Tag Archives: Venice Biennale

IMG_1380At our cottage, there was a hope and a dream to honour a canoe birch (paper white birch) by installing it within the interior. The tree was miraculously found by our contractors after a major wind storm up north and installed with branches and leaves intact. Which we loved, of course. even if it meant crawling through the branches as if we were living in a forest.


The tree functions as a structural column, strong enough to handle a spontaneous climber.


For any custom built-ins or shelving we’re using Baltic birch ply. It’s light and creamy next to the golden cedar interior of the original 1960s cottage.  Our coffee bar, pictured here, just getting set up now with Danish teak chest from Kensington Market, yellow Italian espresso maker from my friend, Ginetta, and pastel-coloured melamine dishes.


It seems that trees are coming inside more often these days. For a main lobby space at Quality Hotel Expo, Norway, by Haptic Architects, planted trees are set among long communal tables and iconic modern chairs – a dramatic set piece that looks as fantastic inside as it could in a forested park. (Photo Trine Thorsen)

Garden-Tree-House-by-Hironaka-Ogawa-Associates-Yellowtrace-02Garden Tree House by Hironaka Ogawa & Associates.  For this project the Azelkova tree and a Camphor tree from the site were carefully cut then smoked and dried for two weeks to reduce the water content.  They were then reinstalled within the house to serve as main structural elements and central memory totems. (Photo Daici Ano)


The great Norwegian modernist Sverre Fehn (1924 – 2009) might have been among the first to honour living trees within architecture with this unforgettable gesture at the Venice Biennale’s Nordic Pavillion.  There’s no way to dispute the power of nature here.



An abandoned office tower in the middle of Caracas – that deeply troubled and dangerous city – has been squatted by more than 700 families.  An exhibition and installation by architecture critic Justin McGuirk, Caracas-based Urban-Think Tank and Dutch photographer Iwan Baan which documents the ingenuity and will to survive in the Torre David skyscraper has received the top prize at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale.  I’ve toured parts of Caracas with members of Urban-Think Tank.  Their work is gutsy and visionary.  A huge congratulations to them for winning the Golden Lion for best project.

Image    A small city exists within the 45-storey tower, including  hair salons, mini convenience stores, a church and restaurants.

Image No need to romanticize this as a desirable kind of urban utopia.  Having seen the sprawling slums in Caracas that house an estimated one million people on the edge of the city, my take on the Torre David squat is that it exemplifies a desperation to improvise a sense of normalcy – and safety. And it’s not architecture without architects…the concrete frame structure was originally designed by Venezuelan architect Enrique Gomez, but the project was abandoned following the death of its developer David Brillembourg in 1993.  Venezuela was once an oil-rich, sophisticated country but, since its economy imploded in 1994 and President Chavez came onto the scene, that reality has become a faraway memory. (Above photos by Iwan Baan.)

Next to an inner city slum in Caracas, Urban-Think Tank designed the hugely popular Bello Campo Vertical Gym.  When I visited it was packed with children learning ribbon gymnastics, runners on an elevated catwalk track and young soccer players training on a rooftop field.  Crime is estimated to have decreased by 30 per cent in the neighbourhood because of the gym’s activating presence.  That’s architecture with a social conscience and it looks good in bright colours and high-tech exposed structural frame.