Public Works

13th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice Venice / Italy / 2012

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In the late 1960s and early 1970s, large public works departments were common in Europe. Many of these departments employed architects, who, as civil servants, worked to serve the public cause. Even today, the legacy – the public buildings which remain standing – looks refreshingly modern and innovative. Reinier de Graaf, calls the 60s and 70s – the heyday of public architecture – ‘a short-lived, fragile period of naïve optimism – before the brutal rule of the market economy became the common denominator.’ De Graaf notes ‘a strange paradox, that precisely the benign ideology of the welfare state chose to be represented by an architectural style known as Brutalism.’ The exhibition showcases architectural masterpieces realized for the greater good by bureaucrats: fifteen buildings across different European cities, all of which were designed by architects employed by the public sector. On display will be work by architects employed by the Greater London Council, the Public Works Department of Amsterdam, the Dutch Rijksgebouwendienst, the Senatsbauverwaltung of West Berlin, and work from various architects in France and Italy as members of special ‘Architect Councils’, ‘guiding’ the public sector on matters of architecture and urbanism. The exhibition is a mix of photographic record of the buildings in their current state and archival material. It is located in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini, and will be open from 29 August, 2012 until the 13th Architecture Biennale closes on the 19th of November, 2012.
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    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, large public works departments were common in Europe. Many of these departments employed architects, who, as civil servants, worked to serve the public cause. Even today, the legacy – the public buildings which remain standing – looks refreshingly modern and innovative. Reinier de Graaf, calls the 60s and 70s – the heyday of public architecture – ‘a short-lived, fragile period of naïve optimism – before the brutal rule of the market economy became the common...

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