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International architecture exhibition la Biennale di Venezia 2014

Devoted to the theme of ‘‘Modernity, a Promise or Threat?’’ organized by Jean-Louis Cohen, the French Pavilion of the 14th international architecture exhibit of Venice was inaugurated on June 5, 2014.
The French Pavilion of the 14th international architecture exhibit of Venice, with the commissionership entrusted to Jean-Louis Cohen, opened its doors on June 5, 2014. ‘‘Modernity, a Promise or Threat?” offers a critical interpretation of the path of French architecture up to modern times.
In response to the overall theme of the biennial, ‘‘Fundamentals’’, the exhibit evoked, through specific cases, the contradictions leading to the ‘‘absorption’’ of architectural modernity in France. Characterized by the conjunction of massive public intervention and an original and constructive culture, French architecture portrayed a better world, its creations having met up with a host of difficulties and profound frustrations.
The Pavilion presented four cases that illustrate the many facets of the situation, attraction and constraint as demonstrated by the Arpel Villa in Jacques Tati’s film, Mon Oncle; the tragic transmutation of the city of Drancy, experimental production of the 30’s, converted into an internment camp; imagination applied by Jean Prouvé to lightweight structures, and his failure with regard to the heavy French-style prefabrication model, re-exported all over the world in the 50’s.
Projected simultaneously in four galleries, the film directed by Teri Wehn-Damisch constituted a background for 3D presentations as well as a visual narration. It used documents from archives – propaganda films produced by French administrations as well as cinematographic newscasts – and fragments of fiction films – from Jacques Tati to Jean-Luc Godard – with glimpses of Greater Paris Area today.

One theme per Pavilion Room

Each one of the four French Pavilion rooms focused on a main theme:
Room 1– Jacques Tati and the Arpel Villa, object of desire or a ridiculous machine?
The main character of Tati’s film, Mon Oncle, a huge success on screens in 1958, is less Monsieur Hulot, whose lanky figure appeared in theaters five years earlier, than the Arpel Villa, in which the main part of the plot takes place. The Arpel Villa continues, more than 50 years later, to symbolize the dream of a life made better by machines, sometimes turned into a farce.
Room 2– Jean Prouvé, constructive imagination or utopia?
Defined as a ‘‘builder’’ more than an architect, engineer or craftsman, the ironmonger from Nancy, Jean Prouvé, went from the late 30’s of the production of components for buildings designed by others to the creation of metal prefabricated houses, which he continued to perfect for three decades.
Room 3– Heavy prefabrication, economies of scale or monotony?
In France between the two world wars, research into prefabrication grew significantly, as desired by Le Corbusier, when he claimed that ‘‘Industry has taken over building’’. Such research at that time concerned above all the use of metallic systems, while major post-1945 massively operations called on reinforced concrete.
Room 4 – Great residential complex, salvific heterotopia or shut-off locations?
During World War II, nearly 300 residential districts, set up within the periphery of French cities, far from center city locations, were intended to ensure a happy existence for a population not having undergone unemployment. Initially acclaimed, they came, along with the economic crisis, to rhyme with exclusion for families unable to leave them for houses.

Jean-Louis Cohen, Curator of the French Pavilion

Born in Paris is in 1949, Jean-Louis Cohen is an architect and historian. His research has focused on architecture and on 20th-century urban development in France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the U.S., and on the forms of international development and national cultures. Between 1998 and 2003, he has drawn up and led the project of the ‘‘Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine’’ at Palais de Chaillot in Paris. Since 1994, he has occupied the chair of Sheldon H. Solow in the History of Architecture at New York University. Guest Professor at the Collège de France starting in 2014, he has published over 30 works and set up a large number of exhibits at the Pompidou Center, Arsenal Pavilion, Canadian Center of Architecture, Institut français of Architecture and the Museum of Modern Art.

French presence at the Biennial of Venice

  • Wednesday, June 4, 2014
7:30 p.m.
Award ceremony of the AFEX 2014 Grand Prize by Aurélie Philippetti, Minister of Culture and Communication
Palazzo Zorzi, Venetian seat of UNESCO, near Campo Santa Maria Formosa, Castello 4930
  • Thursday, June 5, 2014
10 a.m.
Opening ceremony of the 14th International Architecture exhibit of Venice
11 a.m.
Inauguration of the French Pavilion
Giardini, 0121 Venice
12 noon
Official inauguration of the Biennial at Teatro Piccolo Arsenale
3 p.m.
Architecture Studio agency
‘‘Young Architects in Africa’’ exhibit. Presentation of the winning projects of the
CA'ASI contest, Campiello Santa Maria Nova, Cannaregio 6024, 30121 Venice
8 p.m.
Wilmotte Foundation
Exhibit to present the winners of the W 2014 Prize
Fondaco degli Angeli, Cannaregio 3560, Venice 
  • Saturday, June 7
11 a.m.
Award ceremony (on invitation)
Giardini, 0121 Venice
Under the theme of ‘‘Fundamentals’’, the 14th International Architecture Exhibit of Venice will be held on June 5-November 23, 2014 in  Giardini, at the Arsenale, as well as in other venues of Venice.

Exhibit Catalog

Under the leadership of Jean-Louis Cohen, who will be assisted by Vanessa Grossman, six authors will analyze 101 major buildings, presented in chronological order, selected following discussion with approximately 20 contemporary architects on their vision of recent history. The stakes presented in the Pavilion will be shown by way of the different buildings being evoked, with a typological spectrum ranging from a house to a major complex, from a factory to an airport.
Both concise and dense, the texts are illustrated by remarkable views of an historic and contemporary nature, where an architectural stroll takes us through time, as we leaf through the pages, with a visual narrative that, in many cases, echoes the Pavilion, intended to last longer than the Biennial itself.
Modernity, a Promise or Threat? France –  101 bâtiments 1914-2014, French Pavilion catalog of the Architecture Biennial of Venice, 2014, Éditions Carré/Institut français co-publication, 224 p., 101 illustrations
The Institut français is responsible for ensuring French representation at the Architecture Biennial of Venice, as producer of the French Pavilion alongside the Ministry of Culture and Communication (General Heritage Division). The ‘‘Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine’’ will be in charge of production, and the agency, Projectiles, responsible for the architecture and scenography of the Pavilion. 
Click here to dowload the press kit
The 2014 International Architecture Exhibit of Venice will be followed in 2015 by the Contemporary Art Biennial of Venice. This is the ‘‘Rêvolutions’’ Project, proposed by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot and Emma Lavigne, selected to represent France.
  •   The French Pavilion  
  •   Jean Prouvé lecturing at the Conservatoire national des Arts et Métiers (c. 1968) - private collection © Edmond Remondino, courtesy of Dominik Remondino  
  •   Drawing by Jacques Lagrange for Arpel Villa in Jacques Tati's film, Mon Oncle (1958) - private collection, courtesy of Hyacinthe Moreau Lalande  
  •   Marcel Lods, Eugène Beaudouin, Vladimir Bodiansky, La Muette, Drancy, 1934 © Marcel Lods © Fonds Lods. Académie d'architecture / Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine - Archives