There’s no place like home, sang the popular American playwright Sir Henry Rowley Bishop in 1823. Yes, but whose home? Approaching its fifteenth edition and unveiling its program in May, this year’s Venice Architectural Biennial is directed by Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, calling on national pavilions to report from the front, addressing the most urgent challenges presented by our built environment.

Titled “Home Economics” and conceived by Jack Self and Shumi Bose, also founders of the programmatic REAL Foundation (Real Estate Architecture Laboratory), along with urban planner Finn Williams, the British Pavilion exhibition proposes architectural solutions to the current housing debate in the UK, extending this reflection to consider the crisis of our entire way of living.

Italian theorist Maurizio Lazzarato has claimed that, within contemporary capitalism, a company no longer produces just a product or service, but rather a world. “Home Economics” explores possible worlds and the spatial conditions as determined by capitalism. A hybrid network of architects, artists and developers, proof of the increasing presence of capital in every aspect of contemporaneity, has been invited to collaborate in the production of fully immersive 1:1 environments, each functioning as a potential model for future construction (or investment), facing the often less-explored gap between planning and factual realization.

The exhibition unfolds through a series of five architectural propositions, designed around incremental amounts of time: HOURS, DAYS, MONTHS, YEARS and DECADES.

As part of the exhibition the artists collective åyr has been invited to engage with the temporal concept of DAYS. åyr’s broad practice critically challenges ideas around contemporary forms of domesticity and their representation in a quickly mutating social and technological environment.

If the house is no longer a private and identitarian space, but rather a transitorial location for the hyper-connected, self-documenting global traveler, how shall we conceive it? åyr has responded with an immersive artwork re-examining the history of 1960’s utopian architecture.

Hybrid networks of practitioners address the challenges of our built environment

Composed of two inflatable Zorb balls, each adorned with printed images, DAYS breaks the dualism between public and private, virtual and real, performance and spectacle, colliding these opposites into a personal habitat.

The airbed infrastructures become an experiential device, an extension of the body traveling through nomadic spaces, in flowing transition between labor and entertainment, whilst suggesting a future that is not communal but individual, replicating through architecture, digital alienation and self-performance.

Monuments, urban landscapes, domestic interiors and real estate aesthetics mesh into surreal virtual-scapes, expanding the habitable space constructed by the digital orbs through soft transparencies. DAYS suggests a transitional domestic, “a home away from home” formed by embracing versatile architecture constructed for a mediated reduced presence.

If dwelling has the power of transforming social structures, it can also change the way we progress. åyr’s presentation immersively responds to the complex issues raised by the Pavilion, emphasizing the possibility of individual change whilst reverting our inner relationships with the domestic, a space now virtually conceived and physically experienced.

Jack Self, Shumi Bose and Finn Williams 
are co-curators of “Home Economics,” a group exhibition of emerging artists, architects and designers presented in the British Pavilion at the 15th Venice Biennale of Architecture, on view through 27 November.

Bose and Self are also the directors of REAL Foundation. In Venice, they will launch the first issue of The REAL Review, a bi-monthly architecture magazine published under the art direction of OK-RM.

Attilia Fattori Franchini is an independent curator based between London and Mexico City. She is Director of Seventeen Gallery, London, as well as co-founder of the online platforms and Opening Times. 

Photo credit:
 James O Jenkins