Venice Biennale 2023

As the city has become the predominant living environment of mankind, it often expands to the detriment of the environment and the quality of life of its inhabitants. This new condition entrails a shift in the way we look at and develop our cities, underlining the subtle connection between all living forms, including humans that can no longer be seen as separate from plants or animals. A series of emerging practices portray future laboratories
for a new hybrid living environment, where different forms of existence share the urban territory. How will the city of tomorrow built on these principles look like?

Whether we are talking about existing dense neighbourhoods or new urban developments, Romanian cities often suffer from a deficient relationship with the environment. A series of innovative urban planning or architecture projects aim to alleviate the quality of life in these densely built areas by (re)integrating environmental elements in the places where they were neglected, banished, at the same time offering socio-ecosystemic services to the
inhabitants. In the pre-industrial era, the settlements in Romania, although perceived in opposition to the environment, were still largely subordinated to the logic of their landscapes – climate, geology, topography, hydrology, habitats – being therefore a symbiotic part of them and at
the same time having an implicit resilience to the natural dynamics of these environments.

Industrial and post-industrial development, however, have brought an increasingly accentuated fragmentation of living environments, generating a real rupture between the human habitat and those of other species. The projects presented in the exhibition reverse this trend, addressing a wide range of challenges: the restoration of wetlands, more space for water for greater urban resilience to floods but also to drought, improving hydro-
geological system, preventing landslide, ecological corridors, protection of habitats and new living environments for biodiversity, reduction of the urban island effect through massive plantings, alternative network of soft mobility, well-being through access to green spaces of recreation.

The exhibition recreates a hybrid environment, halfway anthropic and natural, in which these two realities intertwine, borrowing from each other their own means of manifestation and expression.

Stepping into the Giardini exhibition space, the visitor finds himself in a fluid environment, a natural-like environment developed on a regular grid yet offering a surprising diversity of routes and atmospheres: paths, clearings, thickets. The simple grid is made complex through movement, exploration, vague, playfulness, transparency, interaction, layering.
This landscape is visual, tactile, auditive and olfactory. The experience is both contemplative and exploratory and it prompts a reflection on the coexistence of habitats and species.

A series of printed textile layers set up a re-imagined landscape in which fragments of nature and city superimpose each other, outlining an immersive parcourse. Although it captures a diversity of environments (forest, meadows, urban fabric, wetlands, etc.), the landscape does not present a specific place, although you may discover recognizable elements of domestic landscape. In the pavilion, there is a subtle play between light, density, and movement. The vertical veil interacts with the movement of visitors and the breeze generated by electric fans. This interior environment borrows from the fragility and temporality of the landscape, it reflects the changes in intensity and colour variations of outdoor light. The floor is covered with organic material (dry leaves and tree bark), through which visitors trace their own paths. The soundscape adds depth and amplifies perception: sounds recorded in the natural environment mix naturally with the noise of ventilators. A reverie and wandering sense sets in, where the physical limits of space fade away. It becomes bare in the clearing areas, which allow for 5 exhibition spaces.
Here we are presenting original studies in the form of 5 conceptual models that concise the problem of coexistence between different habitats and the urban environment: seaside, meadows, forests, wetlands, and mountain. The case studies are developed in partnership with 5 teams with diverse backgrounds, consisting of architects, landscape designers, ecologists, or urban planners, from academia or practitioners. Teams are selected based on experience relevant to the theme, as follows:

1. Coexistence of meadows and urban environment: Stardust Architects
2. Coexistence of coastal and urban habitats: skaarchitects
3. Coexistence of forests and the urban environment: STARH
4. Coexistence of wetlands and the urban environment: Metapolis, Atelier Mass & sAH
5. Coexistence of the mountain habitats of bears and the urban environment: WWF, the City of Tușnad and Conf. Univ. Dr. Tibor Hartel

The translation into model is done in an intuitive way and reproduces a central theme of each team’s experience, an essentialization of the projects that legitimizes the 5 projects as incubators of the future.

In the Gallery of the Romanian Cultural Institute, due to the reduced size, a different type of environment is presented, one that is visible from Campo Santa Fosca. A thicket of flexible translucent PVC tubes suspended from the ceiling of the gallery is positioned in the centre of the gallery. They render a fragment of pseudo-nature through vibration, play and diffusion of light. Visitors can venture inside the thicket. This object changes the spatial
perception of the gallery, the reduced height and narrow paths left free, create an immersive experience, unexpected for the urban context. Screens equipped with headphones will be placed on the shorter walls, on which interviews with the 5 exhibitors
will run in a loop. They will present their own vision of coexistence and their projects.


PROGRAM: Romanian National Pavilion at BA Venice
STATUS: proposal
YEAR: 2023
CONTRIBUTORS: skaarchitects, Stardust Architects, STARH, Metapolis, sAH studio de peisaj Ana Horhat, WWF Romania, the city of Tușnad and Conf. Univ. Dr. Tibor Hartel.