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A Three-Dimensional Portrait of the Sensibility of Contemporary German Architecture
As the central salon, the main room is surrounded by four theme cabinets that make for a stimulating tour. Photo: PK.Odessa.

VENICE.- The German Pavilion’s theme of “desire” represents a fundamental emotional driving force of architectural activity. The focus is on the direct sensuous experience of architecture on a scale of one-to-one. Instead of representative models, plans or photographs the pavilion itself is interpreted as exhibit number one and elevated to a place of yearning in the gardens of Venice. A selection of German architects and other artists express their architectural desires in the form of sketches. This turns a contemporary salon into a place of encounters and interdisciplinary reflections on the individual and collective sensibilities of the current architectural scene.

The concept of “desire” is a good way of making the emotional, intimate and sensuous aspects of architecture the subject of public discourse. The idea is to provide a venue in which views can be exchanged on these aspects of architecture. It is not so much a matter of exhibiting objects or individual projects, as of inspiring fruitful associations. Central to this theme of desire is the search for a unity of architecture, humanity and nature – that unity with the world that children feel and which in the course of growing up seems to get irretrievably lost. The desire to be at one drives very deep creative processes. Quite apart from the purely ecologically and economically oriented sustainability debate, the German Pavilion will attempt to provide a temporary place where “desire” can be discussed as a holistic way of reflecting on what is going on in contemporary architecture.

Venice itself constitutes an intensive projection area of architectural desires and yearnings. That is why the German Pavilion is attempting to take its place in this emotionally charged landscape. Without wanting to gloss over the history of the pavilion, it is being presented in terms of its architectural possibilities. In implementing this plan we work with the pavilion and not against it. To the existing layers of its historical architecture another one is being temporarily added. Thus beyond the level of mere exhibiting there arises a communicative place which creates an “inhabitable” space for discussions.

Design of the exhibition
A golden curtain acts as a teaser for the transition between outside and inside. When visitors enter the pavilion their senses are assailed by the atmospheric design of the five inside rooms: The main room presents itself as a spacious lounge in which over 180 German and international architects and other artists have expressed their architectural desires in the form of sketches. The salon with the red cloth-covered walls and armchairs is a standing invitation to linger, converse and surrender to its ambience.

As a venue for presentations, conversations and musical performances, the pavilion is also a place of encounters, inspiration, exchanges of views and interdisciplinary reflection on individual and common sensibilities of the current architectural scene. Almost weekly for the whole duration of the Biennale students, architects and interested members of the public hold joint workshops.

The smaller adjacent rooms play the role of emotional cabinets, being inspiring, irritating and provocative in turn. Priority is given to direct sense perception. Soft furnishings, mirrored surfaces, views and curtains in a wide range of variations make the pavilion a complete work of art in itself. Apart from the Red Salon, the Hall of Mirrors and the Room with a View the other rooms will surprise visitors with more acoustic and visual delights.

In addition to the events planned for the German Pavilion, “external salons” will be taking place for the duration of the Biennale in other European cities such as Munich, Zurich and Berlin. They will act as a network to place the theme of the German contribution to the Biennale in an interdisciplinary, international context, thus facilitating a substantive exchange of views outside of Venice.

Sketch collection
The keynote of the German contribution to the 12th Architecture Biennale in Venice, “desire”, is also the theme of a collection of sketches done by 182 contemporary architects and other artists to illustrate their very personal architectural desires. From renowned star architects to freelance or employed architects of various standing, from young, known or unknown representatives to students, a wide range of German architects was asked. There is even a small number of international personalities to be found among the authors of the sketches. The originals will be exhibited in wooden frames in keeping with the dignity of a salon. The assembled drawings are highly individual, variety being a selection criterion. The sketches show different reactions – with regard both to style and substance – to the theme, mostly in pictorial form, but sometimes only with text fragments. The contributions extend from associative debates to critical, political or humorous commentaries. One thing is common to them all: the desire for something unexpressed. Sometimes this is communicated immediately to the viewer, sometimes it takes a long period of contemplation to absorb both form and content. The collection restores the status of the architectural sketch as hand drawing, which in recent years seemed to have dwindled to a secondary product of architectural creativity, by making it the focus of the exhibition in the main room of the German Pavilion.

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