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heneghan peng’s exhibit, ‘Shifting Ground (Beyond National Architecture)’, proved immensely popular with a record number of visitors and a positive critical reaction at the Biennale, which ran from August 27th to November 25th.
The exhibition, supported by Culture Ireland, was one of 55 national pavilions. More than 178,000 visitors, including thousands of students from around the world, visited the Biennale in 2012. 69 projects were made by architects, photographers, artists, critics and scholars, by a total of 119 participants.
It was a particularly strong year for Irish architectural practices at Venice with Grafton Architects winning the prestigious Silver Lion for most promising practice, in a remarkable achievement, on the Biennale theme of ‘Common Ground’. Three more Irish architectural practices - O’Donnell + Tuomey, Clancy Moore, and Boyd Cody - also presented at Venice. Grafton Architects and O’Donnell + Tuomey were chosen by the Director of the Biennale to feature in the exhibition’s notable international curator’s programme, while Clancy Moore Architects featured in the Backstage Architecture exhibition and book, a show presenting work by 56 architects under the age of 40, selected from around the globe. Boyd Cody were invited to contribute to the Greek Pavilion.
The ‘Shifting Ground’ exhibit was led for Ireland by Commissioner, Elizabeth Francis with Curator, John McLaughlin. Participants heneghan peng designed an interactive oscillating bench inspired by the ever-changing tidal water-marks of the city of Venice. Its ‘hands-on’ nature had particular appeal for young people, with thousands of students visiting, including a group of 3rd year students from UCD Architecture who took part in the inaugural "Biennale Sessions" for universities.
The exhibit was favourably reviewed by international press. ArtInfo Magazine wrote that the Irish Pavilion was "not to be missed"; while Peter Zöch in Topos Magazine called it “a simple but sophisticated, playful but profoundly developed installation [which] approaches both playful instincts as well as intellectual contemplation”. Peter Cook in the Architectural Review enthused: “For its humour, Ireland’s see-saw is worth the trip to Venice alone.”
Audiences at home will have the chance to experience ‘Shifting Ground’ when it is on display in Ireland next year.
Image Credit: Marie-Louise Halpenny