The last thing Venice needs is more water.
Australia’s Aileen Sage Architects will install a swimming pool as our national entry for the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale next month.
The Biennale is a showcase of temporary installations from 37 countries, capturing the essence of each country’s architecture.
For each Biennale, the Australian Institute of Architects holds an open call-out for ideas. The brief is to celebrate Australian architecture on the world stage. Architect Amelia Holliday and her partners Michelle Tabet and Isabelle Toland started thinking about swimming pools.
“One of the first images we showed the Biennale committee was the swimming-pool cake from the Women’s Weekly Cookbook,” Holliday says. “I think they thought we were a bit mad.” But that cake, she argues, is a demonstration of the significance of the pool in Australia.
“The pool isn’t all about swimming,” says Holliday. “And really, this isn’t a project about swimming pools. Above all else, the pool is a social space. It’s where the communal and the personal intersect.”
“When we first told people about the project everybody wanted to share their stories,” says Holliday. Architects and non-architects alike wanted to tell them about teenage prowess, gold medals, family memories and sexual awakenings.
So, at the end of the next month, there’ll be a 60-square-metre pool in the middle of Venice, accompanied by audio interviews with a wide variety of personalities from Olympic swimmers Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe, to songwriter Paul Kelly and novelists Christos Tsiolkas and Anna Funder.
It’s an exciting time for Australia’s involvement in the Biennale. It’s only the second time the spectacular new Australian pavilion will be used – it’s a stark black box designed by architects Denton Corker Marshall. It has previously been used as an exhibition space for the Art Biennale last year, so this will be the first time the building has really been used in such a bold way.
Also, when Aileen Sage Architects won the bid, they became the youngest team to ever represent Australia in the event, and the first all-female one.
A companion publication (Pool, The: Architecture, Culture and Identity in Australia), with stories, illustrations, photography and poems that collectively paint a picture of the role of swimming pool in the Australian experience, is available at Books at Manic.
The 15th Architecture Biennale opens in Venice on May 28 and runs until November 27.