Unlocking the Space of Freedom

written by Ana Ćurić


The title The Time for Spectacles is Gone of the text written by Dietmar Steiner about the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale, held in 2012 and curated by David Chipperfield, sums up the nature of the new paradigm in architecture, while perceiving the international exhibition not only as an orientation point, but also as a place of origin and consolidation of new tendencies. Withdrawal and restriction of architecture that celebrates star-architects and their stylistic exercises was quietly announced by Kazuyo Sejima with the People Meet in Architecture Venice Biennale, held in 2010. The focus was shifted towards the potentials of architecture, social responsibility and dialogue with the end user, implying a client who does not necessarily have deep pockets. Eight years later, the curatorial concept of the 16th Venice Biennale of Architecture has been developed by Irish architectural office Grafton Architects, managed by architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. For four decades, the office has been engaged in successful work- and teaching-based practices. They have become more active on the international scene in the last decade, as evidenced by their realisations in Milan, Lima and projects in Toulouse and London. Their participation at the Common Ground Biennale in 2012 with the presentation of the University Campus in Lima, titled Architecture as New Geography, was awarded the Silver Lion for a promising and emerging practice. Two years later, they faced a bigger challenge with the exhibition Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and in December 2016 architects Farrell and McNamara received the invitation from President of the Biennale, Paolo Baratta, to be main curators of the 16th Venice Biennale. They responded with the proposal called Freespace elaborated in a manifesto holding the same title.