Irish Pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale 2012

Curator of the National Pavilion
Shifting Ground (Beyond National Architecture)

Ireland is one of the most globalised countries in the world, and the exhibit looks at architecture’s relation to networked flows of products, data, and knowledge. It asks how could a global architecture be grounded culturally, philosophically and spatially? How can it situate itself outside of shared national reference points?

heneghan peng architects were selected as participants because they work across different continents on a range of diverse projects. Our dialogue led us to discussing the universal languages of projective geometry and number are been shared by architects and related professionals.

…the mixture of occasional theatricality (Petra Blaisse’s magic space-changing curtain); humour (Ireland’s seesaw); or adventurousness (Denmark at the North Pole) − each is worth the trip to Venice alone.

Peter Cook, Architectural Review, 28 September 2012

In the work of heneghan peng the specific embodiment of these geometries is carefully calibrated by the choice of materials and their detailed design. The stone facade of the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre in Antrim takes precise measure of the properties of the volcanic basalt seams from which it is hewn. The extraction of the stone is the subject of wall drawings which record the cutting of basalt to create the façade of the Causeway Centre.

We also identified water as the element which is shared across the different sites. Venice is a perfect place to take measure of this element which suggests links to another site – the Nile Valley. An ancient Egyptian rod for measuring the water level of the Nile inspired the design of a responsive oscillating bench which invites visitors to balance their respective weights. The bench constitutes a shifting ground located in the unstable field of Venice. It is about measurement and calibration of the weight of the body in relation to other bodies; in relation to the site of the installation; and in relation to water. It is located in the Artiglierie section of the Arsenale. Its level is calibrated against the mark of the acqua alta in the adjacent brickwork of the building which marks a horizontal datum in a floating world.