The American Pavilion in Venice’s Giardini, site of the Biennale, is a piece of neo-classical design that strikes an odd note, especially among other national pavilions speaking more eloquently of modernist aspirations. America chooses to represent itself with a faux-historical architecture that frames whatever is exhibited with disingenuousness. The message it sends would be merely absurd were it not for the baleful effect of disingenuous American foreign policy in recent years.

All that has had a chance to change in this year’s Architecture Biennale. Under the overall theme of “Out There: Architecture Beyond Building,” the design for the installation at the American Pavilion was addressed by Eric Owen Moss in a remarkably ingenious and straightforward design. Using ordinary construction scaffolding, he creates a lyrically diaphanous structure that serves as a carrier for two- and three-dimensional representations of a diverse selection of architectural projects, including my own. Evoking the ideas of transition and the transitory, he calls the installation “Under Construction: American architecture around the world; international architecture in America.”

As Moss writes in a recent communiqué, “the proposal was as much a public policy argument as it was a conceptual design pro forma. The intention was to subvert, to the extent possible, the current perception of American behavior and American prospects around the world, using the international design discourse as the essential remodeling tool.” However political in intent, it is nevertheless upbeat: America can change and can become a critical, constructive force in the world. And it is whole-heartedly architectural: an innovative spatial intervention with the simplest (and cheapest) of materials. The message it sends is provocative, multilayered, but instantly intelligible. “Architecture at its best,” Moss writes, “ suggests that the world can be other than it is, that the world progresses and that architecture can facilitate that progress: New prospects for the city. New visions for design and building. A new built world for the inhabitants of a new world. Hope and optimism. That’s the promise.”

Last week, the U.S. Department of State, which controls the American Pavilion, rejected Moss’ proposal.



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