Knowlton School Professor Kristy Balliet to Exhibit at the 2016 Venice Biennale

Knowlton School Assistant Professor of Architecture Kristy Balliet and her partner Kelly Bair of BairBalliet have been selected as one of twelve teams of architects to exhibit at the 2016 Venice Biennale’s US Pavilion. The exhibition, titled “The Architectural Imagination,” will explore the possibilities of Detroit as a laboratory for the innovative power of architecture.

Curators Cynthia Davidson, editor of Log, and Monica Ponce de Leon, dean of Taubman College at the University of Michigan, selected the winners from more than 250 submissions. Other firms that will exhibit include A(n) Office (Detroit), Greg Lynn FORM (Los Angeles), Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects (Atlanta), Marshall Brown Projects (Chicago), MOS Architects (New York), Pita & Bloom (Los Angeles), Present Future (Houston), Preston Scott Cohen Inc. (Boston), SAA/Stan Allen Architect (New York), T+E+A+M (Ann Arbor) and Zago Architecture (Los Angeles).

The curators and advisory board have selected four sites, with three teams assigned to each site. The architects will travel to Detroit to meet with various community boards throughout October. Each team will propose an architectural design that imagines the Detroit of tomorrow, including a speculative programmatic mix. “When you ask architects to engage their architectural imagination it sets up an interesting and vital tension between how people within a city see that city's growth and how architects envision the potential growth of that city. I think the convergence of these two visions is where a lot of compelling architecture can develop,” commented Balliet. She added: “Today, the architect's role is undervalued in urban development. This project aims to expand the possible architectural solutions at multiple scales.”

Balliet’s research is invested in the design of architectural volume. Much of her work is focused on contemporary atriums and outdoor rooms; urban thresholds where volume can assist with the relationships of how people move in a city. Balliet has used Detroit as a site for her studios several times because of her combined interest in the development of volume in conjunction with mid-rise typologies. “Detroit is fascinating to me on many levels. There's a need to densify the mass of the city, without the need for high-rise capacity. There is a lot of filling in of urban gaps that is required in order to promote new thresholds. In addition to filling in, in some cases there are large monolithic buildings or shells that remain intact and need to be reconsidered in order to assist new growth as neighborhoods rebuild around them.”

The BairBalliet collaboration is the most recent example of high-profile Knowlton School representation at the Venice Biennale. Knowlton School Associate Professor of Architecture Ashley Schafer was one of a trio of curators who organized OfficeUS, the exhibition of the United States Pavilion at the 2014 Biennale. And Knowlton School architecture students, under the direction of Professors Jeffrey Kipnis, Stephen Turk and Jose Oubrerie, installed Field of Dreams, a collection of models and drawings that were part of the Piranesi Variations exhibit, at the 2013 Venice Biennale.

Kristy Balliet is co-founder of BairBalliet and principal of Balliet Studio. From 2011-06, Balliet was an assistant professor at The University of Applied Arts, Vienna in Studio Greg Lynn. In Vienna, she was the co-creator of the IoA Sliver lecture/gallery series and published the Visual Catalog: Greg Lynn’s studio and Massive Attack. She is a graduate of Philadelphia University and the UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design and has practiced architecture in Philadelphia at Erdy McHenry Architecture.

Kelly Bair is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Architecture and principal of Central Standard Office of Design. She is a graduate of University of Colorado at Boulder and the UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design. Her work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago, Ann Arbor and Indianapolis. Bair has worked for the offices of Gnuform, Belzberg Architects and Greg Lynn FORM.

Bair and Balliet are co-founders of Possible Mediums, a collaborative with Adam Fure and Kyle Miller, fellow designers and educators interested in shaking up the context and format in which architecture is taught, produced and engaged. In 2013, the project kicked off with a conference and workshop series hosted at the Knowlton School of Architecture. Later that year, the project was awarded a Graham Grant and ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to commission new work for the Possible Mediums exhibition. Bair and Balliet are co-editors of the forthcoming Possible Mediums book, to be published in 2016.

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