Venice Biennale Irish Pavilion 2018

Venice Architecture Biennale Irish Pavilion 2018, Exhibition, Image, Ireland Design Show

Venice Biennale Irish Pavilion 2018

Ireland Architecture Exhibition in Italy – ‘Free Market’

23 May 2018

Irish Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2018

Free Market, the Irish Pavilion at Biennale Architettura 2018

Free Market, the Irish Pavilion at this year’s Biennale Architettura, is a celebration of small town market places and a call to action

Free Market Pavilion:
Venice Biennale Irish Pavilion 2018
photographs : Matthew Thompson

Responding to the theme of Freespace of this year’s Biennale, Free Market highlights the generosity, humanity and possibilities of the Irish rural market town, within an experiential pavilion that is provocative and informative.

Irish Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2018

The rural town is an important place in Ireland, with a unique identity. These towns are characterised by distinct urban cultures and engrained systems of social, cultural and commercial exchange. While many of these towns are now facing significant economic challenges, Free Market questions the common story of their decline and explores the opportunities and solutions that can be found within the towns themselves.

Irish Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2018

In particular the exhibition focuses on the market places around which many rural towns were built. Historically, these were the economic and social hubs of the surrounding rural communities. Since the early twentieth century however, many of these market places have seen their function as a place for exchange and encounter reduced. Free Market reasserts the rural market place as a public place of social, political and cultural exchange, central to community cohesion and resilience.

Irish Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2018

The theme of Free Market emerged from the shared interests of the six curators who are all passionate about the public spaces and lives of Irish towns and in various ways have been working on this theme for many years.

Irish Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2018

As well as incorporating stories from towns right across Ireland, Free Market focuses on 10 selected towns as case studies. These market towns, with populations of between 1,500 and 5,000 people, demonstrate various urban forms, typical challenges facing towns today, and also the unique identity that characterises rural market towns in Ireland.

Free Market imagines a vibrant future for Irish rural towns but also highlights that urgent change is required. While there are swathes of well-intentioned policies, plans and frameworks relating to towns, there is a disconnect between people and plans, a lack of actual change and many poor planning decisions being made on the ground.

Free Market highlights three interconnected ways to provoke change: changes in policy, changes in behaviour and changes in how design happens. The curators believe that people must be placed at the heart of this conversation and that exchange can be fostered within the very core of towns to strengthen their communities. They have chosen to focus not on grand masterplans but on the opportunities within the everyday.

Irish Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2018

EXHIBITION DESIGN

The concept of exchange is central to how the Free Market pavilion is experienced and brought to life by its visitors as it provides a series of engaging spaces to interact with the various displays, establish connections and exchange ideas. The pavilion has been designed to resonate with the characteristics of a typical Irish market place through its spaces, proportion, texture, colour and sound. Within the overall structure of the pavilion architectural models and drawings describe the historic, contemporary and aspirational conditions of the towns and these overlap with contextual soundscapes, stories, photographs and writings.

Visitors are provided with the opportunity to linger on steps reading the pavilion’s newspaper, Free Market News, browse through the Town Bookshelf, a collection of books related to towns in Ireland and around the world and sit in snug seats and listen to the audio work, Sound Travels, while they watch passers-by. Patterned tiling evokes the thresholds and doorways of the typical shops and bars that surround Irish market squares, while places to perch recall the generosity of window cills, as they offer an informal place for pause, chance meetings or a chat.

Irish Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2018

EXHIBITION CONTRIBUTIONS

Building on the generosity of the Freespace theme and the curators’ own approach to collaborative working, Free Market acknowledges the wealth of thinking and research that has already been undertaken on the subject of Irish rural towns. Examining and documenting the everyday life of towns, the exhibition incorporates new commissions and existing work from a broad range of contributors: architects, poets, artists, planners, heritage consultants, small business owners, graphic designers, theorists, critics, policy makers, community activists, photographers.

Bringing together a multiplicity of viewpoints and voices was central to the curators’ concept for Free Market and by including the work of fiction writers, artists, poets and playwrights to explore the character and nuance of the language and life of small towns, it provides a space for ‘deep curiosity, imagination and creativity’, in direct response to the Freespace manifesto.

Irish Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2018

EXHIBITION TOUR

Free Market is conceived as an ongoing project and the exhibition at the Biennale di Venezia is just the starting point of a longer process. The pavilion has been specifically designed as a light weight modular structure that can be transported back to Ireland in 2019, where it will tour some of the featured towns, gathering more findings and directly engaging with the people who live there. Rather than being shown in dedicated venues, the pavilion design allows for it to be positioned in various configurations on the market places themselves, where it will provide a place to discuss, debate and contribute to the Free Market project.

The tour will culminate in a symposium on the future of towns, which will be an opportunity to share all that has been learned along the way and prompt action.

“Our ambition for Free Market is that it will be a catalyst for change in these towns, which are critical to the character of the country. Action is needed but should be generated from within the towns themselves in response to their own needs, opportunities and unique character. We hope that by presenting Free Market at La Biennale di Venezia that we can inspire new conversations about the resilience of rural towns not just in Ireland but also in an international context,” Co-curators Jeffrey Bolhuis, Jo Anne Butler, Miriam Delaney, Tara Kennedy, Laurence Lord and Orla Murphy.

7 Apr 2018

Venice Biennale Irish Pavilion 2018

Venice Biennale Irish Pavilion 2018

The Irish Pavilion’s Free Market explores the importance of the rural market place at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

Curated by a team of six young Irish architects and designers, Free Market aims to reassert the declining rural market square as a public place of social, political and cultural exchange, central to community cohesion. In doing so, it will highlight the generosity, humanity and possibilities that are embodied in the market place.

One in three Irish people live in a town, and this exhibition focusses on small towns of less than 5000 people. Once the economic and social hubs of rural Ireland, many market squares in these towns have seen their function as a place for exchange and congregation diminished. Many others have surrendered their role as markets and are now used only for car parking.

Free Market aims to explore the unique identity of these market towns while reflecting regional variation and historic development.

Venice Biennale Irish Pavilion 2018
Illustration by Mark Wickham

In response to the Freespace theme chosen by the curators of the Biennale Architettura 2018, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, Free Market will act as a real market square, offering an engaging place to meet, to pause, to interact with the exhibits and openly exchange ideas. Evoking the character of the market space through the use of texture, proportion, colour and sound, the pavilion will also include architectural models and drawings describing both the historic and contemporary conditions of these towns.

The curators of Ireland Pavilion also responded to the Freespace theme by providing a space for ‘deep curiosity, imagination and creativity’ through the work of fiction writers, artists, poets and playwrights, exploring the character and nuance of the language and life of small towns. Their work is presented alongside that of theorists, critics, policy makers, architects and planners.

There will also be proposals for how design and planning professionals best engage with the potential and future of these towns. These exhibits will be accompanied by soundscapes from rural Ireland broadcast by the pavilion’s own Free Market Radio.

A newspaper entitled Free Market News, distributed at the pavilion, collects writings on rural towns from nearly 40 expert contributors, while 3 audio pieces ‘Sound Travels’ give perspectives on the lived experiences of small towns.

“Many of the challenges facing towns in Ireland are common to rural towns throughout the world. We hope that by presenting Irish towns on the global stage in Venice, we can open a much needed conversation about the resilience of rural towns in an international context,” says co-curator Miriam Delaney.

The Free Market curators conceived the exhibition at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition as the first phase of the project. After the Biennale Architettura 2018, Free Market will return to Ireland to tour small towns around the country in 2019, gathering stories and participants and continuing to evolve along the way.

Curatorial team:

Jeffrey Bolhuis
Architect, co-founder of AP+E, studio tutor at the Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment, TU Delft and unit leader at the Cork Centre for Architectural Education.

Jo Anne Butler
Multi-disciplinary designer, a creative director at Superfolk and co-founder of Culturstruction, her love of nature, awareness of environment and understanding of materials forms the basis of her strong design ethos.

Miriam Delaney
Architecture lecturer at the Dublin School of Architecture, Dublin Institute of Technology.

Tara Kennedy
Co-founder of Culturstruction, practices architecture with John McLaughlin Architects and is a lecturer at Cork Centre for Architectural Education, as well as initiating socially driven design and research projects.

Laurence Lord
Architect, co-founder of AP+E, studio tutor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy in University College Dublin and unit leader at the Cork Centre for Architectural Education.

Orla Murphy Architect, founder of Custom and Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy in University College Dublin.

Participant Towns:

Athenry, County Galway
Ballinrobe, County Mayo
Ballyshannon, County Donegal
Bunclody, County Wexford
Castleblayney, County Monaghan
Kilmallock, County Limerick
Kilrush, County Clare
Macroom, County Cork
Mountmellick, County Laois
Templemore, County Tipperary

Free Market is sponsored by:

Ireland at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia is an initiative of Culture Ireland in partnership with the Arts Council and Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

• Cement Manufacturers Ireland
• The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland
• TileStyle
• Top Cer
• Mason Hayes Curran
• Cork County Council
• Laois County Council
• Limerick County Council
• Monaghan County Council
• Dublin Institute of Technology Foundation
• University College Dublin
• Cork Centre for Architectural Education
• Waterford Institute of Technology
• Queen’s University Belfast
• Arup

Previously on e-architect, from 2010:

Venice Biennale Irish Pavilion

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Venice Biennale Irish Pavilion photos courtesy : Alice Clancy

Venice Biennale Irish Pavilion in 2010

Curated by Tom dePaor, Peter Maybury, Alice Casey and Cian Deegan, ‘of de Blacam and Meagher’ seeks to communicate the cultural landscape of Ireland through the seminal work of de Blacam and Meagher Architects. Ireland’s participation at Venice is an initiative of Culture Ireland in partnership with the Arts Council of Ireland. It is commissioned by the Irish Architecture Foundation under the directorship of Nathalie Weadick.

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Venice Biennale Irish Pavilion photos courtesy : Alice Clancy

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