New Australian Pavilion in Venice takes shape

    27 August 2014

    The two-level concrete and steel frame that forms the structure of Australia's new pavilion in the Venice Biennale precinct is now in place.

    At the end of next month, black granite panels will be installed as this, the first 21st century building in the historic Giardini della Biennale, begins to take shape.

    This is an important milestone for the project, and for Australian art and architecture generally, said Australia Council Chair Rupert Myer AM. Given that the Venice Biennale is considered one of the world's premiere international arts events, it has always been a great privilege to be allocated a site for our national pavilion.   Australia is one of only 29 countries to have one.

    Now that the new structure is in place, the simple beauty of Denton Corker Marshall's design is coming into play.  This is a building that will truly reflect Australia's status and significance on the world arts stage, Mr Myer said.

    The pavilion presents as a black box with flexible panels that can be opened up or remain closed, as directed by exhibition needs.

    When completed, the two-level structure will comprise an entrance foyer and exhibition gallery as well as back-of-house and storage areas.  The gallery will be a neutral space with polished concrete floors and five metre high walls.

    Describing the design concept, architect John Denton says, Our idea is simply to create an object which sits confidently and powerfully within the historic Giardini landscape.

    As architects, we are always striving to add visual interest. In this instance, we have reorientated the main entrance of the pavilion so it is now facing the Rio del Giardini canal, offering a visible, high profile façade from a number of vantage points.

    The 330 metre square building is already attracting attention in Italy.

    Alessandro Alessandri from SICOP, who is leading the joint venture for the construction of the pavilion, says, We were surprised that Australia was given permission to build such a contemporary building in Venice.  However, one must say that within the context of the Giardini della Biennale, which is a particular area of Venice dedicated to the world of art, the Australian Pavilion can be seen as a work of modern art. The pavilion is also the result of the evolution of technology in construction. There is nothing comparable on the island of Venice."

    The $7.5 million project has been funded primarily through donations from private benefactors, in addition to a contribution of $1 million from the Australian Government through the Australia Council.

    It was always an ambitious idea, to build a new building in an historic European city that is surrounded by water.  But the realisation of this beautiful new pavilion, which will stand large and proud in this prestigious international environment, says a lot about our cultural ambition as a nation, Mr Myer said.

    I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank Simon Mordant AM, Australian Commissioner for the 2013 and 2015 Venice Biennales, who has himself pledged a family donation of $2 million towards the project, and has worked tirelessly to make the building project come to fruition. The Australian Pavilion project is a great example of how the private and public sector can work together to achieve great cultural outcomes.

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