How the 1980 Venice Biennale transformed architectural discourse REVIEW

Wednesday May 23rd 2018 by Peter Thomas Lang


By • May 21, 2018

One of the first questions raised about this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, “Freespace,” is whether this exhibition has anything in common with previous editions. Edwin Heathcote, writing for the Financial Times, sees similarities with the 1980 exhibition, The Presence of the Past. Heathcote recognizes related themes between these two versions that stand almost 40 years apart, because he sees this exhibition, curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, as going back to the civic realm, privileging urban public space.

It does not come as a surprise that references to this earlier 1980 Biennale are already being made. Indeed, one wonders just how far Lea-Catherine Szacka’s provocative book, Exhibiting the Postmodern: the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale, has permeated our consciousness, forcing us to reconsider the Biennale as an institution, an exhibition, and as a provocation in the making of contemporary architecture culture.