Freespace: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara titled the Biennale 2018

The 16th International Architecture Exhibition 2018 (May 26th – November 25th)
curators: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara

2017 June 9th – Yvonne Farrell – in the Jury of the arcVision Prizeand Shelley McNamara titled the 16th International Architecture Exhibition Freespace, and explained their choice with the following words:

Courtesy of La Biennale di Architettura

«Freespace describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself.

Freespace focuses on architecture’s ability to provide free and additional spatial gifts to those who use it and on its ability to address the unspoken wishes of strangers.

Freespace celebrates architecture’s capacity to find additional and unexpected generosity in each project – even within the most private, defensive, exclusive or commercially restricted conditions.

Freespace provides the opportunity to emphasise nature’s free gifts of light – sunlight and moonlight, air, gravity, materials – natural and man-made resources.

Freespace encourages reviewing ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the  well being and dignity of  each citizen of this fragile planet.

Freespace can be a space for opportunity, a democratic space, un-programmed and free for uses not yet conceived. There is an exchange between people and buildings that happens, even if not intended or designed, so buildings themselves find ways of sharing and engaging with people over time, long after the architect has left the scene.

The role of architecture in today’s society

With the theme of Freespace, the Biennale Architettura 2018 will present for public scrutiny examples, proposals, elements – built or unbuilt – of work that exemplifies essential qualities of architecture which include the modulation, richness and materiality of surface; the orchestration and sequencing of movement, revealing  the embodied power and beauty of architecture.

The exhibition will have a spatial, physical presence of a scale and quality, which will impact on the visitor, communicating architecture’s complex spatial nature.

The exhibition invites emotional and intellectual engagement of the many who come to the Biennale in order to understand architecture more fully, to stimulate discussion on core architectural values and to celebrate architecture’s proven and enduring contribution to humanity. »

The “models” of the Biennale 2018

« When Jørn Utzon thinks about a seat at the entrance of Can Lis, Majorca, it is moulded perfectly to the human body for comfort and pleasure. Spatially, it is a ‘word’ of greeting, of welcome.

Angelo Mangiarotti ‘says’ the same thing at the entrance to 24 Via Quadronno, Milan where a gently sloping path, with a seat at the entrance threshold ‘holds’ you and welcomes you home from the city.

Lina Bo Bardi [ – Special Prize arcVision Prize 2014 – ] raised the museum of modern art in Sao Paolo in order to make a ‘belvedere’ for the citizens to overlook the city.

The Medici Palace in Florence represents power and wealth but the stone seat which forms part of the solid façade almost turns the building inside out. The solid wall becomes the enclosing wall of the public space. What is solid seems outward looking and generous

« We believe that everyone has the right to benefit from architecture. The role of architecture is to give shelter to our bodies and to lift our spirits. A beautiful wall forming a street edge gives pleasure to the passer-by, even if they never go inside.  So too does a glimpse into a courtyard through an archway; or a place to lean against in the shade or a recess which offers protection from the wind and rain.

We see the earth as Client. This brings with it long-lasting responsibilities. Architecture is the play of light, sun, shade, moon, air, wind, gravity in ways that reveal the mysteries of the world. All of these resources are free. »

President Paolo Baratta stated:

«As was the case for the previous editions of Biennale Architettura, we continue our investigation into the relationship between architecture and civil society. The divide between architecture and civil society, caused by the latter’s increasing difficulty in expressing its own needs and finding appropriate answers, has led to dramatic urban developments whose main feature is the marked absence of public spaces, or the growth of other areas dominated by indifference in the suburbs and peripheries of our cities.

The absence of architecture makes the world poorer and diminishes the level of public welfare, otherwise reached by economic and demographic developments. To rediscover architecture means to renew a strong desire for the quality of the spaces where we live, which are a form of public wealth that needs to be constantly protected, renovated and created. This is the path taken by the next Biennale Architettura.»



Yvonne Farrell, in the Jury of the arcVision Prize since its first edition in 2013, together with Shelley McNamara, is a founder of Grafton Architects – their office, which opened in Dublin in 1977. They are Fellows of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and International Honorary Fellows of the RIBA.

They achieved international fame with the design and construction of the spectacular building for Bocconi University in Milan, completed in 2008. Their practice began with experimenting with a sophisticated take on European modernism moving toward high-profile public buildings (the Solstice Art Center, Navan 2006; the Office of Public Works, Dublin 2008).

They have received many awards for their work (Building of the Year 2008, for the Bocconi University Building), as well as the Leone d’Argento at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2012. Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara are Professors in the Accademia di Architettura in Mendrisio and Adjunct Professors in University College Dublin. They have been Visiting Professors in Yale and the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Current work includes IMT University, Paris/Saclay; New City Library, Dublin and the recently inaugurated UTEC University Campus in Lima, Peru, presented at the Biennale Architettura 2016.

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