Wolf D. Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au; Photo: Elfie Semotan
Wolf D. Prix isn't afraid to speak his mind. The celebrated architect and erstwhile avant-guardist formulated his thoughts of the just-opened Venice Architecture Biennale in a scathing 570-word statement that's more than a little tedious. The document, entitled (!) "The Banal", voices Prix's dissatisfaction with the Biennale's "vanity" and the "boring" exhibitions that litter its grounds. He decries the event as an "expensive danse macabre" that doesn't, and perhaps, never has fulfilled its founding purpose: to host and provoke "lively discussion and criticism of topics in contemporary architecture".
Instead, in Prix's eyes, the Biennale has become a glamorous Venetian "carnival", where star architects parade around town like film stars, with a fawning media closely trailing behind. Besides, the event's influence has never quite achieved the reach or import as that of the Art Biennale, Prix adds. A great Architecture Biennale, on the other hand, would have "established forums and put out themes which would have provided a chance to look behind the scenes at the decision-making". Prix further chastises the curator of this year's event David Chipperfield for his, frankly, weak, overly polite "Common Ground" theme, which could be more accurately described as "compromise".
On one level, Prix is right. The Venice Architecture Biennale essentially functions as an extravagant means of reification of the supposed political clout and public powers most architects delusionally attribute to themselves. As Prix says, "...politicians and project managers, investors and bureaucrats have been deciding on our built environment for a long time now. Not the architects"--especially not wassailing architects dressed "in Pierrot costumes [and] surrounded by masked critics dancing the 'Dance Banale'". Still, Prix and, by extension, Coop Himmelb(l)au have long jettisoned all of the avant-guarde or critical "baggage" that once marked their brilliant (and fun) 70s and Deconstructivist projects, ostensibly out of fear that these serrated features would rub their corporate clients the wrong way. As Charles Holland of FAT tweeted, "Wolf Prix say hello to black kettle. Kettle, say hi to famous pot Wolf Prix."
Read the entire press release over at BDonline.