• The 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, opening May 28, includes numerous MIT faculty, students, and alumni.

    The 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, opening May 28, includes numerous MIT faculty, students, and alumni.

    Photo: Augusto Mia Battaglia/Flickr

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  • Brussels Foodmet, from Associate Professor Alexander D'Hooghe and his practice, ORG, features a building made from “platonic panels” — simple abstract planes in concrete that can be assembled in myriad configurations.

    Brussels Foodmet, from Associate Professor Alexander D'Hooghe and his practice, ORG, features a building made from “platonic panels” — simple abstract planes in concrete that can be assembled in myriad configurations.

    Photo courtesy of ORG.

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  • "After Oil," an exhibition from Assistant Professor Rania Ghosn and her practice, Design Earth, reimagines and reinvents the urban and social landscape of the pan-Gulf region.

    Image courtesy of Design Earth.

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  • "Supraextructures versus Structures of Landscape” is an installation from Ensamble Studio, headed by Professor Antón García-Abril and MIT research scientist Débora Mesa.

    Photo courtesy of Ensamble Studio.

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  • Essentially a house within a house, the Courtyard House Plug-In from alumnus James Shen and The People's Architecture Office is an innovative approach to repurposing dilapidated buildings in Beijing’s old neighborhoods.

    Essentially a house within a house, the Courtyard House Plug-In from alumnus James Shen and The People's Architecture Office is an innovative approach to repurposing dilapidated buildings in Beijing’s old neighborhoods.

    Photo courtesy of The People's Architecture Office.

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A robust presence for MIT at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale

The 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, opening May 28, includes numerous MIT faculty, students, and alumni.

Faculty, researchers, graduate students, and alumni represented in 10 exhibitions and pavilions.


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Tom Gearty
Email: tgearty@MIT.EDU
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Architects, artists, and designers from the MIT community will constitute a robust presence at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale.

With eight full-time and visiting faculty, four alumni, and numerous contributing researchers and graduate students, the MIT community is deeply integrated into the extensive programming associated with the Biennale, including the main exhibition, national pavilions, and collateral locations across the historic city. In all, individuals from the MIT community are represented in 10 separate installations and exhibitions.

The 15th international architecture exhibition, opening May 28, is curated by Chilean architect and 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Alejandro Aravena. Aravena’s theme, announced last fall, is “Reporting from the Front,” focusing on architecture’s capacity to improve the human condition by responding on many fronts — such as segregation, inequality, suburbia, sanitation, natural disasters, the housing shortage, migration, crime, traffic, waste, pollution, and community participation.

"With this year’s theme, Alejandro Aravena has issued a challenge to architecture: to mobilize design as a mode of inquiry to realize alternate and better futures. The theme and the challenge tap directly into the MIT ethos," says Hashim Sarkis, dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P). "Our faculty, students, and alumni do not shy away from hard problems. Their numerous installations in Venice will reflect the breadth of the MIT community’s efforts to apply the tools of architecture and design to build a better world."

The group of Venice participants from MIT also reflect the international make-up and worldview of SA+P, Sarkis adds, noting that the faculty, alumni, and students come from more than 10 countries and their projects span five continents.

The MIT-related projects and associated faculty and alumni include:

"Rwanda Droneport Prototype"
John Ochsendorf, Class of 1942 Professor of Architecture; Matthew DeJong SM ’05 PhD ’09; and Philippe Block SM ’05 PhD ’09

Ochsendorf, DeJong (senior lecturer at the University of Cambridge), and Block (associate professor at ETH Zurich) are collaborating with Norman Foster and Foster + Partners to construct a full-scale earthen masonry shell as a prototype for an African “droneport,” which could serve as small airport for drones in areas that lack access to roads. The team that includes Ochsendorf, DeJong, and Block is participating at the invitation of Alejandro Aravena.

"Beyond Bending: Learning from the Past to Design A Better Future"
John Ochsendorf, Class of 1942 Professor of Architecture; Matthew DeJong SM ’05 PhD ’09; and Philippe Block SM ’05 PhD ’09

With “Beyond Bending,” Ochsendorf, DeJong, and Block are working with The Escobedo Group, drawing upon historical principles and methods to advocate for compression-only forms, such as vaults, as innovative, modern, and vital structures not only because of their uniquely expressive aesthetics but also for their potential to achieve efficiency and stability while curbing material waste. The team that includes Ochsendorf, DeJong, and Block is participating at the invitation of Alejandro Aravena.

"After Oil"
Rania Ghosn, assistant professor of architecture

Design Earth, the creative practice co-founded by Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy (assistant professor at the University of Michigan) joins a discussion to reimagine and reinvent the urban and social landscape of the pan-Gulf region. Through speculative narratives on the post-oil future, “After Oil” engages issues of relevance to the present operations of extraction, transport, and logistics of oil and highlights the environmental implications of tanker operations, wars, and oil spills on the environment of the Gulf.

"Brussels Foodmet"
Alexander D’Hooghe, associate professor of architecture, and Kobi Ruthenberg SM ’13

D’Hooghe and his firm, Organization for Permanent Modernity (ORG), are showcasing an innovative design for a mixed-use market building in Brussels serving new and older immigrant populations. A key first step for an urban plan for Brussels’ diverse community, the building is made from “platonic panels” — simple abstract planes in concrete that can be assembled in myriad configurations. ORG is participating at the invitation of Alejandro Aravena.

"The Druzba Project"
Gediminas Urbonas, associate professor, and Nomeda Urboniene, MIT research affiliate

Urbonas is the director of the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT). His installation, in collaboration with MIT research affiliate Nomeda Urboniene, is “DRUZBA: A Psycho-cultural Infrastructure of the Oil Network.” The project maps a fictional journey along the Druzba, the world’s longest pipeline built by the Soviets. Druzba studies the spaces and territories, and their relations to power — the flows and energies rendered by the metabolism of the infrastructure of ideology.

"Supraextructures versus Structures of Landscape"
Antón García-Abril, professor of architecture, and Débora Mesa, MIT research scientist

"Supraextructures versus Structures of Landscape” is an installation from Ensamble Studio, headed by García-Abril and MIT research scientist Débora Mesa. The project confronts two battles in two antagonistic contexts and reveals the apparently disconnected but actually strongly interrelated challenges when designing for highly urban versus highly rural domains. The juxtaposition of these simultaneous realities in the same space shows the tension within urbanization processes. Ensamble is participating at the invitation of Alejandro Aravena.

"Holobiont Venice"
Kevin Slavin, Benesse Career Development Professor in the MIT Media Lab

Founder of the Playful Systems group in the MIT Media Lab, Slavin is investigating urban metagenomics to reveal the invisible microbiological world of cities. Using honeybees to gather samples and hives modified to capture “bee debris," the project employs genetic sequencing to discern and visualize urban microbiological neighborhoods and render microbiological landscapes of the city. The exhibition includes a "metagenomic beehive" installed at Palazzo Mora.

"A New MAM for São Paulo"
Angelo Bucci, visiting professor

Sixty years after the emergence of Brazil’s Museum of Modern Art (MAM) within Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo, Bucci’s practice, SPBR Arquitetos, offers a new configuration to revitalize these landmarks. Four identical transparent prisms — each 750 meters long — form a 3-kilometer square around the original architectural ensemble of Oscar Niemeyer and blur the boundary between museum and park. SPBR is participating at the invitation of Alejandro Aravena.

"The Non-Built"
Clara Solà-Morales, visiting professor

“The Non-Built,” from visiting professor Solà -Morales and her practice, Cadaval and Solà-Morales, elaborates on architecture understood as the physical frame that enhances social interaction and society. The installation considers the constructed environment as more than just walls and explores how the discipline is making the landscape part of architecture and vice versa, at all scales and in urban and rural settings. Cadaval and Solà-Morales are participating at the invitation of Alejandro Aravena.

"Courtyard House Plug-In"
James Shen MArch ’07

Designed by the The People’s Architecture Office, including MIT alumnus James Shen MArch ’07, the Courtyard House Plug-In project will be exhibited at the China Pavilion and at full scale at the EMG Art Foundation’s Palazzo Zen. Essentially a house within a house, the plug-in is an innovative approach to repurposing dilapidated buildings in Beijing’s old neighborhoods. The design employs lightweight, modular panels that fit within existing houses by locking together without screws or nails, and that can be removed just as easily from the historic structures.


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