Every two years, Venice becomes a laboratory for architecture and design when it hosts the La Biennale di Venezia. For a month, the city is alive with panels, parties, and exhibitions, animated by thousands of architects and designers. As many attendees are quick to point out, the waterborne city is in a good deal of long-term trouble, as local residents are pushed out by foreign demand for real estate, and more crucially, as the coastal water levels rise.
At the end of August, architect Ole Scheeren will foreground the city’s looming crises in the coolest way possible, building a waterborne amphitheater to host Biennale events on the city’s canals. This will be Scheeren’s second Archipelago Cinema--the first was built on a Thai lagoon in March to for a film festival. Like the original, the theater will host screenings and discussions on a platform made of wooden boxes attached to a modular steel frame. Anchored in the 12-century shipyard that was once the seat of Venice’s military power, visitors will perch on lightweight seating arranged around a projection screen, in front of a small covered bar and the docking area. It’s “almost like drift wood,” writes Scheeren on his website. “Or maybe something more architectural. Modular pieces, loosely assembled, like a group of little islands. A congregation of rafts as an auditorium.”
The cinema’s month-long run will kick off on August 27th, with the world premier of Against All Rules, a film about Scheeren’s work by Horst Brandenburg. The German-born architect is behind some of the most interesting structures of the past ten years--including the CCTV building. As a partner at OMA, he was responsible for leading the firm into the asian market, which now generates the majority of their projects.
He launched his own office, Büro Ole Scheeren, in 2010. “We are partly european and partly asian,” explains the office in a mission statement. “Our minds and experiences are a hybrid of different cultures and contexts.” In many Asian cities, where space is at a premium, citizens are known to co-opt public space for performance and leisure. Scheeren has said before that Taipei’s legendary night markets inspired his design for the Taipei Performing Arts Center. In Venice, another city famed for both its festival culture and lack of usable public space, it seems Scheeren has found an unlikely analog to Taipei.
Unlike the original Archipelago Cinema, which was broken down and recycled by local residents, the second cinema will have a life beyond Venice. “The modular structure of the raft means that it can be assembled and reassembled repeatedly, allowing it the possibility to be reconfigured and re-used all around the world” explain the architects. If you’re heading to Venice in a few weeks, tickets are available .