I just returned from the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale and for me, the big story (at least as it pertains to this blog), was the relative absence of paper. Yep, you got it, architects are moving away from handing out stacks of brochures in favour of either digital media, or a very cool utterly interactive personal experience with the space.
While for me, Russia came off as a showy strumpet who clearly threw buckets of rubles to create easily the most bling bling pavilion, there is no denying the digital appeal of their show.
I walked into the first of three domed rooms, cleverly decorated with tiling that was very highly representative of Russia’s culture past. An eager young woman handed me a pin (again very representative of the days of yore when Russia was always handing out pins to visitors advertising the glory of the former Soviet Union) plus a shiny new Samsung tablet. (Psst….Samsung gave out a ton of free tech at the event.)
I was told to aim at the tablet at the tiles, and any time a tile lit up, I was to scan it and would be given access to the secret information. I snatched the tablet and scampered into the room. Oh… how exciting!
Well, do you think I could get the damned thing to work? At one point the same eager young woman came over to me and said, “Oh….There are 35 stories here and you’ve only accessed one.” ”I know,” I said, “Isn’t that sad?” “Don’t worry,” she replied, gently patting my shoulder. “That’s why you’ve got the pin. You take it home, scan it with your computer’s camera and all of the information will appear. We are very proud that there is not one piece of paper as part of our exhibit.”
I grumped out of the building, bitching about stupid technology, but after some reflection, I realized that if I was going to be part of the 21st century I needed to buy a tablet or I would be left behind.
There was much ado about these tablets and/or digital tiles at The Biennale.
The Canadians used them to tell architectural tales about the experience of immigration.
Venezula used them to discuss the distinct challenges their cities face.
And then old peep show technology was utilized in both Cyprus, where I luxuriated on a beach chair watching the show…
As well as in Brazil where I wandered from peep to peep, sneaking a look into private lives of a Brazilian home.
Once again, lots of story and tons of design going on here, but not much paper back up.
This is not to say that there was no paper all all, of course there were some gorgeous catalogues as well as some takeaway stuff, but printed material was definitely on the wane.
I left the Biennale feeling more certain than ever that I have made the right choice by going digital with my novel. If that’s becoming the primary conduit of architectural discourse, then heck, who am I to argue?