Russian Pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale
If you ask a Venetian for direction, sempre diritto — "always straight ahead" — is the only navigation you'll be given. First, it confuses you; later you'll recognize the efficiency of this old Venetian imperative. The direction is indeed straight forward, the route is not necessarily. Moreover, drifting in Venice with no guidance will definitely bring a new discovery. The Open Call мbrief for the vision of Russian pavilion at Giardini has evoked the same sensations. The assignment was vague; we begrided drawings and visuals with a thorough narration. Somehow we followed the Venetian imperative.

Year 2020
Location Venice
Area 230 sq.m
Status Open Call Competition
Client V-A-C Foundation, SmartArt Agency
Awards shortlisted

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We stand assure of a professional approach and high quality of the upcoming reconstruction both in engineering and construction domains. So our contempla- tions concern the architecture and are based on interaction between content and accumulated environment. Two key lines for transformation are Permeability and Layering.It's important for us that these lines are consonant with the principles of Venice Charter, which we find the most reasonable in relation to restoration, and respect all periods in pavilion's lifecycle.

Name a few: Article 9. The process of restoration is a highly specialized operation. Its aim is to preserve and reveal the aesthet- ic and historic value of the monument and is based on respect for original material and authentic documents. It must stop at the point where conjecture begins, and in this case moreover any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp. ‹...›

Article 11. The valid contributions of all periods to the building of a monument must be respected, since unity of style is not the aim of a restoration. When a building includes the superimposed work of different periods, the revealing of the underlying state can only be justified in exceptional circumstances ‹...›."

That's why the level of our interventions is minimal, though it will qualitatively change the perceptions of being inside and outside the pavilion. All components of key lines inevitably link to each other, thus bring the wholeness.
Permeability for us here is a inclusive barrier-free environment (delicate corrections in plan solutions) and "airness" of shell. The front porch remains untouched, basement entrance is kept as well, and portal from the side facade becomes an entrance for mobility impaired visitors, since it's possible to design and construct a landscape ramp along the building. New chapter for the walls is once bricked up windows. Consequent disclosure of historical openings will lighten facades and porch, set the new exposition conditions, being both limitations and opportunities.
This brings us to The Layering. "A decaying folly" is a kind of genius loci, though it might sound sad. As we found in archive materials, "a park whimsey, folly" was in permantent maintenance, either way too touch- up, or abandoned (during the 20th century Russia or USSR skipped 19 biennials). What if one can turn this state into a special feature, a character, fragmentarily designating these layers and express the frozen time of Venice outward? Similar collages often appear in Russian architecture, reflecting pass of a time, making a biulding more vital. For material interpretatation of newly opened windows we choose moderate solutions, though emphasizing their contemporary stamp.

Interior solutions remain neutral yet flexible, ready to host an exhibition of any complexity. We propose to keep the opening in the floor slab, providing a special cassette.It is to embed in the opening, if needed, thereby closing it partially or completely.In support of this flexibility, flooring is also worth revising. The orginal finish was a parquet, however, it is not the most convenient for a seasonal pavilion. We suggest to take modular floors into consideration, and, perhaps, even offer artists and architects to independently interpret them to match the work.

Separately, we'd like to highlight the meaning of the door. Modern Russia, unfortunately, is characterized by an abundance of unattractive entrance groups, with a distorted route and ugly dumb door leaves.
The only doors we propose to actually restore are wooden carved gates with a lion and a unicorn, mascots and guardians of the pavilion.

For the rest, a simple yet strong gesture, the designation of the upcoming architectural and institutional transformations, would be a replacement of entrance doors with translucent ones, both on the porch and on the side facade. But especially on the balcony. This opening to the pavilion's most attractive and unex- plored public space, will become then an unofficial portal to the city, an eternal shot of the Lagoon inside micro-Russia in the Biennale Gardens.
Before the pavillion appears as a rethought Malachite Casket in its original color, we reload and "aerate" the space, preparing it to the brand new chapter.

First thing visible for Giardini visitor when approaching Russian pavilion will be the white tower-chamber, or "terem". As a part of installation we propose to repaint the entire building white for the duration of the Biennale.

This color operates here as a metaphor of blank canvas, honesty and intermezzo. White signifies the power of fragility, especially the fragility of passing time; passing time leaves traces on a white surface. Though Schusev referred to the Naryshkin baroque, after a century, the architectonics of the pavilion in white looks like a collective image of white-stone old Russian architecture, beyond time and trends.
Going up to the porch, the visitor enters the narrow and light hall with arched windows — absolutely a "seni" or verandas, sort of interstitial spaces in russian huts (we'll come back to them later). This is where the interaction begins.With our installation for the 17th architectural exhibition, we offer an almost "zero" level of spectacularity: its dramaturgy boils down to the needs of internal processes, while maintaining a reasonable dose of appeal both visual and emotional. Any solemnity in Venice is masquerade. We need a shift in focus from an object to an event; therefore, our proposal is more an infra- structure than an architecture.Inside we define 3 main zones: Bar, Archive, Laboratory, plus the headliner — Balcony.

The Bar
operates as a welcome zone, space for relax and networking, informal communication at the end of the day; it will be great to operate it outside of the working hours - hospitality as a gesture. The bar occupies the left room on the 1st floor and easily connected with the exterior. The Archive is not so much a storage space as a source of information and inspiration. It evolves into a moodboard and working materials of today and vice versa. Archive is located in the right hall of the basement floor. The visitor can begin to explore the work process from it. Service areas (storage, toilets, changing rooms) are located in the basment as well.

The Laboratory connects all zones of the pavilion, includes various work areas (office of archi- tects, publishing house, coworking) and offers a series of communication spaces (confession booth, broadcast tower, amphitheater).General layout remains "white cube". Certain walls of the Laboratory are covered with marker paint, on which theses and thoughts are fixed in the palimpsest mode, turning into a "research murals" by finissge. The entire floor is temporarily covered with modular pvc floors in grey.

Zones are filled with objects of different scales: Bar Counter, Towers, Stair, Mezzanine, Pier, as well as the necessary furniture: shelving, tables and the ubiquitous Tabourets (exactly as on photos of Schusev's design). The Bar Counter is made in two levels, so you can lean on to have a quick cup of espresso, or you can sit down for the aperol to discuss a panel with allies.

In The Towers there are a confessional booth (for anonymous architectural testimonies) and a broadcast room — they are communication spaces for a couple of people, where they can change their point of view figuratively by confidence or interview, and literally by climbing higher. The Amphitheater Stair as a wide gesture connects the levels of the pavilion and accommodates listeners of public discussions and meetings, whose participants are at the formal junction of the Laboratory and the Archive.The Mezzanine becomes a home for the publishing house and the architectural office — the participants remain in the common space, but can focus on work, because they are shifted in levels.
So we made it to the most enigmatic — The Balcony. The interior in the garden, our personal Venice-in-between, is the undoubted advantage of the pavilion over its neighbors. For more of its articulation, we place The Pier on it. It extends "the touch" of the Lagoon and the Pavilion. Formally it doesn't rest on the ground, following the mottos of Konstantin Melnikov:

"Symmetry without symmetry, unlimited elasticity of the diagonal, full thinness of the triangle and weightless weight of the console". Together with The Balcony area, The Pier is a space of chill, reflection and contemplation.
All objects are united tectonically and materially: these are spatial wooden structures, containing aesthetics in themselves. The idea of assembling, compiling a holistic form of individual elements is logical for the whole volume and for parts that manifest themselves, becoming a proportional part of the whole. Such simplicity of construction is achievable only in timber. Simplicity here primarily means clarity. Wood is also a reminiscence: beams and piles of Venetian houses, "altanas" roof terraces, Enzo Mari's furniture and — constructivist pavilions and scenography, Kabakov's objects and home- made trestles for repair. To top it, the wood is ecologically friendly, recyclable and renewable.
An important actor in space is light. The abundance of diffused daylight through the lanterns, the yellowish light of office desk lamps, the twilight of the archive set different states and be- haviours. Later the professional light calculation of illumination intensity for compartments will follow as well as lamps integration.
Basically, this is it. People will do the rest — the curatorial focus on communication and rec- iprocity continues the line of rare (in the context of architectural exhibitions) expositions in which the exchange of views and knowledge was more important than a state report. The pavilion lives by its temporality, remembers the past, cares about the future and abides in the present. Its path is not necessarily straight; but the direction of movement is always forward.
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