In 2004 The IX Venice Biennale of Architecture was under the general directorship of Swiss curator Kurt W. Forster and had as its theme ‘Metamorphosis’. The British Pavilion exhibition was curated by Peter Cook, true to his colourful and humorous fashion. Nine Positions was an exhibition of nine British architectural practices brought together to show how their strength came from a combination of distinct ideas and ways of working.
The nine architects – Future Systems, Ian Ritchie, Kathryn Findlay, Ron Arad, Caruso St John, CJ Lim, Richard Murphy, John Pawson and Cook himself, working with Gavin Robotham – built, drew, modelled and talked around material seen for the first time. Some of the more unusual exhibits included Cook & Robotham’s tomato garden, Ron Arad’s extraordinary interactive Corian wall, the padded phosphor-bronze mesh skin of Ian Ritchie’s Plymouth workshop and CJ Lim’s exquisite 3-D drawings.
Cook’s aim was to get the architects to speak for themselves:
“I want the British show to by-pass some of the more arcane manifestations in national pavilions in the past, where the rhetoric and philosophical mumbo-jumbo gets so clever clever that in the end you go around with a headache.”
The British Pavilion, originally built in 1887 and remodelled in 1909, saw its own metamorphosis as London designer Morag Myerscough wrapped the entire building in, as Cook says, “a new frock and some bright jewellery.”