When Rem Koolhaas announced what the theme for the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale would be, he went with a characteristic provocation. Fundamentals would forgo the typical, temperature-taking displays of contemporary architecture and focus on historical exhibitions. The Biennale, which began previews yesterday and opens to the public on Saturday, hinges on two major shows: Monditalia, a long-form survey of Italian culture (more on that in a later post), and Elements of Architecture, a show in the main pavilion in the Giardini, among the national exhibitions, that beats at the heart of the back-to-basics theme.
Elements focuses narrowly on 15 building components—ranging from windows to corridors to toilets. Each component is given its own gallery, where the organizers—Koolhaas’ team included a large group from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design—draw narrative connections between historical examples and contemporary iterations of each part.