DCM to design new Venice pavilion

Apr 3, 2012
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Designer
  • Architect Denton Corker Marshall

The Australia Council has announced that Denton Corker Marshall has been appointed to design the new Australian pavilion for the Venice Art and Architecture Biennales.

DCM’s design was unanimously chosen by the selection panel from the shortlist of proposals submitted by John Wardle Architects, Johnson Pilton Walker, Bud Brannigan Architects, Peter Stutchbury Architecture and Sean Godsell Architects.

In their submission, DCM stated their intention was “to make a form of the utmost simplicity; a white box contained within a black box. The pavilion is envisaged as an object rather than a building; a presence that is simultaneously powerful and discreet within the heavily wooded gardens.”

AIA President and selection panellist Brian Zulaikha described the design as “a striking, perhaps timeless addition to the Giardini. Handsome and sculpturally bold, its skilful simplicity creates an inspiring and limitless space for artists and audiences.”

The new, two-storey pavilion will have a footprint of 320sqm, and will replace the current Australian pavilion – one of only 29 national pavilions located inside the Giardini, designed by Philip Cox in 1988. The new building’s moody, charcoal exterior will be clad in South Australian black granite, contrasting the white interior and polished concrete floors of the gallery interior. “Free from affectation and obvious nationalistic statement, it is a powerful, confident yet discreet object,” says the practice.

DCM principal John Denton, who is also Chair of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne, said: “Venice holds a special place in the arts and architecture worlds so it’s very exciting for us to win this project. I believe it will be a building that will proudly represent Australia and be recognised as a powerful, confident addition to the pavilions in the Giardini.”

DCM will bring considerable experience to the project, with previous cultural projects including the Melbourne Museum and the Museum of Sydney, as well as a number of international public projects such as the Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Manchester Civil Justice Centre and Australian Embassies in Tokyo, Beijing and Jakarta.

Chair of the Australia Council, James Strong AO, said of the winning entry: “We are inspired by their creative vision, confident in their ability and excited by the potential for a truly exemplary building all Australians will be proud of.”

The Australia Council’s plans to redesign the Australian pavilion in Venice have at times been marred by dissatisfaction with the competition process. Initially announced an invitation only competition in June 2011, the Australia Council amended the competition format in August – adopting a two-stage format, with expressions of interest open to all Australian architects. Six firms were then announced as finalists for the second stage of the competition in November 2011.

Work on the new pavilion is expected to commence following the 2013 Art Biennale, with completion due in time for the 2015 Art Biennale. Managed by the Australia Council, the project is expected to cost $6 million – with all funds sourced from the private sector.


Conversation • 8 comments

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03 Apr 12 at 9:09 PM • Neville Kenyon

Will all the shortlisted or all the Expressions of Interest be publicly available for viewing or exhibited? It would be interesting to see the Salon des Refusés.

04 Apr 12 at 1:17 PM • Warwick Mihaly

What does a white box inside a black box tell us about the collective Australian identity? DCM’s design is perfectly appropriate for an Australian gallery within an Australian context, but this is no ordinary context. The Giardini are in Italy, for starters, and home to 28 other national pavilions, each establishing their own dialogue between local site and foreign culture.

A masters studio we ran last year at the University of Melbourne offers what I think are more positive contributions to the representation of Australian art and architecture on an international stage. Check them out here.

As per every other step of the competition process, in choosing an established practice with good design credentials but excellent international experience, the Australia Council has revealed itself to be conservative and uninspired. An open competition run by a truly engaged benefactor, interested in supporting new architecture as much as it does new art, would have resulted in a far more ambitious and exciting result.

A missed opportunity.

04 Apr 12 at 1:18 PM • Adrian B.

Is this a joke? A black box with a white interior? It’s like DCM have deliberately tried to make it look as ambiguous as possible. And this is supposed to cost $4-5million to build? What is the floor area? If we are spending any more than $6,000-7,000/m2 what a waste. Jobs for the boys again.

04 Apr 12 at 1:32 PM • j press

Adrian B., its footprint is, according to the article, 320 sq m – so not that far above what you think is reasonable. Me? I think it’s superb. Embracing, profound, simplicity. You don’t like it? What would you rather see in its place?

04 Apr 12 at 1:58 PM • Adrian B.

Hey j press. At 320m2 that’s still around $15,000/m2 once fees are taken out. That’s still a lot of money in my books for a stright up and down box.

Look, the fundamental problem is that it’s an object created for the arts and architecture world to debate over, not for all people to feel a connection to. It appears that DCM has lost the ability to connect with the layperson. It has also lost sight of the fundamental requirement of all public architecture to inspire and portray a purpose. The only purpose here appears to be to be an object, not a building. How one can describe a charcoal box as inspirational is beyond me. Our cities are littered with these archispeak-justified objects. They are all forgotten soon enough.

By the way a building is also an object and an object can be a building, but a building cannot just be conceived as an object. That’s just nonsense. Perhaps in a computer, on paper or in the mind, but in the end it’s still a building! Why not admit it’s just black and white minimalism and stop the archi-babble?

05 Apr 12 at 9:54 AM • Ron Swinburn

Any design draws criticism: remember the Sydney Opera House, Harry Sidler’s creations.
I think it looks terrific and reflects the Wide Brown Land we all love so much.

06 Apr 12 at 6:55 AM • Adrian B.

Well, I think it looks like a family vault for the Carlton Mob.

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