The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) has created an installation at the Venice Biennale: Preservation, which consists of two rooms and three parts. The first includes photographs and objects (doorknobs, chairs, a desk) from a selection of OMA’s projects that relate to preservation. The second room is hung with rows of labeled posters, creating what OMA calls a ‘manifesto in space’, describing contemporary attitudes towards preservation and the world those attitudes are creating. This manifesto is absorbing reading, and it makes a convincing case for preservation as a powerful force in the contemporary built environment despite the lack of an effective, coherent or useful policy on the subject.
The final section of the exhibition is a wall of OMA projects that deal with preservation, each represented by four tear-away sheets that describe and illustrate the project. Among the most poignant of these describes OMA’s Maison à Bordeaux, which was awarded the status of a historical monument by the state just before the owner of the house – the wheelchair-bound man around whom, literally, the house was designed – died and so the ability to change the house disappeared exactly when the original impetus for its form no longer existed.
The only real problem with the installation is the exclusion of creative work by anyone other than OMA; despite the protestations of Rem Koolhaas, who declares that we have entered an age of total ‘cronocaos’, a number of architects and designers have engaged with this issue in encouraging ways – evident even throughout the rest of this exhibition in installations like those by Caruso St John and Thomas Demand, Lina Bo Bardi and the Bahrain National Pavilion.
More of OMA’s work is featured in The Atlas of 21st Century Architecture.
By Sara Goldsmith
Project Editor, Architecture & Design, Phaidon