What to expect from Grafton Architects’ 2018 Venice Biennale

Look out for space, freedom, generosity and “an enormous tea cosy” of architectural concerns at this year’s Biennale
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Shelly McNamara and Yvonne Farrell. Photograph by Andrea Avezzu, courtesy of the Venice Biennale
Shelly McNamara and Yvonne Farrell. Photograph by Andrea Avezzu, courtesy of the Venice Biennale

Architecture, says Yvonne Farrell, is a “an enormous tea cosy.” That might sounds like one post-modern concert hall rendering too many, but hold on.

Farrell, alongside Shelley McNamara, her founding partner in the Dublin-based practice Grafton Architects, has built up an impressive body of work over the past four decades, ranging from houses in Ireland to public buildings in Italy, France, the UK, and Peru. Their works are principled, elegant, angular constructions, which aim to enrich the lives of the users, rather than simply boost the balance sheet of developers.

This year Grafton Architects will curate the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, 26 May – 25 November. Farrell and McNamara have chosen to theme the Biennale around the idea of “Freespace” which, the pair explain to Sandra O'Connell on the Architecture Ireland website, brings us back to that tea cosy.

 

Shelly McNamara, Yvonne Farrell and the Venice Biennale's Paolo Baratta. Photograph by Andrea Avezzu, courtesy of the Venice Biennale
Shelly McNamara, Yvonne Farrell and the Venice Biennale's Paolo Baratta. Photograph by Andrea Avezzu, courtesy of the Venice Biennale

Architecture is tea-cosy like, explains Farrell, because “it embraces everything.” Social, physical, economic and romantic considerations all fall into the purview of serious architects and, Farrell says “as architects we take ‘sounds’ and find a meaning that represents the dreams of the people. Architecture creates a syntax based on the power of an idea and the culture of place.”

Rather than cast themselves as masterful creators, the pair prefer to see architects as skilled public servants, understanding needs, and providing the right building. In this sense, the Biennale will examine how architects can best respond to the world.

“Freespace is about generosity; architecture as free gift,” Farrell says. “We believe the more that is being built, the more architects have to define what is given back to citizens. This is what architecture is about. We hope the manifesto will be a source of courage. We also hope that that the manifesto will bring out generosity among colleagues.”

 

Grafton Architects

If you’re going to this year’s Biennale, do pick up a copy of our new Grafton Architects book beforehand. You can pre-order it here.


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