Venice Biennale 2020


The Romanian pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale brings to discussion the relationship between people and territory, consumption and natural resources as a central theme of living in the future. We don’t just live among each other, but surrounded by things and spaces that create the environment for our communion. We live together with the tables that we gather around, under roofs that give us shelter, surrounded by objects that complete our existence and that enhance our daily gestures. These are so deeply embedded into our livelihood that they have become the invisible stage of our actions. But what is hiding behind these objects of habit and how does that affect our living together?

How will we live together? – is an invitation on reflection on the future of humankind, but also a broadening of the idea of togetherness, a new holistic attitude towards all forms of life in the context of global consumption by the entropy of natural resources. The main concerns of the industrial society were mostly focused on the exploitation of fossil deposits, minerals and other finite resources. Differently from all of those the vegetal resource is capable of regeneration, with a relatively fast growth cycle and was efficiently used through the entire history of human history, but right now it is the first time when the rate of our consumption exceeds it’s regeneration capacities.

Europe is on the verge of losing it’s last prime forests at the very moment of concentrated efforts to save woodland worldwide. Two thirds of these last virgin forests are found in Romania and are under a serious threat by illegal logging. Furthermore, logging activity in Romania is exacerbated mainly by retailers and big processors in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Products of industrial processing are directed mainly to the international markets, from the multitude of consumer objects to lumber used in construction. 

We wish to address the international public as a main consumer of Romanian wood, and the local public alike, that will be the one affected by the long term problems instigated by logging. The project’s aim is to raise awareness and focus attention of professionals of architecture and connected fields on the vulnerability of this resource, the problematics of legislation, of the material’s provenance, of the quality of woodland, backtrack control and the life cycle of the final product, but also the necessity of responsible design. Most of the time responsibility is attributed to the logging industry. This invitation is addressed to policy makers, consumers and architects, designers and landscapers alike, as essential actors within the multitude of factors. Last but not least, we offer a series of best practices that should constitute a solid base for articulate dialogue on the vulnerability and the value of Romania’s botanical heritage. 

The idea that production is justified by human consumption and that consumer needs dictate the dynamics of economy is axiomatically embedded. In reality, the situation is very different: production and accelerated economic growth of the 20th and 21st century are what fuels consumption and the ever growing demand for goods and products. Today over 40% of the energy stored in global biomass is destined for human consumption and by lack of a plausible alternative to the foreseeable exhaustion of natural resources, we have to look more closely to what exactly determines us to consume, to understand this behavior. And it is by no means an exaggeration to say that our very future on the planet depends on this understanding.

Most recent data is showing that in developed societies over ⅓ of consumer products are replaced before they complete their service life. Under these circumstances, producers and consumers are equally responsible for the large-scale spread of scheduled wear. This phenomenon can be noticed by the ever decreasing life cycle of products, from gadgets to fashion, from design to construction and architecture. To fuel consumption, products today are purposely designed with a limited service life in mind, which is enhanced by the difficulties or impossibility of repair. The ever faster succession of trends, orchestrated by marketing is another strategy to determine consumers to accept without criticism the accelerated wear and shortened life cycle of objects that surround us and that we buy with so many more or less visible costs.

The entropy of natural resources affects all major ecosystems worldwide, of which forests are among the most vulnerable and their disappearance would have impossible to anticipate consequences. Wood is the first form of energy transaction used by humans and it is at the origin of all forms of technology.

If on the global level tropical forests are cleared massively to gain agricultural land, Romanian forests are mainly exploited to feed the wood industry, of which the biggest contributors are furniture production and construction. In Romania there’s 38,6 millions of m3 of wood logged, 20 millions above the official figures. Europe is on the verge of losing it’s last prime forests at the very moment of concentrated efforts to save woodland worldwide. Two thirds of these last prime forests are found in Romania and are under a serious threat by illegal logging. 

The term Fast Wood is derived from the idea of wood consumption without being interested in what’s behind it. It reflects the state of unconsciousness that is satisfactory in the short term, but has unwanted consequences in the long run. Turning a blind eye on the problem does not solve it.


The concept for the Giardini Pavilion is based on two opposing spaces, with different experiences and messages, setting the space for the tandem of final product and the unseen trace from the source to the consumer. The first space is a representation of different uses for wood, turned into object, while the second illustrates the vulnerabilities of this precious material. Symbolically it is the contrast between the processed state and the living substance. 

At the entrance the visitors will be pleased to find a domestic place furnished with familiar, tactile wooden objects. A hardwood table establishes the first contact with the concept – wood as a finished product, an object of fascination, design and consumption. By introducing this object as a barrier, the transitory entrance space is transformed into an exhibition of architecture and contemporary design: an overwhelming space excessively packed with wood in different shapes, like structural elements, pieces of furniture or everyday objects. Different types of crafts pieces, industrial products, consumer products, decorative objects, architectural pieces will be on display. 

The pavilion’s main space questions the forest as a vulnerable resource and visualizes the complex relations between territory and the need to exploit it. The main element of the exhibition is a large platform furnished with precise positioning and according to ecological and aesthetic considerations, tree trunks salvaged from illegal loggers from Romania. This surface will become an object in itself that organizes the rest of the exhibition and orders the visiting route. The synthetic process that determines the table’s topography is based on the analysis and interpretation of a landscape that will take into account a mosaic of ecological criteria, it is a macroscopical vision of the forest made up of eco-units. The attention and rigour to select and position the artifacts will create a visual inventory based on size, colour, texture, species, massiveness, porosity, source. The model of a reinterpreted forest made up of cut trunks is set on an apparently invisible pedestal that will suggest the idea of a floating forest, underlining it’s fragility. 

The exhibition language is contemplative but also interactive with the integration of augmented reality. Visitors may enter into this landscape, guided by symbols on their phone’s screen that are transformed into video animations that illustrate our theoretical research of the project’s theme. The pavilion’s walls document statistical data and invite visitors to an interactive game called FAST WOOD that explains the impact of everyone’s own choices over the use of the wood resource. The game invites visitors to assume the role of the four actors involved in the topic of Romanian forests: politics, industry, designer and consumer.


PROGRAM: Romanian National Pavilion at BA Venice
STATUS: competition
SURFACE: 200 sqm
YEAR: 2020
CO-AUTHORS: sAH studio de peisaj Ana Horhat
COLLABORATORS: Andrada Bolboacă, Alexandru Blănaru