RMIT's Associate Professor Mauro Baracco has been announced as one of the creative directors of the Australian Pavilion for 2018.
Baracco with his partner Louise Wright of Baracco+Wright Architects, in collaboration with artist Linda Tegg, have been announced as the Creative Directors of the Australian Pavilion for the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.
Curators of the exhibition, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, placed a worldwide call for participants to design a theme to encourage new ways of thinking and of seeing the world.
The design is required to encompass innovative solutions where “architecture provides for the well-being and dignity of the people on this fragile planet”.
Baracco is Deputy Dean International in RMIT's School of Architecture and Design.
He and Wright, collaborating with Tegg, responded to the brief and proposed Repair; an immersive, multi-sensory exhibition that explores the potential that architecture has in repairing the place it is part of.
“I feel honoured that Louise and I have been selected as Creative Directors. We have often questioned the purpose of buildings to separate us from the natural environment, so it is fantastic to have a platform where we can invite others to explore this issue,” he says.
Baracco says the consequences of the disregarded natural systems are being felt around the world.
Built environment disciplines are adopting a new way of thinking that leans towards repairing the natural environment as a meaningful and enduring framework for urban form.
He believes this new way of thinking is set to become a critical strategy of architectural culture.
His teaching at RMIT University explores the relevance to Australian architects who work intimately in one of the most diverse and ecologically sensitive landscapes in the world.
“This is the sixteenth International Architecture exhibition where Australian architects and designers are provided with a significant platform to not only showcase work but create dialogue around important,” Baracco says.
“Events like these are important in directing future architects to think outside the box and encourage them to explore ways that architecture can make a difference in the world that we live.
“This ethos is embodied in RMIT’s architectural programs, where we promote a strong relationship between students and the surrounding environment, which directly responds to the Biennale brief and invites both critical and design thinking approaches to deliver innovative solutions.”
Baracco and his team’s exhibition proposal was announced the winner by the Chair of the Australian Institute of Architects Venice Biennale Committee, Jill Garner.
Their team is made up of a number of multidisciplinary experts with extensive knowledge in a number of areas.
Members of the team include Senior Lecturer in the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University and ecologist David Freudenberger, architect Lance van Maanen and architecture graduate Jonathan Ware.
They are supported by Professor Paul Memmott, who is a transdisciplinary researcher architect and anthropologist, as well as Director of the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre (AERC) and the Indigenous Design Place Initiative at the University of Queensland.
Co-directors of Site Office, Susie Kumar and Chris Sawyer (who is also an Adjunct Professor at RMIT) are also included in the team, along with director at Aecom Tim O’Loan, and Senior Research Consultant in the Department of Architecture at Monash University Catherine Murphy.
Their multidisciplinary knowledge enabled them to deeply explore the idea of repair as they were able to reflect on architecture from unconventional positions.
While Baracco says there is no definitive solution, he believes architecture can actively engage with the repair of the environment including the soil, hydrology, habitat, connections, overland water flow, microorganisms and vegetation.
“Repairing these things is crucial in evoking other wider types of social, economic and cultural repair,” he says.
While architecture is at the centre of the idea, it’s a task that Baracco believes is only achievable through collaboration with other disciplinary groups; a key factor in what enabled him and Wright to select their team.
Baracco says implementing this sort of change in the industry is an “exciting development of an architecture not yet fully imagined”.
“Transdisciplinary methods will be a requirement in order to achieve this.
“We need a coming together across disciplinary boundaries, and a widening of the architectural knowledge base to a front-end detailed understanding of a site across multiple scales, where the very small-scale action has a role in the large scale, and a facilitation of repair of the environment through the many decisions we make.”
For this reason, Baracco and Wright teamed up with Tegg, who is no stranger to incorporating alternative ways of thinking into her pieces.
Tegg is the Artist in Residence in the School of Geography at The University of Melbourne and a lecturer in Creative Practice in the Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University. She created a powerful installation in 2014 that saw the State Library of Victoria taken back in a reinterpretation of its pre-settlement situation.
“The living installation we hope to create will aim to remind us what is at stake when we occupy land,” Baracco says.
“We want to provoke and stimulate this discussion and position Australian architects at the cusp of international architectural consciousness around the issue.”
He and Wright have called on the architecture profession and other multidisciplinaries to start the discussion around repair by submitting projects for consideration to be exhibited. Selected submissions will be displayed alongside the installation next year.
“We hope to continue to unpack the theme leading up to and during the biennale with symposiums. We want to engage the profession with issues around repair and initiate what we hope will be a legacy of the 2018 Biennale.”
The sixteenth International Architecture Exhibition will take place from 26 May to 25 November 2018 in the Giardini and the Arsenale, and around other venues in Venice.
Story: Mikaela Ortolan