By Visual Arts team

15 June 2018 - 17:10

Two of our Fellows, Karly and Amy, share their initial thoughts after stewarding the pavilion during the busy opening week.

Karly McGinty from London South Bank University 

The empty pavilion. The pavilion is empty. Why is the pavilion empty? It's been fascinating to see the reaction to ISLAND during the opening week. You can see the questions passing over people's faces as they walk through the galleries. Looking for something to take a photo of. There are a few clues; the scratched floors, scraped walls, some masking tape, dust... all suggesting something was here. And that something was Phyllida Barlow's  2017 Biennale exhibition - Folly. The interior pavilion has been left unaltered since the previous exhibition was removed.

However, without these specifics you might say that the pavilion has been abandoned, one of the themes suggested for ISLAND. And as this is Venice, you might assume flood waters have driven people away, perhaps in this case upwards, to the roof of the pavilion, to the raised piazza.

The raised piazza, constructed on  scaffolding, signals change, building, progress and reconstruction - another suggested theme. Up here you have long views across the  lagoon. This is something you cannot see from within the pavilion itself. The raised piazza therefore opens up a new view, or perspective. Both the pavilion and the piazza offer freespace, the theme of this year's Biennale. 

Both parts, in my view, offer sanctuary also. I have particularly enjoyed seeing people smile as they walk through the empty pavilion; it feels restful on busy days in the Giardini. It feels quite far from the difficult theme of Brexit, but then you can draw elements from ISLAND that might fit with that, too. For me, ISLAND offers all perspectives on Brexit, not just my own view, and in many ways has helped me understand another view, even if I do not agree with it.

Perhaps that is the true success of ISLAND. There are no right answers here, simply an opportunity to think, share thoughts and understand one another better. 

Follow Karly's instagram as she maps her experience in Venice throughout the course of the month: @architectureandpudding


Interior shot of Island © Karly McGinty ©

Karly McGinty

Group 1 Fellows: Blair, Fraser and Georgina

Cristiano Corte

Amy Bryson from University of Dundee 

The last day of Vernissage when we found out the British Pavilion had won the Special Mention Golden Lion Award  for Best National Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale was the best day of the week!  We have started referring  to this Biennale as the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ year for the British Pavilion. The amount of hard work and effort put in by the curators and British Council team really paid off, and you could tell how glad they were that people enjoyed the pavilion. 

The whole atmosphere that day was so enjoyable and everyone was so proud to be part of the project. 

The winning pavilion was the Swiss Pavilion which presented the theme of a house tour. I have since been to visit the Swiss Pavilion and admit I definitely agree that it deserved its prize.  However, the concept of freespace I feel has been tackled very differently across the pavilions. The British and Scottish pavilions look into physical freespace, allowing people to fill in the space themselves.  The German pavilion, which is a personal favourite of mine, engages with the perception of space through a wall illusion as you walk into the building.  Yet the information within also addresses how Berlin has reused space to allow public interaction, and created new things from old abandoned buildings.

I will be taking inspiration from a few pavilions when conducting my research. I will start by looking into how people interact with different spaces, and what feeespaces currently exist in the world, and secondly what other free spaces are out there that could be repurposed - like old warehouses being renovated into clubs. 

Follow Amy's instagram for 'Pavilion of the Day' posts throughout her time in Venice: @a_little_bit_of_creativity