Ever the champion of far-reaching concepts, this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale director Rem Koolhaas has taken the unusual step of not only determining a theme for the main exhibitions but also asking each of the 65 independently organized national pavilions to follow his lead. Under the umbrella title Fundamentals, the architect has planned a three-part show that will include a section presenting a taxonomy of basic building components, Elements of Architecture; and Mondeitalia, a cross-disciplinary examination of the host country. For the third component, Koolhaas has decreed that the national pavilions adhere to a single theme, Absorbing Modernity: 1914–2014, asking them “to show, each in their own way, the process of erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and a single repertoire of typologies—a more complex process than we typically recognize.”
During the century in question, the United States has been a chief exporter of modern architecture, for better or worse. But rather than represent that history by looking at aesthetics or specific buildings, the organizers of the U.S. pavilion have decided to illuminate its influence on practice—and to do it literally, in real time.