailed 3D printed scale model of the Athfield urban village, that to the ladies of Ponsonby seemed to just be an architectural fantasy – one had heard of Athfield, the others had not – (well-known Wellington names are not as widely travelled as we might think in the northern city of commerce) – but I was more amazed that accurate plans of Ath’s house even exist, as it seems to me that there are still some corners still unexplored. The model is brilliant white and perfectly finished, something that the original may never attain…
The Ath house also featured a second time as “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” with a Maori-carved Athfield lookout tower and a vibrant throbbing neon-red sign proclaiming our Douglas Adams inspired solitude.
Yes indeed, New Zealand is like the very last place of existence to many in the Northern Hemisphere, with our exotic birdlife and our erotic sportslife, and so perhaps it was appropriate – perhaps not – that the islands were littered sporadically with miniature 3D-printed sheep and cows. Personally I’d rather they were clad in bush and filled with kea and kaka, kakapo and kokako, moa and hihi, matai and mahoe, kauri and kahikatea.
But that aside, this exhibition works well, especially for Architects. Best of all though, the exhib can appeal simply by enabling everyone to play the game of “what is my favourite recent New Zealand house?” Go, enjoy, or wait for when it comes to Wellington, where it will be hung in the Adam – now that should be an exciting space for it to be displayed!