Karin Sander, Philip Ursprung: Neighbours
20.05.2023 – 26.11.2023
Commissioned by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia
Instead of being a space containing an exhibition, instead of hosting a display of something else, this year the Swiss Pavilion is exhibiting itself and the relations to its immediate surroundings.
Neighbours is a conversation over the shared boundary of the pavilions of Switzerland (1951–52, Bruno Giacometti) and Venezuela (1954–56, Carlo Scarpa). Among all the pavilions in the Giardini, they are the only ones that directly touch. They share a wall. Unfortunately, an iron gate on the Swiss side blocked access between the two courtyards. A brick wall, later added on the Venezuelan side, obstructed the view.
We see the two pavilions as a spatial continuity. We open up the brick enclosure of the Swiss courtyard. (The curators of the Venezuelan pavilion have been informed). We remove the iron gates. We unroll a carpet in the main hall that reveals their combined floor plans. Like all postwar pavilions, these two included the mature plane trees from the alley in their original design. For decades the crowns of the trees offered shadow. The tree shading the Swiss Pavilion died last year. We leave a part of the trunk standing before it is replaced. The neighbouring trees know that their colleague has gone.
Competition between national pavilions is a relic from the past. The fixation on national representation has narrowed our horizons. We learn only through contact with others. Pavilions, like all of us, should take more care of each other.
Neighbours highlights both the spatial and structural proximity of the Swiss Pavilion to its Venezuelan neighbour and the professional bond of the two architects: the Swiss Bruno Giacometti (1907 – 2012) and the Italian Carlo Scarpa (1906 – 1978).
The Swiss Pavilion, designed by Bruno Giacometti, opened just over 70 years ago in June 1952. In immediate vicinity, the Venezuelan Pavilion designed by Carlo Scarpa took shape four years later. Since the old plane trees on either lot weren’t allowed to be felled, the architects designed their buildings around the protected trees. The walls, roofs, and exterior areas of their buildings meet at the closest distance.
Karin Sander and Philip Ursprung bring out the pavilions’ interconnected ground plans, in which the structural neighbourship of the two close architects condenses:
"The Swiss and the Venezuelan Pavilion form an ensemble of exceptional architectural and sculptural quality. Despite this, they are conceived as separate because of their representative function, and thus, are staged accordingly. We are rethinking the functions of the two pavilions and their surroundings in a new light and are dissolving their borders with artistic means. In that, we question the spatial, cultural, and political demarcations as well as the conventions of national representation. In a utopian gesture, we are confronting the location with a poetic reality that momentarily gives room to a new point of view."
Philippe Bischof, director of Pro Helvetia, about the project:
"By invoking Bruno Giacometti’s and Carlo Scarpa’s architectural heritage and the structural history of the Biennale, Karin Sander and Philip Ursprung are exploring architecture as its own form of relationship work. Their artistic intervention offers a new way of exhibiting architecture."
Kulturzeit, 3sat, 22.05.2023
Swiss Architects, Der Schweizer Pavillon - eine Annäherung in drei Akten - 01.06.2023
NZZ Magazin, Wie man ein guter Nachbar ist, 20.05.2023
ETH News, 19.05.2023