Knowlton Co-curated Venice Biennale US Pavilion Earns Glowing Reviews

OfficeUS: Criticism by Re-making, the exhibition of the United States Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, has pulled in numerous positive reviews since opening in June. Co-curated by Knowlton School Associate Professor of Architecture Ashley Schafer, and partially designed and constructed last spring and summer by Knowlton architecture students, OfficeUS is “an experiment in reimagining the last 100 years of American building abroad.” This autumn, Schafer led a studio of Knowlton architecture students to Venice to work for a week at OfficeUS. The U.S. Pavilion welcomed 20,000 people during its first three days of operation and will remain open until November 23. Former Knowlton School Trott Distinguished Visiting Professor and LeFevre Fellow Curtis Roth is one of eight designers spending 25 weeks working in residence at OfficeUS.

In his article about the U.S. Pavilion, AIA reviewer Thomas Vonier writes:

“U.S. architects—and, not incidentally, the AIA—get a thoroughly wonderful showing. The OfficeUS pavilion is all about exporting American design, housing a library-like collection of portfolios, each documenting one of more than 700 buildings, all designed by U.S. firms for foreign settings. Rounded up by students from MIT and Ohio State University, the documents are a tour de force—an amazing record, warts and all, of the prolific production by U.S. firms, large and small, working abroad from 1914 to today...”

Writing for Architectural Record, Fred A. Bernstein states:

“The Venice Architecture Biennale is a polyglot affair. Some countries use their pavilions as conventional galleries, displaying photographs of finished buildings. Others create architecture-based installations. A smaller number take an intellectual approach, posing and then answering questions derived from architectural theory or practice. And a very few—and these may be the ones taking the greatest risks—pose questions to which the answers are allowed to emerge, through real-time investigation, over the course of the Biennale’s six-month run.

“The U.S. pavilion, incredibly, does all these things and more, with a jaw-dropping and eye-opening study of architecture as a 20th-century American export... The pavilion is also a breakout project for its three curators: Eva Franch i Gilabert of the Storefront for Art and Architecture, Ana Miljački, an architecture professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); and Ashley Schafer, editor of the Boston-based architecture journal Praxis.

“Compiling reams of information on 700 projects, which together form an invaluable record of American architecture by firms with the wherewithal to work abroad, is an accomplishment. Presenting those 700 projects in a beautifully outfitted, futuristic but inviting office, is another. The three curators could have stopped there. But what happens in the next 25 weeks has the potential to bring important ideas to the fore...”

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